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RE: web access keys


From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Aug 17, 2005 8:40AM

Thomas Jedenfelt wrote:
> Good day John (and hello to everyone else),
> 8 of the 21 Web sites listed below use Access Keys.

OK Thomas - 10 of the 12 following websites don't use accesskeys:

http://europa.eu.net (European Union official web site)
http://hem.bredband.net/thojed/index.htm (heh heh heh)

These 2 do:

www.us.gov [1]
www.w3c.org [2]

[1] at the US.gov site, they've fouled up, in that accesskey="f" has
actually been assigned to two separate hyperlinks!!!

Check our <a accesskey="f" href="http://answers.firstgov.gov"
title="frequently asked questions">frequently asked questions</a>, <a
p" title="email FirstGov">email FirstGov</a>,...

Also, (and perhaps more importantly) it should be noted that the
keystroke combination of ALT+F (and yes, I know that this is a Windows
only instruction, but let's move on...) is also used virtually
everywhere to open the "File menu"... BUT, if you try and do that at the
us.gov site, it takes you to the "Ask your Question" page. This clearly
and dramatically illustrates how broken accesskeys really are!! I wonder
if anybody has ever complained to the official web site of the world's
largest government...

[2] at the W3C, they use the following accesskeys (information collected
using Gez Lemon's excellent Accesskey Companion -

Activities: [A] - except in IE 5.5/6, plus adaptive technologies
that use the IE browser or engine (JAWS, WindowEyes, IBM HPR) this
*should* open your favorites folder, except at the W3C site - Oops...

Technical Reports: [T] - In most mainstream browsers, this is
supposed to open the "Tools" dialogue, in HomePageReader it is the
shortcut for Table Navigation, and in the laptop configuration for JAWS,
it is supposed to "Speak the Title of the Current Window" - except at
the W3C site of course (Oops again...)

Site Index: [S] {conflict exists}
New Visitors: [N] {conflict exists}
About W3C: [B] {MAJOR conflict exists}
Join W3C: [J] {conflict exists}
Contact W3C: [C] {conflict exists}
Unknown: [E] (it actually puts the focus into the search text
input) {MAJOR conflict exists}
Go: [G]

... Do I really need to go on?

Accesskeys are broken - the W3C is deprecating them, let's collectively
dump them into the waste-pile that already houses <blink> and <marquee>
and move on shall we?

> I don't know if it was a Deliberate decision by the 13 Web sites to
> not use Access Keys.

I *know* that at least for 2 of them, it was:


And *suspect* that at the following it was deliberate:


> Also, I don't know if the Web sites made their decision of using, or
> not using Access Keys either by (or a combination of):
> 1) user Testing,
> 2) common Practice,
> 3) following Guidelines.

(or perhaps by reviewing our humble little chart:

> (WAI have decided not to use Access Keys.
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/sitehelp.html)

Hmmm... I wonder what that means...

> Also, Access Keys would be a good way to prevent mouse arm fatigue
> and RSI (repetitive strain injuries). I have a feeling that this is a
> more common and a greater concern than that some people having
> (some?) difficulty finding/accessing links. User surveys will show us
> the answer.

Is this statement fact or supposition?

Thomas, the idea behind accesskeys is and remains a laudable goal - the
current implementation is horrid and usually causes more problems than
it solves (see above). They were never bought into by the majority of
developers (for, I argue, good reason) and to continue to try and
advocate them now is to continue advocating a flawed feature of HTML.
We as developers owe more to our audience then trying to guess how they
interact with their systems. It's just plain wrong.


Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
Phone: 1-613-482-7053