WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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RE: Access keys, ie6


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Jan 21, 2002 4:17PM

>> I have labeled them all *on the page* ...

This technique definitely increases the likelihood that someone will notice
the access keys, which, in turn, probably increases the accessibility of the
shortcuts. On the WebAIM site, I have included this information either in
the image alt tags or in the link titles. I agree that this isn't ideal, but
I try to walk the line between accessibility and designer sensibilities. One
of my tasks is to not only train developers in the proper techniques, but to
motivate them and show them that the accessibility fixes won't "ruin" their
site. If you don't mind having the extra information on your site, then by
all means put it there. Many web developers will reject or at least resist
this approach, however--not because the approach is bad but because they
simply don't like it. The access keys on the WebAIM site are meant to show
that accessibility techniques can be used discreetly.

>> It would be good to have a consensus on some basic shortcuts.

I agree. This would be ideal. No such standard exists however. This is one
of the great downfalls of this technique. No one knows if the shortcuts are
there, the shortcuts on each site are different, and, to be honest, even if
you make the shortcuts visible in the page, so few people even know that it
is *possible* to have keyboard shortcuts on a web page that they will most
likely ignore the information or be confused by it.

>> While keyboard shortcuts work in Netscape 6, the TAB key doesn't (yet)

The tab key works in Netscape 6.2, which I have on my computer. I am not a
regular Netscape user, though, so you may know of some quirks which I do
not. I usually open Netscape only when I'm testing a site or a technique on
different browsers.

>> I take the point about the conflict problem with using letters. The
problem is the limitation to only 10 shortcuts. Is there anywhere that will
tell us which letters we need to avoid.

The limitation to 10 shortcuts is a valid concern. As far as potential
conflicts, I do not know of any list. I'm not sure how useful such a list
would be. We may be able to figure out where the conflicts are for the most
common technologies, but it would be nearly impossible to control for all of
them. Chances are that there is a conflict with either the browser or the
assistive technology for nearly every letter available. That may be a
discouraging thought, but I believe that it is representative of the current

As a side note, I noticed that the letter L, which you use on your site, is
unavailable when using IBM Home Page Reader, because that is the shortcut
for "links reading mode." "U" and "B" both seem to work, as well as the
numbers you use. I did not check your page with any other technologies.

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University

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