Keyboard and other input access

Enabling keyboard and other input methods for accessing the computer not only supports those using screen readers (Introduction to the Screen Reader) to read content and navigation features but also computer users trying to avoid strain injuries  due to excessive mouse use.

Keyboard access can also help those with certain dexterity and mobility difficulties and on many occasions can provide speedier input to forms etc for all users.

Many applications have different keyboard shortcuts but on the whole the tab key, arrow keys and the Enter or Return key are the most commonly used keys. The tab key tends to be used for going through the main menu items on a tool bar with enter and arrow keys to continue the navigation.

YouTube Video link on keyboard access - Craig from the JISC Regional Support Centre NE Scotland demonstrates how the Intellikeys keyboard can be adapted to access the web along with a trackball and switch access.


Turn your mouse on its back or avoid all use - manual testing is the only option.
Some questions to ask yourself as you test for alternative input access (adapted from US Dept. of Justice) :

  1. Does the software provide keyboard equivalents for all mouse actions, including buttons, scroll windows, text entry fields, and pop-up windows?
  2. Does the program provide clear and precise instructions for use of all keyboard functions as part of the user documentation?
  3. Does the software have a logical tabbing order among fields, text boxes, and focal points?
  4. When navigating screens and dialog boxes using the keyboard, does the focus follow a logical tabbing order?
  5. Is there a well-defined focal point that moves with keyboard navigation? (e.g., can you use the arrow keys to navigate through a list followed by pressing the ENTER key or space bar to select the desired item)? You should see the menu items highlighted as you move through the tool bar or the cursor flashing when you reach a text input area. The enter key should submit or result in a change of status.
  6. Are shortcut keys provided for all pull-down menus?
  7. Does the software support existing accessibility features built into the operating system (e.g., sticky keys, slow keys, repeat keys etc)?

Flash video of tabbing around the Web2Access menu and into the search form.

The USA 508 guidelines that are included in the VPAT offer useful information about keyboard focus - area that is outlined as the menu is selected.


There is much advice on the web as to why keyboard access is so important – here are just a few links for further information:

Keyboard Shortcuts


There are no references for this technique just yet.

See Also

CEUD 1.4 Adhere to the standard keyboard access methods CEUD 1.4, IBM 1.1: Keyboard equivalents for actions IBM 1.1, 1.2: Keyboard accessibility features IBM 1.2, 2.1: Visual focus indicator for objects IBM 2.1 , VPAT VPAT section 1194.21 (c)