One of the least known features of HTML is the
accesskey attribute for links and forms, which allows the web designer to define keyboard shortcuts for frequently-used links or form fields. On Windows, you can press ALT + an access key; on Macintosh, you can press Control + an access key. If the access key is defined on a link, your browser will follow the link; if defined on a form field, your browser will set focus on that field. Internet Explorer has supported access keys since version 4, Netscape since version 6. Older browsers simply ignore them, with no harmful effect.
While there are no standards for which keys should be assigned to which features, here are some commonly-used keyboard shortcuts:
- Access key 1
- Home page
- Access key 2
- Skip to main content (the navigation bar skip link)
- Access key 4
- Search box
- Access key 9
- Jackie benefits. When JAWS reads a link that defines an
accesskey, it announces the access key as well. For example, the link
Home pagewould be read by JAWS as “link: Home page, ALT + 1”. Jackie can focus on the link by pressing ALT+1, then follow it by pressing ENTER.
- Bill benefits. Since Bill can not use a mouse effectively since his stroke, he relies on keyboard navigation and keyboard shortcuts to move around the page. Access keys are an excellent way for him to jump to common or frequently-used links. Bill can type ALT+1, and Mozilla immediately follows the link that defines
accesskey=”1″. (Note: Mozilla does not announce access keys, which raises the question of how Bill would discover what they are. We will discuss this in a future tip.)
How to do it: home page link
Movable Type: The default template does not have a link to the home page, so you should make your site name into a link, and give it an
accesskey. Search your template for
<$MTBlogName$>, and change it to this:
How to do it: skip navigation link
Do you have a link to skip over your navigation bar? If so, give it an
How to do it: feedback link
Do you have a link to a feeback form, or a link to your email address? If so, give it an
Note: Radio weblogs generally have a link to a feedback form (the little envelope icon), but the link is generated by a macro, so you will not be able to add an
accesskey to it.
How to do it: search box
Do you have a search function on your site? (You should; we’ll discuss this in a future tip.) If so, add an
accesskey=”4″ to the input box in the search form. For example, this is the input box I use on my site:
accesskey=”4″ type=”text” id=”q” name=”q” />
Be sure to include each
accesskey on each page of your weblog; make these changes to all your relevant templates.
- Jukka Korpela: Improving accessibility with
accesskeyin HTML forms and links. Explains why all my suggested
accesskeycodes are numbers, instead of letters.
- Paul Bohman: Access keys, IE6. Part of a discussion of
accesskeyon the Web Accessibility Forum Mailing List.
[dive into mark]