Accesskey standards

The following was lifted from an article called Accesskey standards | clagnut/blog written by Richard Rutter. Note that I haven't actually adopted them for yet, but I will soon.

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One of my goals for Clagnut is to make it accessible beyond good alt tags and valid code. It currently passes WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 and Section 508. To achieve this, a skip navigation link (skip nav) is required. To make skip nav (and other essential navigation) more effective, we should provide keyboard shortcuts through the accesskey attribute. For example:

<a href="#content" accesskey="2">skip nav</a>

This allows visitors to press ALT+2 or CTRL+2 (on Windows and Macs respectively) to move focus straight to the anchor in question. Keyboard shortcuts can also be applied to form controls by adding accesskey attributes to input tags in the same way.

It’s also helpful to add keyboard shortcuts for other important parts of the site, such as search, help, home page and the page which lists the keyboard shortcuts. It struck me that there should be consistency in access keys across the Web. I couldn’t find any mention of standards or suggestions on the Section 508 or WAI sites, so I attempted to see if a de facto standard has been adopted none-the-less.

  • The UK Government provides accessibility guidelines to which all its websites should comply. These guidelines state:

    UK Government Shortcuts
    Access keyTarget
    SSkip navigation
    1Home page
    2What’s new
    3Site map
    7Complaints procedure
    8Terms and conditions
    9Feedback form
    0Access key details

    WebAIM provides similar shortcuts:

    WebAIM Shortcuts
    Access keyTarget
    1Home page
    2Skip navigation
    3Printer-friendly version

    These almost match with the access keys used by Mark Pilgrim (accessibility evangelist):

    Dive Into Mark Shortcuts
    Access keyTarget
    1Home page
    2Skip navigation
    0Access key details

    And finally, the accessibility magazine Made For All uses a few different shortcuts:

    Made For All Shortcuts
    Access keyTarget
    1Home page
    3Previous issues
    0Access key details

    So there’s a fair bit of overlap between sites. The use of numbers is sensible as software often uses letters for its own shortcuts, particularly for access to the command menu. Letters also make more sense when dealing with forms (think shortcuts in dialog boxes). So the main bone of contention appears to be skip nav. Here’s a few samples:

    Skip Nav Shortcuts Across the Web
    ShortcutWeb Site
    2Dive Into Mark
    9Cinnamon Interactive
    SUK Government
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    Last modified: 05/05/2006 (most likely earlier as a site migration in 2006 reset some dates) Tags: (none)

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