Access Keys

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For the most complete explanation of access keys I've seen to date, see Jukka Korpela's site

From a posting by Joel Ward (and others) on the WebAIM mailing list

Accesskeys are not necessary for Section 508, but they are good for accessibility/usability. So is tabindex. They work in MSIE 4.0+ and Netscape 6.0+.

I would suggest that you summarize the access keys somewhere prominent on the site, not just by using an underline. The underline is generally not recognizable by assistive technology.

You may want to include a help section if the keys are common on many pages, or just summarize them at the top of the form if they apply just to that page.

Some notes:

1) In your code, make sure to write all attributes like this, without spaces and including double quotes:


Using spaces between the equal sign and the values may cause problems with some browsers/assistive technology. Also, don't include hard returns in the code within an attribute in a tag. That doesn't validate either. For example, this validates:

    <input title="This is a test">

but this does not:

    <input title="This is a

[Quoting HTML code that is itself invalid is not without peril. In case any of the above doesn't appear correctly in your browser, it's an example of an attribute string with and without a line break in the middle.]

2) Don't use the same accesskey more than once on a page. Use each letter only once. Also, be careful not to redefine standard letters/numbers that are used by the operating system [or the browser]. This may confuse users.

Using the label tag is a good idea. The AT should read the label of the field if you use the following format:

    <label for="test">Test Field</label>
    <input name="test" id="test" type="text" accesskey="T" tabindex="1">

No need to use accesskey in the label tag.

3) The ALT attribute is not officially part of the INPUT tag but you can use the TITLE attribute with many tags. Example:

<input type="text" title="Please enter your last name so we know how to address  your responses. (Access Key: L)" accesskey="L" id="lname" tabindex="3">

Check out Index Dot HTML for more reference on these tags.

One example of documenting Accesskey on a web site can be found at:
this page on the site

I also suggest you consider underlining characters that are associated with the control/link and the access key. This a windows convention for showing short cuts.

Actually how to inform users what the accesskeys are is one of the limitations. As I understand it, accesskeys are good in theory but difficult to implement. I explain this in this brief article

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