Accesskeys: useful or not?

John Foliot and Derek featherstone over at have long queried the usefullness of accesskeys, and have some very nice articles surporting their claims. More reasons why we don’t use accesskeys from December 2003 is just one of these.

I recently cam across a site with numerous accesskeys, but they took it to the max:

* A: List of Access Keys
* E: List of Events
* F: List of Forms
* G: Images
* H: Horizontal Accessibility Tools Menus
* H: List of Headers
* I: List of Images
* K: Keyboard shortcuts
* L: List of Links
* M: List of Map elements
* O: Overview
* P: Page Info
* R: List of Frames
* R: List of Relations
* S: Styles
* V: Vertical Accessibility Tools Menus
* H: Home
* M: Mozilla
* O: Software
* S: Search

Reusing accesskeys basically meant they were totally useless. This is so over the top and makes the whole usage of accesskeys questionable.

The UK Government suggests using the following set:

S - Skip navigation
1 - Home page
2 - What's new
3 - Site map
4 - Search
5 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 - Help
7 - Complaints procedure
8 - Terms and conditions
9 - Feedback form
0 - Access key details

However a leading Internet Portal for the disabled The Disability Information Network uses a different set again.

Then you have the users applications that have their own set of keyboard shortcuts, some of which may conflict with accesskeys on a web site.

But the main problem is the sheer number of different possibilites that can be used, how is anyone expected to learn them all? S could be skip navigation on one site, search on another and something totally different on another site! Until such time as they are all unified into one worldwide set that everyone should use they are effectively useless anyway. People have a bad enough time trying to remember the keyboard shortcuts for their applications, add to that the millions of web pages out there and it becomes an insurmountable task.

Unify the list of approved accesskeys will be a start, application developers will then know which ones they should not use and allow the web developer to utilise accesskeys for the benefit of all.

This entry was posted in Accessibility. Bookmark the permalink.