How does keyboard testing work and why is it important?

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Keyboard accessibility is one of the most important components of web accessibility because many users with disabilities use keyboards instead of a mouse. For example, those with motor disabilities rely on keyboards as their primary input device, and those users who are blind or have low vision often use keyboards for navigation and application shortcut functionality.

Keyboard accessibility is included in Guideline 2.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is required by statute. This standard states, “Make all functionality available from a keyboard.”

But how do you know if a website or application is operable through a keyboard?

Luckily, keyboard testing is one of the easiest accessibility tests and anyone with a computer can do it! Here are the basic keys and keystroke combinations you can use to begin testing:

  • Tab - The tab key allows you to navigate between the elements on the page and menu options. Check to see that there is an indicator of where you are on the screen. This is called the “keyboard focus.” As you press Tab, the keyboard focus should move through all interactive elements on the page.
  • Shift + Tab - This keystroke combination is the same as using the tab key, but in reverse. You should still be able to tell where the keyboard focus is on the screen.
  • Enter - Pressing the enter key follows a link and/or activates a button.
  • Spacebar - The spacebar toggles checkbox values and can activate buttons.
  • Arrow Keys - The keyboard arrow keys scroll through content, move/select radio buttons within a group and sometimes move between interactive menu items or tab panels (depending on the website or app).

Now try out your new keyboard testing knowledge by taking the No Mouse Challenge!

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