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§ Accessibility

The latest article on A List Apart (welcome back!) offers some excellent tips on how to go about letting users know which accesskeys are available.

As it happens, my recent accesskeys post has also seen more comments of late. In particular, Geoff Hoffman has compiled and posted common browser shortcuts – essentially a handy list of accesskeys to avoid.

The post also led Joe Clark to start a fascinating thread on the WAI Interest Group mailing list which eventually boiled down to accesskeys not being that helpful afterall. The reason being (as hinted by Geoff’s post earlier) is that so many browsers and assistive technologies make use of the keyboard shortcuts being assigned to accesskeys. A key point raised on the mailing list is that this isn’t a problem with accesskeys, more a problem of their implementation in browser software. The accesskey issue does range wider though. As outlined in Using Accesskeys – Is it worth it? such issues as international keyboards also come into play:

So while it seems that accesskeys is a great idea in principle, implementation brings with it the possibility that it either will not be available to all users, or that the keystroke combination encoded within the web page may conflict with a reserved keystroke combination in an adaptive technology or future user agent.

Is this time for an ‘Accesskeys considered harmful’ essay?