W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > October to December 2003

RE: HTML Techniques: 'tabindex'

From: Michael Cooper <michaelc@watchfire.com>
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2003 14:35:28 -0500
Message-ID: <D9ABD8212AFB094C855045AD80FB40DD033FB345@1wfmail.watchfire.com>
To: W3C WAI <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

Hi Jens - there are a couple reasons the recommendations appear as they do
in the HTML techniques: we aren't always sure in all cases what we should
say, and in a case like tabindex where it appears in multiple places in the
document, we haven't yet gone through the editorial process of making sure
the whole document is self-consistent.

The reason the current draft recommends against tabindex for links is that
we have been presented with evidence that doing so actually causes problems
for accessibility. The favourite example is if you use tabindex and skip
navigation links on the same page, then the user follows the skip navigation
link, the tabindex could undo the benefit of the skip link and take them
back to the top of the page, rather than continue in the tab order from the
new location. We consider this a user agent problem, not a problem with the
use of tabindex in theory, but a sufficiently widespread problem that we
felt it was best to say in so many words, "don't do this for now". Thus,
what we want to do really is have one technique that says "don't do this for
now and here's why" and another that says "here's how in the future one
should be able to use tabindex, but user agents don't support this properly
yet so we don't expect conforming sites today to follow this technique". We
haven't figured out how to express that yet in the structure we've created,
and I guess the current expression isn't working since you were confused.

Tabindex for forms is different in part because of editorial oversight, but
also in part because we have some open questions about it: In current user
agents, is tabindex for form controls in a different "tabspace" than
tabindex for links? Should it be? Should it explicitly not be? These may
seem like arcane questions, perhaps with obvious answers, but in discussion
we didn't resolve them in the timeline of this draft. Some people have
homework assignments to look into this.

I would say therefore that your confusion reflects in part the confusion we
have. Your thoughts and recommendations will be helpful next time we open
the books on this issue. So, don't shoot us down, but do fire away with your


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jens Meiert [mailto:jens.meiert@erde3.com]
> Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2003 8:38 AM
> To: W3C WAI
> Subject: HTML Techniques: 'tabindex'
> Before shooting first I want to ask what purpose the 
> 'tabindex' handling
> recommendation has, referring to the 'HTML Techniques for 
> WCAG 2.0' [1]. In 9.5
> [2] it is recommended, not to use the 'tabindex' attribute to 
> leap e.g. a set
> of navigation links, but in another case (see 14.1 [3]) it is 
> illustrated to
> use 'tabindex' to change the (tab) order of form elements, 
> what I perceive
> as questionable (and per se contradictory), not only in 
> relation to 9.5.
> Can anyone of you please explain this to me? -- Normally I'd 
> think it should
> be recommended just the other way around, thus allowing to 
> jump over e.g.
> navigation links (because there should also be alternative 
> <link /> elements to
> represent a site's structure, btw), but not recommending to 
> violently change
> the order of form elements (where I only see the risk to 
> irritate users).
> So I wonder (from Usability perspective, too), what sense the 
> 'form case'
> (and its example from 14.1) makes:
>    <form action="#" method="post">
>       <p>
>          <input tabindex="2" type="text" name="field1" />
>          <input tabindex="1" type="text" name="field2" />
>          <input tabindex="3" type="submit" name="submit" />
>       </p>
>    </form>
> If I imagine 'field1' represents a user's email address 
> (which is displayed
> first), ain't it 'curious' being at first asked for my name 
> (as e.g. expected
> in 'field2'), when starting to access the form via pressing 
> 'tab'? On the
> other hand I often encountered cases where I really wished 
> there was a tab
> order allowing me to jump over a site's navigation. But, I 
> didn't want to shoot
> first... ;)
> All the best,
>  Jens.
> [1] http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/WD-WCAG20-HTML-TECHS/
> [2]
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/WD-WCAG20-HTML-TECHS/#linkgrou
[3] http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/WD-WCAG20-HTML-TECHS/#form_tabindex

Jens Meiert
Interface Architect

Received on Tuesday, 11 November 2003 14:34:41 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 16 January 2018 15:33:46 UTC