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Re: Limited Number of possible accesskey values

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 22:19:25 -0400
To: Patrick Burke <burke@ucla.edu>, "Hoffman, Geoffrey" <ghoffman@aztrib.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <000601c302f5$70332930$6501a8c0@handsontech>

of course, alt+` would be cool for skip nav but my problem is that I first
have to know what the access keys are and that takes about as much if not
more effort than just finding the link.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Patrick Burke" <burke@ucla.edu>
To: "Hoffman, Geoffrey" <ghoffman@aztrib.com>; <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2003 9:47 PM
Subject: Re: Limited Number of possible accesskey values

At 04:55 PM 4/14/2003, Hoffman, Geoffrey wrote:

>I've searched the net far and wide, and the W3 site as well, and can't seem
>to find a complete reference for the available accesskey attribute values.
>Now that web developers have AOL, IE4, IE5, IE5.5, NS4x, NS6x, NS7x, Opera,
>Safari, and even more browsers, it seems there needs to be a list of the
>available accesskey values that remain, after subtracting all of the
>built-in keyboard commands already taken by the various browsers.
There are some old threads on this. I think the result was that the number
of unused keys approaches zero as the number of browsers under
consideration increases. ...

>The problem is best stated in this way:
>The total maximum number of possible accesskey attribute values (47?) is,
>practice, a smaller subset of
>{abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789-=`[]\;',./} based on the following:
>- Internet Explorer has reserved:
>         - Alt-f : File Menu
>         - Alt-e : Edit Menu
>         - Alt-v : View Menu
>         - Alt-a : Favorites Menu
>         - Alt-t : Tools Menu
>         - Alt-h : Help Menu
>         - Alt-d : Address Field
>[others snipped]
Note that these don't all work the same: Most of them jump to selections
from the menu bar. This means that even if you define an AccessKey for one
of these, you can still get to the menu item by, for example, pressing ALT
and then F for the File Menu. ALT-D is different, though: hitting ALT & D
in sequence does nothing interesting (in fact it just exits the menu bar).
The only way to use the Address Bar command is to hit the keys
simultaneously. So defining an Access Key for ALT-D blocks the user from
getting to the Address Bar via keyboard.

>This also brings up the question, how do you encode a page properly to
>support WAI standard(s), which has more than 35 links on a page? In
>otherwords, are accessible pages limited to 35 links per page?
[Sorry for bad editing, those would be:


35 available access key attribute values."

That seems like a very extreme conclusion.  On the one hand, I think access
keys are much more useful for sections of a page, important form fields,
etc., rather than for each individual link. In practical terms, a page with
35 important sections should probably be broken up into smaller pages.

Another practical matter is the memorization needed to use the access keys,
which limits you to much fewer than 35 for most people. (Most pages that
use them wisely have 5 or 6. In fact, as a blind user, there isn't a site
that I use frequently enough to memorize the access keys, so I have to look
them up, which slows down the navigation process. More trouble than it's
worth, in other words.)

It also seems very difficult to come up with a scenario where Alt-` or
ALT-' would have a mnemonic connection to an item on a page, making these
and other punctuation keys much less desirable for access keys.

If I don't do it, I'm sure others would point out that Access Keys cross
over into user navigation tools that properly should be handled by the user
agent. I guess I can't argue with that, but it can still be useful to have
a few Access Keys if the page or site structure is very complex. If you use
other structural navigation approaches well (proper heading markup,
same-page links , clear & consistent layout, among others), then users
won't be forced to rely on Access Keys.

So, to sum up, Access Keys can be good if used sparingly (far fewer than
the maximum possible). However, they are neither necessary (other good
techniques exist) nor sufficient (always likely to be a key conflict
somewhere) to guarantee accessibility on their own.

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for raising the interesting topic,

Received on Monday, 14 April 2003 22:24:35 UTC

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