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Are we really still talking about Access Keys?

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 2005 10:17:09 -0400
To: "'Patrick Lauke'" <P.H.Lauke@salford.ac.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <005a01c5677d$c4cc8d80$6401a8c0@bosshog>

Patrick H. Lauke wrote: 
> Unfortunately, the big bugbear will remain IE...unless we (WaSP, WAI,
> whoever) start lobbying Microsoft to use a different accesskey
> triggering method.

...or we just stop trying to force this dog to hunt.

It's not just one browser (Firefox) or another (Internet Explorer), it's a
whole raft of adaptive technologies and other user agents and software


Correct me if I'm wrong: One of the cornerstones of accessible, modern web
development is to strive for user agent agnostic development practices. (We
all hate "hacks")  I personally thought that trying to impart the
developer's "vision" onto a web document is counter to the concept of
universal accessibility... Isn't that why we avoid browser sniffing (in
favor of DOM sniffing), espouse liquid layouts, argue against table based
layouts, insist on scalable fonts, etc., etc., etc.?  Why is it then that we
somehow feel compelled to impose our keystroke navigation scheme upon the
end user?  Who asked us?  Is anybody *really* making use of Accesskeys (not
developers, actual end users), or is topic the modern day equivalent of the
age old question, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

For more than five years now we have consistently stated that while we
acknowledge the potential usefulness of providing a means to assist users
who navigate via the keyboard, accesskeys are fundamentally flawed and
should be avoided.
* We have not seen any real, compelling data which states that *Anybody*
actually uses website accesskeys with any type of frequency;  
* We've argued against them from the perspective of technology (conflicts,
conflict resolution, etc.);
* We've offered ideas on  alternate schemes (<link rel>);
* We've pointed out that the W3C is moving to DEPRECATE the accesskey
attribute in XHTML 2;
* We've reported on the proposed XHTML 2 "access" attribute (which suggests
to allow the end user to map their own keystrokes to a pre-determined set of
access points - currently being defined as "Roles" in the XHTML 2 draft);
* We've discussed the point that many users cannot or will not begin to
memorize a random list of keystrokes for different web sites;
* We've observed that the majority of Adaptive Technology users have already
been provided alternative methods of inter-page navigation, further reducing
the need for Accesskeys for this user-group (which is often the same group
that proponents are allegedly striving to help).

Why-oh-why are we still talking about this?  Will I ever shut-up? (No)


John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
Phone: 1-613-267-1983 / 1-866-932-4878 (North America) 
Received on Thursday, 2 June 2005 14:17:18 UTC

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