W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 2005

Re: Are we really still talking about Access Keys?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 00:00:16 +0200
To: "John Foliot - WATS.ca" <foliot@wats.ca>, "'Patrick Lauke'" <P.H.Lauke@salford.ac.uk>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <op.srrjeqp5wxe0ny@widsith.local>

Summary: Accesskeys are a good idea. Bad implementation both in the spec  
and in browsers makes them less than they should be, and can cause  
problems, but I still like being able, as an end user, to use them. (Use  
the rel attribute first, where there is a rel defined for what you are  
trying to do, though).

Detail is commented inline:

On Thu, 02 Jun 2005 16:17:09 +0200, My friend John Foliot wrote:

> <rant>
> Correct me if I'm wrong: One of the cornerstones of accessible, modern  
> web
> development is to strive for user agent agnostic development practices.

> 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

Yes, as an end user I REALLY appreciate them when I have an interface that  
makes them work. I stuck with iCab as my primary browser for a long time  
when it was clear that it was not developing at any realistic rate and was  
failing to meet more and more of my requirements because the one thing it  
had was the best accesskey implementation I have ever used.

Opera's interface allows me to do lots of really useful things with the  
keyboard, so requires a trigger key for accesskeys. The only thing I need  
is to know which accesskeys are available (there are a couple of different  
ways to do this, by the way - style sheets, or userJS seem the most  
obvious candidates. I lean towards userJS because it makes it easy enough  
to remap the keys to suit me, then letting me know what the available keys  
are. If I figure this out, or am lucky enough to convince someone to  
figure it out for me first, I will tell you where it is on  

> 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.

And we, as in you and I, have argued this back and forth...

> * We've argued against them from the perspective of technology  
> (conflicts, conflict resolution, etc.);

Yes. Since they are normally overridden, it seems not to be a big deal.  
UBAccess' pagemap provided a nice way of putting them in or taking them  
out, having customised them to your own needs. That's the kind of approach  
that I hope to have in userJS although that will be an Opera-specific  
repair for the page - the benefit of a server-side solution was that it  
worked for all browsers.

> * We've offered ideas on  alternate schemes (<link rel>);

We have agreed that it makes more sense to use a link rel where there is a  
defined rel already. But there are not that many of those - there will  
always be situations where authors have something important in the context  
of their site, which is not going to be important in a million other sites  
which have a similar link.

> * We've pointed out that the W3C is moving to DEPRECATE the accesskey
> attribute in XHTML 2;

There is a group in WAI called the Protocols and Formats group. That group  
has worked on trying to get a decent solution to accesskey in other W3C  
specifications, and it seems likely that XHTML 2 will in fact have  
something similar but smarter...

> * 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).

I do not believe that accesskeys are very relevant to blind users. They  
will in some cases learn them for frequently visited sites, if they get a  
decent implementation to start with, but for the most part they won't. On  
the other hand for various groups of people who type, and have problems  
with their hands, accesskeys are important. Which makes it all the more  
frustrating that they are so badly implemented in some browsers that  
people like John have a reasonable argument for suggesting they should be  

(Please listen to my even more reasonable argument, not John's, and use  
them in your sites. This makes it easier to argue for effort being spent  
on better implementation in browsers, which will make them serve better  
the goal they were designed for... :-)



Charles McCathieNevile                              chaals@opera.com
          hablo español - je parle français - jeg lærer norsk
   Here's one we prepared earlier:   http://www.opera.com/download
Received on Thursday, 2 June 2005 22:00:31 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 17 January 2020 20:36:25 UTC