Design forms for keyboard accessibility
Many people operate the computer using the keyboard or other input methods that activate keyboard commands. For some people, keyboard accessibility is a preference; for others, a necessity. People who cannot work a pointing device such as a mouse cannot manage point-and-click computer interaction. Interfaces whose controls can only be activated by a pointing device are not accessible to these users. Links and forms are the two primary controls we use to “work” Web sites. For universal usability, these elements must be designed to be operable from the keyboard, in a fashion that is intuitive and meets user expectations.
Keyboard access to forms includes selecting a form element using the tab or arrow key, entering information, perhaps selecting a checkbox, radio button, or menu item, and submitting the form information. People who use a pointing device such as a mouse may choose to point and click to select form elements, but, when designed properly, all these functions are accessible using the keyboard alone.
To design an accessible form it is useful to understand the fundamentals of keyboard access. When using the keyboard, “actionable” elements—such as form elements and links—must first be selected, then activated. For example, pressing the tab or arrow keys moves focus between elements, such as buttons or items on a select menu. Once the desired item has focus, or is selected, pressing the enter key activates the selection. Pressing the enter key on a submit button activates form submission. Specialized software such as screen reader software may provide slightly different controls, but the basic premise of select, then activate, still applies.
Figure 9.5: Adobe uses a dropdown menu to provide quick access to product pages. The menu uses the