If a keyboard shortcut is implemented in content using only letter (including upper- and lower-case letters), punctuation, number, or symbol characters, then at least one of the following is true:
- Turn off:
- A mechanism is available to turn the shortcut off;
- A mechanism is available to remap the shortcut to use one or more non-printable keyboard characters (e.g. Ctrl, Alt, etc);
- Active only on focus:
- The keyboard shortcut for a user interface component is only active when that component has focus.
Shortcut commands are no doubt useful for many users. Keyboard only users, screen reader users and power users are few among this groups who heavily rely on keyboard. Are these shortcut commands uncomfortable for any of them?
Let us specifically understand the pros and cons of character key shortcut commands.
What are character key shortcuts?
Shortcut keys that invoke an action or do a task with a hit of one or more printable keyboard keys E.g.: On a web page pressing a letter ‘I’ may take you to inbox. While it is useful to quickly perform any task, it may cause problems for certain other users.
Problems with character key shortcuts
Speech input users: People who use speech recognition software will have difficulty in using the character key shortcuts. While dictating to the computer the speech recognition software may not be able to differentiate between the single character shortcut and the actual character that need to be typed in the document.
Users with dexterity: Users who have problems with coordination of small muscles, in movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers—with the eyes may accidentally hit the keys on the keyboard. This accidental key stroke invokes the action associated with that key.
How to solve?
Success Criterion 2.1.4: Character Key Shortcuts, recommends implementing one of the following ways to solve the problem.
- Turn off: A mechanism is available to turn the shortcut off;
- Remap: A mechanism is available to remap the shortcut to use one or more non-printable keyboard characters (e.g. Ctrl, Alt, etc);
- Active only on focus: The keyboard shortcut for a user interface component is only active when that component has focus.
Points to remember
- Assigning a shortcut that includes non-printable keys such as control, alt along with printable character or combination of printable character such as upper-case or lower-case letters, numbers and punctuation’s is a better choice.
- Use character key shortcuts that only work when the user can invoke the command with focus on a specific element. This will exclude using the character on dropdowns and auto-complete components as they will type the letter or choose the option than invoking a task.