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The following article is a re-print of an Official Comment made to the Editors of the XHTML™ 2 Draft Recommendation. It is presented here in a more open form to hopefully stimulate discussion and debate.
Often, web developers and others responsible for producing accessible web content are at a loss to describe the various forms of disability their users may be dealing with.
While we always want to avoid labeling any person by their specific disability, we must also recognize the various disabilities people deal with on a daily basis. Using the correct terms eases discussing the needs of these specific users.
We like the concept of accesskeys providing quick keystroke access to various parts of a particular site. However, we also believe that given their standardization and implementation problems, we need a more robust method for providing the functionality.
The topic of accesskeys regularly appears on mailing lists, forums, and other arenas. Developers ask what the concensus is, and the answer is — there isn’t one. We believe that the functionality accesskeys provide is worthwhile, but their implementation and standardization leave something to be desired.
In a non-scientific study conducted in the summer of 2002, we researched the availability of available Accesskeys which had not already been reserved by various other software technologies which might be employed by various users. The results indicated a real problem, in that the ACCESSKEY element/attribute, while a good idea in principle, is fraught with so many potential problems that we have abandoned using them in the interest of true inter-operability.
The Accesskey attribute assigns an access key to an element.
Often, decisions and compromises must be made in projects large and small. Experienced decision makers surround themselves with factual data so that they can weigh the benefits and risks of any crucial decision. When it comes to online accessibility, it is important to remember that is not just about “disabled” users – it’s about all users – “disabled” is a label that many people do not want or feel applies to them.