Success Criterion 2.1.4 Character Key Shortcuts (Level A): 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 include one or more non-printable keyboard keys (e.g., Ctrl, Alt);
- Active only on focus
The keyboard shortcut for a user interface component is only active when that component has focus.
Some applications may have character key shortcut keys to trigger actions and this character key shortcuts help keyboard users in using the application efficiently and effectively. Before we understand how the character key shortcuts are used by different users, it is important to know what is this character key shortcuts all about
Character key shortcuts are nothing, but actions get performed/triggered as soon as user presses characters on the keyboard, and this characters include letters(upper-case and lower-case), punctuations, numbers or symbols. Let me explain you this with an example. As you all know, there is popular web Gmail application to check our emails. Gmail has provided character key shortcuts for the users to perform certain actions quickly. When user presses character “Y” in the Gmail web, for the instance, email is going to be archived. Similarly, when user presses “M”, for the instance, mails are going to be muted.
although this character key shortcuts are very helpful for the keyboard users in accessing the things quickly, it creates problems for the speech input users and low dexterity users. Let us understand how this character key shortcuts are going to create problems for those users.
As you may be aware of, speech input users use speech recognition software such as dragon to access the computers/web. While dictating the text at the text field by speech user when character key shortcuts are present then it is going to pick the character key shortcuts instead of the text is being typed at the text field. This behavior creates problem to speech input users and as a result, speech input users cannot use the application properly. On other hand, there are some keyboard users(such as users with low dexterity, users with tremors, and so on.) who are prone to hit the keys accidently. When they do so, character key shortcuts get enabled unexpectedly. This behavior ends up with frustrating experience for such users. In a nutshell, character key shortcuts create challenges/problems for the speech input users and some keyboard users(such as users with low dexterity, users with tremors, and so on.)
WCAG 2.1 introduces character key shortcuts checkpoint to address the challenges with character key shortcuts that people with disabilities face. When author follows the guidance that is provided in this checkpoint then the challenges with character key shortcuts are going to be resolved. Let us look into what guidance this checkpoint is providing
- Turnoff: users should be able to turn off/disable the character key shortcuts, so that It helps both speech input users and low dexterity users to access the applications without any difficulties
- Remap: users should be able to remap the shortcuts with one or more modifier keys(such as alt, shift, control, and so on…), so that It helps both speech input users and low dexterity users to access the applications without any difficulties
- Active only on focus: users should be able to use the character key shortcuts only when that UI component(such as listbox, dropdown, and so on…) is in focus, so that it does not create a problem for any user
When author follows any one of above 3 points then challenges with the character key shortcuts that I mentioned in the problem section of this blog post are going to be addressed. In a nutshell, both speech input users and low dexterity users would not face any challenges when one of above 3 points is met.
This checkpoint is not applicable for the UI components such as listboxes and drop-downs. the reason is that, even though character key shortcuts are present for those UI components, those character key shortcuts work only when the UI components are in the focus. Therefore, this checkpoint does not affect such UI components.
Complimentary info on 2.1.4: character key shortcuts
When users have the provision to remap the character key shortcuts then it is going to help cognitive disability users too. Remapping the character key shortcuts with user’s familiar keyboard short cuts helps the users to use the same keyboard shortcut keys across various applications and thereby, it reduces the cognitive load.
- Understanding 2.1.4: Character Key Shortcuts
- Video: Single character key shortcuts affecting speech input – example 1
- Video: Single character key shortcuts affecting speech input – example 2