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How to Check Your EIT for Non-Mouse Navigability

Not everyone can use a mouse to navigate a document or a web page. Individuals with motor impairments or other physical disabilities rely on tools other than the mouse to get around their laptop operating system or the web. The primary alternative to the mouse for navigating documents and websites is the keyboard. The primary way you navigate with a keyboard is to use the TAB character to get from item to item on screen.

Making Documents Navigable via the Keyboard

Products like Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, Windows, and Mac OS X have built-in tools to make them navigable via keyboard. You must, however, build your documents in a certain manner so they will be accessible via assistive technologies.

The key to making documents navigable via the keyboard is to use built-in styles in Microsoft Office and to make sure that your document has a logical structure. That is, be sure that you use built-in styles (i.e., Heading 1, Heading 2, Normal Text, etc.) and the built-in table of contents tool rather than changing font sizes and styles by hand. Additionally, be sure that a Heading 1 style always comes before a Heading 2 style, and a Heading 2 style always comes before a Heading 3 style in your document, and so on.

The accessible PowerPoint template on this website is fully navigable via the keyboard. We encourage you to use that template when possible.

Making Websites Navigable via the Keyboard

If you are building a website, you should make sure that it is navigable via the keyboard. The Neilsen-Norman group provides an excellent introduction to keyboard-only navigation for improved accessibility.

The tabindex property of certain HTML elements can be used to assign correct keyboard navigation order, but it is not foolproof. “Skipnav” links let users bypass the long list of links that often appear before the main content on a web page. Using proper semantic structure for your document is another key tool in making web pages navigable via the keyboard alone.

WebAIM.org provides a thorough overview of making web pages accessible via the keyboard alone.