Skip to main content Skip to Table of Contents
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Section 508 ICT Testing Baseline

1. Keyboard Accessible

Accessibility Requirements

  • WCAG SC 2.1.1 Keyboard – All functionality of the content is operable through a keyboard interface without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes, except where the underlying function requires input that depends on the path of the user’s movement and not just the endpoints.
  • WCAG SC 2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap – If keyboard focus can be moved to a component of the page using a keyboard interface, then focus can be moved away from that component using only a keyboard interface, and, if it requires more than unmodified arrow or tab keys or other standard exit methods, the user is advised of the method for moving focus away.
  • Conformance Requirement 5: Non-Interference - The following success criteria apply to all content on the page, including content that is not otherwise relied upon to meet conformance, because failure to meet them could interfere with any use of the page: 1.4.2 - Audio Control, 2.1.2 - No Keyboard Trap, 2.3.1 - Three Flashes or Below Threshold, and 2.2.2 - Pause, Stop, Hide.

Test Method Rationale

This requirement relies on use of a keyboard to validate access and control of all functionality of the content first by checking use of standard keyboard commands (TAB, Space Bar, Enter, Escape, etc.). If an interface uses non-standard keyboard commands, the interface must clearly document the commands and make users aware that the commands exist.

Keyboard access and control includes the ability to navigate to AND away from interactive content using only a keyboard.

Limitations, Assumptions, or Exceptions

  • This test was written to be performed on a standard physical keyboard for a Windows PC. While keyboard emulators (such as on-screen keyboards, alternate keyboards, speech input, etc.) may be utilized, testing instructions may differ. Mouse Keys (a Windows and Mac OS feature that enables control of the mouse pointer by keyboard) is not a keyboard emulator.
  • Notes from SC 2.1.1:
    • Note 1: This exception relates to the underlying function, not the input technique. For example, if using handwriting to enter text, the input technique (handwriting) requires path-dependent input but the underlying function (text input) does not.
    • Note 2: This does not forbid and should not discourage providing mouse input or other input methods in addition to keyboard operation.
  • Note from SC 2.1.2:
    • Note 1: Since any content that does not meet this success criterion can interfere with a user’s ability to use the whole page, all content on the Web page (whether it is used to meet other success criteria or not) must meet this success criterion. See Conformance Requirement 5: Non-Interference.

1.1 Test Procedure for Keyboard Access

Baseline Test ID: 1.1-KeyboardAccess

Identify Content

All functionality of the content that is available by mouse control must be keyboard accessible. Determine the functionality of visible and hidden interactive interface components (links, form fields, drop down menus, show/hide content, tree views, pop ups/light boxes, iframes, etc.) available using a mouse (hover and/or click).

Test Instructions

  1. Check that all functionality can be accessed and executed using only the keyboard. [SC 2.1.1]
    1. Use the keyboard to perform functions available by mouse (including drop-down menus, form fields, revealing/hiding content, tooltips, AND all interactive interface components).
      1. If an interactive interface component is not available by keyboard, check if another control is provided on the page with the same functionality which is available by keyboard. (All functionality must meet this requirement.)
  2. Check that individual keystrokes do not require specific timings for activation.[SC 2.1.1]
    1. If operation requires specific timings of individual keystrokes, check if another control is provided on the page with the same functionality which does not require specific timings for operation. (All functionality must be available without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes to operate.)

Test Results

If any of the above checks fail, then Baseline Test 1.1-KeyboardAccess fails.

1.2 Test Procedure for No Keyboard Trap

Baseline Test ID: 1.2-NoKeyboardTrap

Identify Content

Components that receive keyboard focus.

Test Instructions

  1. Check that focus can be moved away from the component. There must be NO “TRAP” that disrupts keyboard navigation.[SC 2.1.2, Conformance Requirement 5]
    1. If a keyboard trap is found, inspect any help (contextual help, or application help) and documentation for notification of available alternate keyboard commands (e.g., non-standard keyboard controls, access keys, hotkeys).
    2. If nonstandard keyboard commands are required to navigate away from a component or set of components, check that the commands work.

Test Results

If the above check fails, then Baseline Test 1.2-NoKeyboardTrap fails.

Advisory: Tips for streamlined test processes

  • Keyboard focusable components include links, form fields, drop down menus, show/hide content, tree views, pop ups/light boxes, frames, and iframes. Focusable components may also be “hidden”, positioned off-screen, and/or have no visible indication of focus.
  • Keyboard commands include standard and any nonstandard keyboard commands.
  • Keyboard access for Title attribute is available in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1 and 10. It may be useful to notify testers to pause while tabbing through interactive content with a TITLE attribute to see if TITLE content is revealed during Keyboard Navigation testing.
  • This test may be combined with tests for keyboard focus.
  • Tips and techniques for finding hidden content may be useful for testers.
  • It may be useful to provide a Windows keyboard reference guide to testers.
  • Content that is found non-conformant with SC 2.1.1 may be marked for further review for a Section 508 exception if “the underlying function requires input that depends on the path of the user’s movement and not just the endpoints”.

WCAG 2.0 Techniques

Contact the ICT Baseline Working Group


Related Projects

The Baseline Alignment for Web is being developed to aid in determining if a test process aligns with the ICT Baseline for Web.