1.5 Do not require use of a pointing device

Users should be able to access all of the application functionality without controlling the mouse pointer. All functions should therefore be accessible from the keyboard but without using it to emulate a mouse.

An exception is granted for functions like freehand drawing, which require the user to describe an arbitrary path that cannot easily be expressed in any other way.Specifically, users should be able to use keys and key combinations to do all of the following:

  • Navigate to and activate all menus and menu items
  • Navigate between documents, windows, panes and modeless dialogs
  • Navigate to and activate all controls in windows and dialogs
  • Navigate to toolbars and activate any tools providing functions that are not also provided in menus
  • Navigate within text and other document content and make selections
  • Alter the properties of application objects

Similar guidelines are:

  • 1.4 Adhere to the standard keyboard access methods
  • 1.10 Ensure a logical tab order for controls, input fields and other objects


Some users can interact with a computer using keys or switches but cannot use a pointing device such as a mouse. Users with limited motor control or hand tremors may be unable to control a pointing device accurately enough to target small objects. Some users may be impaired to the point that they can only operate a computer via a single two position switch.

If an application has functions that cannot be performed using the keyboard, some users will be unable to use those functions.

Directions and Techniques

Allow tabbing to any object and activating any object from the keyboard

The primary method of accessing application objects via the keyboard is to use the Tab key. Repeatedly pressing Tab moves the focus from one object to another within a group. When the focus is on the desired object, some other key sequence can be used to activate it.

Tabbing between objects usually works within a group of objects, such as the buttons on a toolbar, so that when focus is on the last object in the group, pressing Tab moves it back to the first object and the cycle begins again. Moving focus onto a different group can be done by pressing some other key sequence. For example, in Windows, pressing the Alt key switches focus between the menu bar, which can be tabbed through, and the application window. It is important to note that an object refers to a logical entity, such as a button. In some cases, things like toolbars may actually be constructed as a single image, with many active regions corresponding to the individual buttons on it. In this case, each individual button is a logical object, so it should be possible to tab within the image to each active region.Although this method is generally called "tabbing", it is not always the Tab key that cycles focus within a group. Some applications are set up so that the Tab key switches focus between different panes and the arrow keys are used to cycle through the contents of a pane. Windows Explorer is one example.When focus is on an object, some key or key sequence can be used to activate it. Typically, the Enter key or Spacebar are used for this purpose. Some objects will require multiple activation methods because there may be many things that can be done to an object. For example, there may be one key sequence to launch it, another to open its properties for editing and still more for hiding or deleting it. Each operation should have a keyboard method. As far as possible, applications should follow the common standards for the operating system. These may include other conventions such as holding the Shift key down to reverse the direction of tabbing.

As far as possible, allow direct keyboard access using shortcut keys

Although tabbing between objects is the primary method of keyboard access, and the easiest to learn, it can be slow. Shortcut key sequences should therefore be assigned to frequently used functions.

How you could check for this:

There are no specific test methods recommended for this guideline.