Monday, May 8, 2017

The Keyboard Challenge: 30 Days of Accessibility Testing

The Ministry of Testing has declared that May should be "30 Days of Accessibility Testing". As in the days of yore when I used to take on these challenges and blog regularly, I'm in the mood to get back to doing that. Therefore, I am looking to write a post every day around this topic and as a way to address each line of their checklist.

This is my second entry for May 8, since I was away for the previous weekend. This brings me up to "day 7":

7. Unplug your mouse, leave the touchpad alone, and navigate using the keyboard.

To tell the truth, this is one of the harder things to do on a computer in this current arc of evolution. Many sites are designed to use the mouse, and getting in and using the keyboard exclusively is challenging in many apps. I'm typing this entry with a minimal amount of mouse usage possible, trying my best to use just the keyboard to create and publish this post, as well as publicize it by launching a Tweet when I finish. That means that I have had to basically do away with many of the traditional modes of using the Blogger Editor. Many of the toolbar options are difficult to reach without using the mouse (there are keyboard analogs for several but not all of the options).

For consistency's sake, I found that it was easiest to just tab to the [Compose|HTML] toolbar and select HTML to do the active editing. It's a good approach if you remember your HTML formatting tags, but a lot of the workflows that I actively use don't find this to be a natural fit.

Tabbing over to get to the toolbars, I can enter the tags I want to use, but actually selecting the "Done" button requires tabbing through the entire tag list to get to the button. I'm sure there's a way to get to it quicker, but again, that requires me to dig into some knowledge base somewhere and learn exactly what that is. Frustrating? Believe it! Empathy building? Oh yes!!!

Tabbing to the Save button? Mission Accomplished. Preview? Successful. Umm, OK, how to get back to the editing tab? Umm... [alt]+[command]+[right arrow]... phew! OK, do I publish now? If so, the [Shift] key and seven tabs will get me to the publish button. Cool, now I'm on the Posts page. Select View... umm... tab over it and it disappears. How do I view it? Umm... dang it. Mouse over and click "View"... there it is. I admit I feel defeated at the moment. Still, a couple more tabs and I can highlight the Twitter icon at the bottom of the post. Hit Enter, type in some text, and tweet about this post. Done!

Well, That was quite a workout. It's also eye-opening to see just how much of what we do is optimized for point and click use, and how much additional knowledge and practice is required to be a keyboard ninja in many apps. Some standard keystrokes are familiar to everyone, and they tend to be standards that are adhered to, thankfully, but some more "obvious" operations are a bit more challenging to pull off. Needless to say, getting exhaustive with the keyboard goes well beyond this little blog post, but if the goal is to get the user to understand and empathize with how challenging it is to just use the keyboard to complete many workflows, it's abundantly clear to me at the moment that that is the case.

Now if you will all excuse me I'm going to go take a break. I'm tired ;).
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