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After you have navigated to an un-opened tab, via the use of the tab key, and it has the focus on the webpage:

Should the 'spacebar' keyboard key activate that tab and open it (as well as the default 'enter' key)? What are the guidelines for this behaviour?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Marco Zehe, Mozilla accessibility QA engineer and evangelist, provided some advice in an article about implementing tabs in web apps with WAI-ARIA. He advocates cursor keys for moving focus between tabs in a set and then spacebar to activate the focused tab, which is consistent with the native desktop experience.

Left and Right arrow keys should move focus to the new tab, but not yet select it. Space should actually perform the hiding and un-hiding of the tab panels and adjust the aria-selected attributes. This is how Mac OS X applications with multiple tabs usually do it, for example many multi-tab panels in the System Preferences. This makes sure the user can change focus multiple times without each focus change triggering a dynamic update and possibly network traffic. Only an explicit step to select a tab should then actually trigger the change, and traffic. Mouse or touch can trigger both at the same time. Tab should immediately move to the first control within the tab panel. It should skip over the remaining tabs.

I would normally implement tabs so that either spacebar or enter can be used.

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