A little background first

At the company I work for, we're working on an e-learning application, aimed (exclusively) at dentists and their teams. While trying to decide how important accessibility standards are to us, we started to consider dropping support for keyboard navigation.

The question:

I'm trying to come up with a list of circumstances that could lead to the use of a keyboard as primary (only) navigation instead of a mouse.

  • Certain/muscle coordination affecting disabilities
  • Blind/limited visibility
  • Broken input device (mouse, trackball, etc)
  • Preference (power-users)

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch, and I'd love to add some to this list.

  • People with a wide range of disabilities and one Who wants to save time.
    – Awesh
    Oct 23, 2013 at 7:58
  • I think it comes to how websites are built, normally sites are actually built to navigate using the mouse, With lots of links and user input/buttons scattered around. It is quicker to actually navigate with the mouse. As far as I've seen, keyboard works pretty well on specially laid out sites, like horizontal sites or sites with presentations or very simple/few options/controls. Normal users have the habit to use mouses already and are not likely to learn keyboard shortcuts.
    – aleation
    Oct 23, 2013 at 8:03
  • Vimium is quite useful but is definitely not limited to exclusively keyboard input.
    – enderland
    Oct 23, 2013 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


WCAG has a little background information alongside its keyboard accessibility guidelines.

When content can be operated through a keyboard or alternate keyboard, it is operable by people with no vision (who cannot use devices such as mice that require eye-hand coordination) as well as by people who must use alternate keyboards or input devices that act as keyboard emulators. Keyboard emulators include speech input software, sip-and-puff software, on-screen keyboards, scanning software and a variety of assistive technologies and alternate keyboards. Individuals with low vision also may have trouble tracking a pointer and find the use of software much easier (or only possible) if they can control it from the keyboard.

  • Yes, but that is when you have (next to) no alternative. What can you say about the types of users that are not forced to use the keyboard, but do so out of preference (especially as switching between keyboard and other devices takes time). Can these users be grouped in specific categories? Oct 23, 2013 at 11:18
  • @Marjan Venema The question put emphasis on types of users who rely exclusively on the keyboard to navigate and WCAG provides a good list of examples. I'm sure other people will be able to list even more situations in which users are forced or choose to use the keyboard. Not necessarily "categories" of user, but contexts of use.
    – Matt Obee
    Oct 23, 2013 at 11:41
  • Oh ok, was just curious as I am a power user, not forced to use the keyboard, but actively avoiding the mouse wherever possible and knowing there are more just like me, I was wondering whether you were aware of any specific "shared" characteristics. Oct 23, 2013 at 11:54

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