Background info:

I'm performing an Accessibility Audit as per the new AODA law in Ontario:


It follows the WCAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility:



For a website page with a Form, when the page first loads, should the tab order be:

  1. Each content element such as logo, text, and images before reaching the form? It would reduce expediency but be more accessible to users with screen readers who can orient themselves to the page Or;

  2. Directly to the form? Losing out on user orientation for expediency.

The guideline is here: http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/Overview.php#keyboard-operation

Basically, my gut says to set the focus directly to the form because a majority of users but I'm concerned it may not meet that guideline. Or am I not interpretting that rule properly?

Note: I'm not an accessibility specialist but was asked to do this audit and this is what has come up. Really curious about how you guys approach this guideline.

  • Do you mean tab order when the cursor is already inside the form, or the tab order from when the page first loads?
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:42
  • @JonW On load. i'll update the post.
    – Pdxd
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:46
  • It depends heavily on context. Treat it just as you would as a visual person. Is the logo important for you on that page? If not, then it's not likely important for a person with a screen reader, either.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 17:55
  • @DA01 Normally yes I would agree. The fault lies in the fact that most site pages are accessed in a nonlinear way. If google took you to a page deep in your site, that's where you enter so in that case the logo is important. This is more about how to balance the edge-cases with blind users, and how much it inconveniences the majority sighted users who may be used to tabbing directly to the form.
    – Pdxd
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


Don't take them straight to the form, users won't be expecting that.

A decent accessible website will have skip links at the top that the user can select to jump straight to the content of the page anyway. And if not it should have proper headers in there too so they can jump straight to the H1 by pressing H (or similar key, depending on the screen reader being used anyway).

Don't forget, you should be able to browse a site with a screen reader and your monitor turned off and have it all make sense to you. Potentially you wouldn't know that the page you've landed on is mostly a form unless you can see it, but blind users don't have that luxury.

Screen reader users are pretty adept at browsing around a site very quickly. If the site is built with decent markup then they can get the hang of the site pretty quickly, so introducing 'helpful' tab orders like you suggest may likely be a hindrance than a help as it breaks the convention of how the rest of the site works. (For instance after first orienting themselves with what the items are in the main menu they may decide to start browsing by hitting 1 to take them to the first H1, or H to take them to the first header, or tab x 3 to cycle through the various skip links to 'jump to content' and hit enter through near-reflex as that's what they've done for the other 5 pages on the site.

Also, what if a page has several forms? Where would you position the cursor then? Or if there's a search field in there (which is also a form)?

So yeah, you should ensure the site is consistent and screen reader users will navigate it plenty fast enough.

  • I like your answer but my question is also, if I set this up for the potential edge users who are blind, won't it also be a hindrance to sighted users if the tab doesn't immediately go to the form?
    – Pdxd
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:56
  • You shouldn't need to set anything up. Just build with proper standards and have the tab order automatically set as the logical reading order and you'll be fine for everyone. There's not really much call for specifying a different tab order than that which is automatically determined by the reading order.
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 14:59
  • re: reading order - that's true. plus the URL you posted was super helpful. Thanks for your quick response!
    – Pdxd
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 15:03

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