Simon Willison’s Weblog



1st June 2003

My mouse stopped working a couple of days ago. This hasn’t ben as big a problem as you might have thought, mainly because Vice City refuses to install on my PC so I’ve been playing it on a housemates instead ;) Surfing the ’net mouseless has however given me an interesting insight in to a number of accessibility issues.

Firstly, Flash just isn’t accessible! I haven’t found a single Flash site that I could even start to use without a mouse (most of the time I got stuck at a splash screen). Maybe if sites were built with Flash MX and used the much touted accessibility features I would have been able to navigate them, but as it was anything in Flash became utterly inaccessible to me.

Secondly, Windows is a lot more obviously accessible to keyboard users than Gnome on Linux, thanks mainly to the Windows key providing access to the start menu. If anyone can tell me a way of accessing the launch menus in Gnome using only the keyboard I would be very grateful.

Finally, Typeahead Find in Mozilla and Firebird is an absolute God-send. With it I can surf keyboardless at pretty much the same speed as I can with a mouse, provided of course I don’t run in to any Flash. The only time it slips up a bit is on sites that use the same text for multiple links (for example the Comments links on this site), but even then it’s easy enough to cycle through them using F3. This is supported by this tip from the WAI:

If more than one link on a page shares the same link text, all those links should point to the same resource. Such consistency will help page design as well as accessibility.

Incidentally, HTML Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, despite being something of a mouthful, is a fantastic document if you are at all interested in web accessibility. It’s full of useful tips for making content more accessible, including code examples for the impatient. As with all W3C documents you need to scroll past the extensive preamble and table of contents before you get to the juicy bits.

This is Mouseless by Simon Willison, posted on 1st June 2003.

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