How to test
Keyboard & focus

Manual testing is not difficult or time consuming once a team understands keyboard interactions.

1 Test with the keyboard only

It is crucial to test with only the keyboard first, without the screen reader activated.

Why keyboard testing is so important

  • Keyboard accessibility is prerequisite to screen reader accessibility.
    • If it doesn’t work with only the keyboard, it won’t work with a screen reader.
  • screen reader applications will sometimes cover missing functionality that the sighted keyboard user won’t be able to use.


  • Test with a mobile device and a bluetooth keyboard
  • Test with a desktop device and a keyboard


  • Any major browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) is acceptable for keyboard testing.
  • Note: In Safari, you’ll have to activate tab in Preferences » Advanced » Press Tab

2 How to test

Keyboard testing consists of a few keyboard commands to interact with web experiences.

Keyboard basics
Key Action
Arrows Should scroll the screen or interact with form fields
Tab Moves through the interface focusing on elements that are focusable. For example, buttons and links.
Shift + Tab Moves in reverse through the interface focusing on elements that are focusable.
Enter Active links and buttons
Spacebar Activates buttons and interacts with form elements
Escape Should close or dismiss widgets like dialogs

3 What to test for

✓ Ensure all mouse functionality is present for keyboard

Identify functionality within the experience that can be operated with a mouse or pointing device. Ensure this content can be accessed with they keyboard alone.

✓ Ensure there is a highly visible visual indication of keyboard focus

Keyboard users need to understand where they are in the interface at all times. The visual indication of keyboard focus (focus ring) should be highly visible and have a color contrast ratio of 3:1 against the background. Verify that overlap items (e.g. cookie banners, sticky footers, sticky headers, and non-modal dialogs) do not obscure the visual indicator.

✓ Ensure that there are no keyboard traps

Ensure that while navigating the experience, you do not encounter situations where you are not able to move forward or backward with the keyboard alone.

✓ Verify that the focus order is logical

In an English-based experience, keyboard focus should move top-to-bottom and left-to-right in a logical order. Ensure focus is not jumping around the experience in a way that makes it hard to understand the content.

✓ On focus does not create a change of context

Ensure that when an interactive element receives keyboard focus that a change of context is not initiated without warning of such behavoir. An example of change of context is a page load or web form submission.

✓ Test for skip links

Where there are large chunks of repeated content, ensure that there are skip links present for keboard users. For example, on a site with a large site navigation system, the first focusable element in the page should be a link that allows users to jump to the main content of the site.

Video Example

How to test with the keyboard

  • 1.4.11: Non-text Contrast
  • 2.1.1 Keyboard
  • 2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap
  • 2.4.3 Focus Order
  • 2.4.7 Focus Visible
  • 3.2.1 On Focus