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Importance of Keyboard Accessibility

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Many users are physically unable to use a pointer interface (such as a mouse), and therefore may rely on navigating through digital products including websites using a keyboard alone. This article will focus on the importance rather than technical implementation of keyboard accessibility, wondering how to implement, why not read my 'Developing and Testing for Keyboard Accessibility' article.

I’ve trawled the internet for specific statistics or studies on keyboard usage, and I could not find a single specific study, not a single one. The closest to statistics may potentially be drawn using a relationship between an individual's disability and their "potential" reliance on a keyboard.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 'Building a Deeper under of Disabilities in the UK' identified that 8% of the UK's population had a severe mobility and 6% had a severe dexterity disability in 2013, whilst an article on PowerMapper about 'Disability Statistics' implies 7% of adults in the United States (US), Canada and UK have a severe dexterity difficulties. This would mean that potentially 7% of your website audience is "unlikely" to use a pointer interface and rely on an alternative input such as a keyboard. This will most likely be an overestimation as not all users will rely on a keyboard, and some might use a pointer interface, however, even if this was only 2% rather than 7%, that would still constitute more than the percentage of IE users, currently at 1.89% (reported in Desktop Market Share Report by StatCounter) which companies place a high importance on, when developing a solution, so why is this not always the same for keyboard accessibility?

Individuals with severe visual disabilities "most likely" will require the use of a keyboard to interact with websites in conjunction with using their Screen Reader. The 'Disability Statistics' PowerMapper article implies 3% of the US, Canada and UK have a difficulty seeing. Therefore, this would imply that potentially 10% of all visitors could rely on a keyboard.

Visualisation of Individuals with Visual and Dexterity Disabilities Statistics

Enough statistics though, even if you're not intrigued by these numbers, or cannot form a business case to defend the necessity of keyboard access to stakeholders. Remember that if you can make a change that empowers a single individual, is that change not worthwhile making and that some individuals simply prefer the keyboard, than a pointer, as it often requires less movement, and is a more efficient input method.

This article was last updated on October 12th 2020.

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