Put it on my TAB – Web Accessibility Testing and the Power of the TAB Key

Handouts Media

Presented at 3:00pm in Virtual B on Thursday, November 12, 2020.



  • Glen Walker, director of accessibility, applause.com

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 45 minutes
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: Pre-conference


Testing for WCAG for the first time can feel daunting with 50 success criteria at Level AA (WCAG 2.1). Where should you start? Fortunately, there's a low-tech solution available to everyone - a keyboard. In particular, the TAB key. How much accessibility testing can you do with one key? Come and see.


There are many free, low-tech solutions for testing accessibility. One of the easiest is the TAB key on the keyboard. However, many websites do not have a well-defined focus indicator so it can be difficult to tell where the keyboard focus is when using the TAB key. This can be solved by specifying a custom focus indicator in the browser. All browsers support this.

Once a custom focus indicator is set and you tab through the webpage, you will see which elements can receive keyboard focus. Occasionally the focus indicator may disappear as you tab. This typically means the focus is on a “hidden” element – an element that is visually hidden using CSS tricks but not really hidden to the browser. To easily identify these hidden elements, a screen reader can be used.

Using a combination of the TAB key, a custom focus indicator, and a screen reader, many accessibility issues can be identified.


  1. Testing for high value accessibility issues can accomplished using a low-tech solution available to everyone.
  2. Specifying a custom style sheet in the browser has many benefits, one of which is finding accessibility issues
  3. A screen reader can be used to augment testing without having a deep knowledge of how a screen reader works.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Assistive Technology, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Glen Walker

Glen Walker is the Director of Accessibility at Applause.com, a crowdsourcing testing company. He leads a remote team of three dozen people spread across 20 different countries and time zones that focuses on accessibility conformance testing. Glen has been involved with accessibility since 2007 and worked as a software engineer before that.