VMware's no-mouse challenge!
UX Design Innovation and Accessibility

Are You Ready To Challenge Your Accessibility Assumptions?

Not everyone relies on a mouse or a trackpad when using their computers. The general “cat” population may be surprised to know there are many keyboard-only users among us. For example, people who are blind or have low vision use assistive technology, such as screen readers or braille displays, and rely on keyboard functionality to navigate a page or browse content online. Other examples include people with dexterity difficulties. Approximately seven percent of working adults have Parkinson’s, arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome. They find it easier to use the keyboard. Whatever the reason is — necessity or preference — there are many keyboard-only users navigating a world that was not designed for them.

We can all contribute to making the digital world more inclusive.

An important first step is to experience the digital world the same way that keyboard-only users’ do. We invited VMware employees to take a #NoMouseVMware challenge. You can join us too! Here’s how: choose a website, an app, or a tool, and navigate it using only a keyboard for 30 minutes.

Without a mouse (or a trackpad) try to:

  • Navigate a menu bar
  • Write an email
  • Check out a newsfeed
  • Scroll down a timeline
  • Watch a video
  • Read an article
  • Subscribe to or purchase an item
  • Download a document
  • Review your PowerPoint slides

Navigation 101

Cat looking at a monitor; computer mouse with a red circle and line through it.
Illustration by Lilia Kim

Before you start, here are a few tips on keyboard navigation:

  • Press Tab to move to the next link, form element or button.
  • Press Shift+Tab to move to the previous link, form element, or button.
  • Press Enter or space bar to activate the current link or button.
  • Use arrow keysEscape, or other keys, if it makes sense.

How long did it take before you hit a roadblock?

Cat with a computer mouse in its mouth.
Illustration by Lilia Kim

Did it take 10 minutes before you felt frustrated enough to throw your hands up in the air? Five minutes? Post a comment if…

  • You couldn’t locate or lost where you were on the page because there wasn’t any visual indication.
  • You had to tab excessively to get to the main page content because there was no “skip” link.
  • You opened a modal window and noticed that keyboard focus didn’t move to it.
  • You skipped over entire parts of the page that you knew you should be able to interact with.
  • You noticed that the focus jumped to active elements on the page in a random or illogical order.

Surely you can add a few more bullets to that list!

If a 30-minute challenge felt painful, annoying, and/or frustrating, imagine how difficult it must be for someone who experiences it every day. We encourage you to think about your customers, potential hires, and, of course, employees who are:

  • Using keyboards only to navigate your products and website.
  • Sitting through a training or sales pitch and using the keyboard to navigate your PowerPoint presentations, email, or other content.

Making the digital space accessible is everyone’s responsibility. Whether you are part of marketing, products, sales, HR, or any other function — we all have a role to play. Let’s become better accessibility advocates. Commit to using the keyboard more often. If something isn’t working, raise a ticket (or a fuss) and get it fixed.

With your help, we can build a future that is accessible for all.

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