Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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F44: Failure of Success Criterion 2.4.3 due to using tabindex to create a tab order that does not preserve meaning and operability

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.0 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.0.



This failure relates to:


This document describes a failure that occurs when the tab order does not follow logical relationships and sequences in the content.

Focusable elements like links and form elements have a tabindex attribute. The elements receive focus in ascending order of the value of the tabindex attribute. When the values of the tabindex attribute are assigned in a different order than the relationships and sequences in the content, the tab order no longer follows the relationships and sequences in the content.

One of the most common causes of this failure occurs when editing a page where tabindex has been used. It is easy for the tab order and the content order to fall out of correspondence when the content is edited but the tabindex attributes are not updated to reflect the changes to the content.


Failure Example 1

The following example incorrectly uses tabindex to specify an alternative tab order:

Example Code:

   <li><a href="main.html" tabindex="1">Homepage</a></li>
   <li><a href="chapter1.html" tabindex="4">Chapter 1</a></li>
   <li><a href="chapter2.html" tabindex="3">Chapter 2</a></li>
   <li><a href="chapter3.html" tabindex="2">Chapter 3</a></li>

If this list is navigated by the tab key, the list is navigated in the order Homepage, chapter 3, chapter 2, chapter 1, which does not follow the sequence in the content.

Failure Example 2

The tab order has been set explicitly in a Web page by providing tabindex attributes for all fields. Later, the page is modified to add a new field in the middle of the page, but the author forgets to add a tabindex attribute to the new field. As a result, the new field is at the end of the tab order.


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  1. If tabindex is used, check that the tab order specified by the tabindex attributes follows relationships in the content.

Expected Results