Keyboard-Only for a Day #GAAD

In honor of #GAAD (Globally Accessibility Awareness Day), I committed to using my keyboard throughout my day at work. (Some cheating was involved, so I didn’t get in trouble for being unproductive due to keyboard adjustment mode.) The Minnesota IT department initiated a No Mouse Challenge that encouraged people to use their keyboard-only for 15 minutes. I started out doing 15 minutes — which was a challenge in itself — and decided to carry on throughout the day just to see how accessible my own Windows applications and Internet sites were.

Starting Out

Thanks to MNIT, I was able to wean off my mouse addiction right away with their handy cheatsheet of Windows and Office keyboard shortcuts. Alt + Tab became my new friend to switch between program panes, as did F6 for switching between panes within a window. So much use of arrow keys! I’m a pro with the scroll wheel on my mouse, so that was a hard habit to work against.


There isn’t enough time in my world to test all the major browsers, so I went with my go-to browser Firefox. Here are some of the shortcuts I found to be the most useful throughout my day:

  • Ctrl + Tab: moved me between my open tabs
  • Alt + F (or other key): to open a specific browser menu
  • Ctrl + W: close a tab

Frustration: trying to figure out how to save a PDF file that was opened in my browser. Hint: It’s not Ctrl + S.

Keyboard shortcuts for common tasks in Firefox.


To write this post with just my keyboard turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. Not only did I have a hard time finding my focus on where I was on the page in order to start a new blog post and position my cursor within the editor window, I also realize I didn’t know most of the shortcuts for formatting my text (like list items and headings).

Fortunately, a Google search was just a Ctrl + T away: WP keyboard shortcuts. Further reading showed that markdown is an available option, too.

I filled my knowledge gap with these shortcuts to format this post:

  • Ctrl + Shift + Arrow key: select text
  • Ctrl + k: add hyperlink to text
  • Alt + Shift + u: make unordered list item(s)
  • Alt + Shift + 2: change to a Heading 2 level

Frustrations I was left with:

  1. navigating back to the editor pane if I switched browser tabs to look up additional information for this post;
  2. focus of my screen. (I discovered as I added more text or keyed down within the editor to select content, the focus would not push the content up, but rather my text/selection would go off-screen. That could be frustrating for someone who does a lot of blog posts with just the use of their keyboard!)

Adobe InDesign

This application was a doozy! I’m not sure if anyone could actually work solely from a keyboard in InDesign, but — for today’s productivity’s sake — I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for answers. And all I needed to do was make some edits to business cards already made.

I did find shortcut keys on Adobe’s help site, which led to the inadvertent discovery of it as a keyboard inaccessible page. At least I couldn’t figure out how to tab away from their search box, which was the predetermined focus of the page.

My other biggest complaint was scrolling through my document without relying on Page Up and Page Down, which broke up my view of the page I intended to focus on.

Adobe Dreamweaver

Also, another visual and mouse-friendly application. Due to my time crunch, I used my mouse a LOT here. I fumbled around too long trying to switch between panes to select my directory and scroll through files. Ctrl + W worked for closing the file after I was done with it. I guess that’s progress.


This being our work order ticket system, it was one web application I was not going to spend loads of time trying to figure out. I had work to do and tickets to close.

Frustration with their stark inaccessibility: I couldn’t tab through my options or easily navigate between a ticket and its description, which required me to click on “More.” Once I was focused in the My Tickets section, I was able to keydown through my list.


I often use this timer application to keep track some of my work orders since I am splitting my time between my regular work and performing interim work for another division. I only had to use my mouse to stop a timer because I couldn’t find any indication of focus on tabbing. Fumbling with the Enter or Spacebar only had undesired results.

Overall Frustrations

  • Where is my focus??? As someone who has a visual impairment, I need help with obvious indicators of where I’m at on my page or in my application. The keyboard left me a bit disoriented because my mouse gives me a little better idea about where I am and instance results from where I intend to go.
  • I couldn’t always reach an important piece of content or interactive feature. I’m fortunate to be able to fall back on the mouse. Not everyone can do so.
  • Scanning a page was more time consuming without the convenience of a mouse to instantly click on what I saw.

Perks of this Experiment

  • My mouse hand got a breather today.
  • I learned new keyboard shortcuts that actually made my workflow a little better.
  • Discovered some sore points on our own division pages that are now on my list of improvement so they can be accessed via keyboard.
  • I flexed my short-term memory muscles so I didn’t have to keep (inconveniently) switching between tabs, panes, and windows when I would forget something.
  • This exercise corralled some of my multi-tasking tendencies in order to improve my memory ability and decrease tedious switches between applications.
  • I feel like I have a deeper awareness of how keyboard users function on a day-to-day basis, and understand the frustrations some may encounter throughout their day.
  • This awareness has given me some ideas to add to my testing toolkit.


I work with so many desktop applications and websites throughout the week that this was just a scratch on the surface for me when it comes to understanding keyboard use. But I do hope to be diving in on a more regular basis — not all day — to keep the ideas fresh and gain a better understanding of our diverse users.

Did you acknowledge GAAD in some way today? If so, what did you learn from it?


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