Are “ghost tab stops” considered accessibility violations under WCAG?


There's an element on my site that makes the keyboard tab to it even though there isn't a visible item to focus on. Will this "ghost tab stop" fail under the WCAG?


While this is technically not considered a failure under the WCAG, a ghost tab stop is often considered a usability issue. This keyboard behavior could result in confusion or cognitive overload for some users. This also applies to non-interactive components that receive keyboard focus too, such as blocks of text or headings. Essentially, if a component is not visually present and/or is not interactive, it should not be a tab stop that receives keyboard focus.


If the tab stop does not serve any functional purpose, we recommend using the tabindex attribute on the component receiving focus and setting the value to "-1" (i.e. tabindex="-1"). This will ensure that the component will not receive tab focus, avoiding as many unnecessary tab stops as possible.

One way to identify ghost tab stops is to map your page's focusable elements using the keyboard navigation helper in the Guided Manual WCAG Audit Tool from Accessible Web.

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