Mouse and Keyboard Events


When you use only mouse events to trigger an action, a keyboard-only user cannot trigger the event. The solution often involves one or two steps.

First, you need to determine if the element where you attaching the mouse events can also receive the keyboard focus. The most common elements which automatically receive focus are links, form input elements, and buttons. If you are attaching the events to a different type of element, like a generic <div> or <span>, you need to enable the element to receive keyboard focus. This is done by adding tabindex=”0″ to the element in question. This tells the browser to add the item to the natural tab order of the page.


tabindex can receive three types of values: -1, 0, or any number greater than 0. Each value means something different.

tabindex=”-1″: This makes the element focusable, but it can only receive focus programmatically through JavaScript. The user cannot simply press the tab key and focus on this element.

tabindex=”0″: This makes the element focusable and it places the element in the natural tab order of the page based on its position within the DOM. The user will be able to focus on this item using the tab key.

tabindex=”1″, or anything greater than 0: This makes the element focusable, but it places the element in the tab order corresponding to the number set in the attribute. This practice should be avoided except in rare cases. The tab order should almost always follow the natural order of the page.

Second, provide the same functionality via the corresponding keyboard events. The following table lists mouse events and their equivalent keyboard events.

Corresponding mouse and keyboard events
Mouse Event Keyboard Event
mousedown keydown
mouseup keyup
click keypress
mouseover focus
mouseout blur


Oftentimes it is easier to put all of the code in a third function rather than storing it in an event listener so that both the mouse and keyboard event can just call the same function. That way you only have to maintain your code in a single location.

onMouseover = "doSomething();"
onfocus = "doSomething();"

function doSomething() {alert('Hello World!');}

Further Reading