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How to activate keyboard navigation on MacOS

Written by Rian Rietveld

Rian Rietveld is an authority in the field of web accessibility. For many years now, she has performed accessibility audits and shared her knowledge and skills by providing training for developers, website owners, and website editors.

To ensure complete keyboard navigation of all focusable interactive elements in MacOS Safari and Firefox, it is necessary to make the following adjustments to your keyboard settings.

Note: The settings and screenshots below are of MacOS Ventura, Safari 16.5, Chrome 114.0.5735.133. Links to older OS or browser versions are mentioned at the bottom of this post.

Mac Settings

First check “Keyboard navigation” in the macOS Settings.
Go to: System Settings > Keyboard > Check “Keyboard navigation“.

Then you will be able to move focus between controls. Press the Tab key to move focus forward and Shift Tab to move backwards.

Screenshot on how to enable keyboard navigation in the MacOS settings

Highlight each focusable item in Safari 

Set Safari to highlight each focusable item.

Safari Settings > Advanced > Check “Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage”.

Option-Tab highlights all items except links.

Screenshot of how to set highlighting focus in Safari

Highlight each focusable item in Chrome

Set Chrome to highlight each focusable item. 

Chrome setting > Appearance > Check “Pressing Tab on a webpage highlights links, as well as form fields”.

Screenshot of how to enable highlighting focus in Chrome

After updating these settings you will need to quit and restart your browsers.

How to set keyboard navigation in older OS or browsers versions: