Accessibility and Good Website Design

Good website design accessibility

The Scary Truth About Web Accessibility and Good Website Design

Good website design accessibility
How accessible is your website?

I recently attended a webinar for a number of small businesses, literally “mom and pop” operations. The average age of the attendee was easily over 60 and each business might have employed 3-4 people (full-time and seasonal). The web production company running the webinar repeatedly told the audience that “if you don’t make your websites ADA accessible, you will be sued (see WalMart, 2001 ).” In an effort to assess my client’s liability, I asked the web company for details on the specific legislation. The web company couldn’t provide a name or legislation number.

The truth is that there is legislation out there but it’s not aimed at these companies. Section 508 refers to ADA compliance and specifically “requires that Federal Departments/Agencies Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) is accessible to people with disabilities.” ( While I don’t claim to have a legal background, it seems clear that think that this document doesn’t include these “mom and pop” operations.

While I despise the “scare tactics” used by the web company above, there are plenty of reasons why considering accessibility when designing and updating anyone’s website is a good idea.

  1. Reach a wider audience.
  2. Many ADA compliant features will aid in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
  3. If accessibility is considered in the initial design and implemented it shouldn’t add much to the overall cost of the site.
  4. If/When guidelines are adopted into legislation, demonstrating that your business is working on addressing website accessibility potentially could go a long way towards meeting that obligation.

Web Guidelines for Accessibility

Guidelines that the industry is working towards called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

“WCAG itself is a technical standard designed primarily for Web developers and designers, authoring tool and evaluation tool developers, and others who need a technical standard for Web accessibility. WAI [Web Accessibility Initiative] develops additional material for people with different levels of accessibility knowledge.

WCAG 1.0 was approved in May 1999 and is the stable and referenceable version. WCAG 2.0 is being developed…” (

These guidelines are produced by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an “international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards.”

5 Elements of Good ADA Accessible Design

  1. Include ALT text for images: Allows visually impaired users to hear (using their software) a description of the image and helps search engines understand what image content is.


  2. Keyboard Input: for those with restricted motor skills, keyboard input can allow them to use the keyboard instead of the mouse.
  3. Transcripts: for those who are hearing impaired, providing transcripts of videos or presentations makes the audio information accessible. This is also useful to search engines (similar to No.1).
  4. Contrast: Consider the contrast of text to images. The clearer it is, the wider the audience is that will be able to read it quickly and easily.
  5. Consider Column Width: Those with learning disabilities can find very wide columns difficult to track, and everyone can read a narrower column more quickly.

Accessible Website Design Links
JAWS, a screen reader for Windows.
Lynx, a free text-only web browser.
Links, a free text-only web browser for visual users with low bandwidth.
Windows-Eyes, a screen reader for Windows. PwWebSpeak, a screen reader for Windows.

O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to

Design Disciplines Defined

Design disciplines.

After seeing confusion about the different roles that designers take in the creation of the environments and things around us, here is a brief list of design
disciplines and their definitions.

Design disciplines.
Design disciplines.

Architecture: Architecture “is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.” [Architecture, Wikipedia]

Graphic Design: Graphic Design, frequently referred to as Visual Communication or Communication Design, is an applied art. Graphic design often refers to both the process by which the communication is created and organized, and the products which are generated from that process. The products could be digital or printed (including: logos, brochures, websites, animation, books, and magazines).

Human Computer Interaction: (HCI) Human Computer Interaction revolves around the study, planning and design of the interaction between people and computers. This field pulls together a knowledge of human physical and mental factors (anatomy, behavior, psychology, communication,…) and technical factors (device limitations, operating systems, programming languages,…).

Industrial Design: This discipline combines applied art and science to create and develop concepts and specifications based on the aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality and usability of a physical product. The goal is to optimize the function, value and appearance of a product and/or system for the benefit of both user and manufacturer

Information Architecture: (AI) Information Architecture is the art and science of organizing the structure of information and content for websites, intranet sites and software to support usability. This involves making wireframes, the blueprints of a digital design. This could also involve creating a taxonomy of how content and products on a site should be classified, or a prototype illustrating how the information should change on screen as a user progresses through a task.

Interaction Design: (IxD) Interaction Design is the practice of shaping the digital products for use with a focus on behavior. This field combines information from science, engineering and combines them to imagine how a digital product might behave.

Motion Design: Part of graphic design, motion design applies graphic design principals to a video or animated context. Â Examples include: title sequences, web animations, and branding (station identification logo).

User Experience Design: (UXD, UED) UXD refers to the holistic consideration of a user’s experience. UXD is used to explain all aspects of a person’s experience with a system from initial communication (language, graphic design, sound) to physical and simulated interaction (UI, industrial design). This can include traditional Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design.

User Interface: Is the design of devices, machines, software and websites with a focus on making the user’s interaction with the system or device as efficient and clear as possible.

“Interface design is involved in a wide range of projects from computer systems, to cars, to commercial planes; all of these projects involve much of the same basic human interactions yet also require some unique skills and knowledge. As a result, designers tend to specialize in certain types of projects and have skills centered around their expertise, whether that be software design, user research, web design, or industrial design.” [UI design, Wikipedia]

Visual Design: Visual Design refers to design that works with any media or visual communication.

Web Design: Web Design refers to the many skills and disciplines used in the creation, production and maintenance of a website. Different areas of web design can include: graphic design, user interface design, interaction design, user experience design and search engine optimization.

O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to

Good Design and Funding a Non-Profit

Business Budgets and Design

Most businesses are more and more conscious of their budgets and how to get the most for their money. As you know, non-profits are not exempt from this. Frequently, they are more inclined to cut corners with their marketing budget, and allocate funds to a more tangible resource. All too often the design budget is one of the first things to go.

I was working on an annual report for a housing non-profit headquartered in Washington, DC a few years ago. They were given proofs of three different concepts. The housing non-profit chose the most generic looking version and asked for modifications to make it look plainer. It made the annual report harder to read and gave a less than professional presentation of the non-profit. They told me that even though all three designs would cost the same, they didn’t want their donors to think they spent too much money on the design.

Good design is partly defined in how it meets the needs of the client, but was this non-profit missing something here? Were they missing donations because they were presenting a less than professional image? Doesn’t a message that communicates your mission quickly and clearly serve any business well, let alone a non-profit?

Design and the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA)/PetFood Express Fundraiser

2012 was the second year that CARDA, a registered 501(c) charity, has participated in this fundraiser. They asked O’Connell Design to handle the design and production of promotional materials.

CARDA, is the largest volunteer K-9 Search and Rescue Organization in the U.S. They are also one of the most active teams with over 100 certified dogs participating in search operations across the state of California and, when needed, in other parts of the world. They have traditionally relied on donations and dues from members to run this all volunteer managed organization.

CARDA is well known to their customers – CalEMA, Sheriffs, Police Departments, and search agencies. When looking to increase donations through fundraising, CARDA realized they needed reach a broad audience. They not only needed to educate the public as to who they are, but to convey a message of professionalism, safety and trust that the donations would go to a good cause.

In 2011, this one day event involved ten Pet Food Express stores and Natural Balance produced over $18k in donations for CARDA. This represented an over 18x return on investment. This was more than double any previous donation received by the organization. For 2012, based on the success of the previous year Pet Food Express dedicated forty stores making this a much larger event. The donations were more than double the previous year. This will enabled CARDA to do more to get search teams where they are needed and help pay for medical expenses if a K9 is injured on a search.

The design of the advertising, flyers, posters and other promotional materials was essential in presenting this organization to the public. The clean design made the message stand out while the consistency across mediums gave CARDA a professional image. Lastly, the image of the dog communicated the very real function this K9 search and rescue organization performs and as well as helps instill trust.


Fundraiser Promotion a Great Success

CARDA’s Pet Food Express Fundraiser

We were proud to be part of the California Rescue Dog Association’s (CARDA) successful fundraiser.

CARDA’s Pet Food Express Fundraiser
CARDA’s Pet Food Express Fundraiser

This one day event with Pet Food Express and Natural Balance produced over $18k in donations for CARDA, and represented an over 18x return on investment. CARDA is an all volunteer search and rescue organization providing K9 search and rescue teams to law enforcement and mutual aid call outs throughout the state of California. CARDA is a registered 501(c) charity.



O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to


Stuart|Jackson’s Website Design

web development for Stuart|Jackson

O’Connell Design is proud to announce the Stuart|Jackson LLC website is live.

website design for Stuart|Jackson
Stuart|Jackson website design.

Stuart|Jackson is a unique firm specializing in the research, renovation, restoration & recreation of historic flooring materials. By focusing on a single architectural surface, Stuart|Jackson can assist the preservation team to assure the most historically appropriate flooring materials are being specified, procured, installed and maintained.

O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to

Just Published Travel Photography Book: South Africa

South Africa photograph book

South Africa, A Photographic Journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town is a beautifully photographed travel book.

Photographic scenes of South Africa by L.V.O’Connell Photography. Images include sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town, the Franschhoek wine-country, the Cape of Good Hope and wildlife native to South Africa.
This 40 page (10— 8 in, 25 — 20 cm) book and others are available at

O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to

Online Clean Energy Website is Live

O’C Design has just finished work on a new website for Online Clean Energy.

Online Clean Energy is the clean energy division of Online Builders focusing on solar energy solutions in Southern California. Their website needed to appeal to clean and renewable technology buyers.

O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to

Recipe Book Design: Favorite Recipes of the Palmer House Inn

Favorite Recipes of the Palmer House Inn a fantastic collection of recipes from this luxury Cape Cod Bed & Breakfast.

Every day the innkeepers of The Palmer House Inn, Bill & Pat O’Connell, create a three to four course gourmet breakfast for their guests. Here are a few of our favorite recipes. We hope you enjoy them as much at home as you did at the Inn.

Recipes include: Gingerbread Pancakes with Lemon Sauce, Cranberry Sorbet, Hot Spiced Apple Cider, Blueberry Johnnycakes, Crustless Quiche with Smoked Salmon and many more.

This collection of traditional New England recipes and modern variations is beautifully illustrated with color photographs by L. V. O’Connell. For more information about the Inn go to


O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to