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

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

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