Joseph Karr O’Connor

Joseph Karr O'Connor (May 23, 1953 – January 3, 2020) was an American computer scientist, accessibility advocate, and a main accessibility contributor to WordPress.[1][2][3]

Joseph O'Connor
Born(1953-05-23)May 23, 1953
Hackensack, New Jersey, United States
DiedJanuary 3, 2020(2020-01-03) (aged 66)
OccupationDigital Accessibility Technologist Edit this at Wikidata

Accessibility contributionsEdit

O’Connor became the Accessibility Team representative for WordPress in 2013, leading the team through 2015 and stepping down in 2016.[4] He created the Accessibility Cities initiative which enlisted an international group of designers to create free and accessible WordPress themes named after the cities the designers were from.[5] The project got sixteen different accessible themes into development.[5] Partially as a result of this initiative WordPress went from zero to eighteen accessible themes from 2013 to 2014.[6]

O’Connor highlighted the work of WordPress accessibility on the Web Axe podcast with Dennis Lembrée.[7] He organized the Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design group in 2012 which hosted regular events for Global Accessibility Awareness Day.[8] He was a regular attendee of the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference and presented regularly with Dennis Lembrée about the accessibility of Twitter.[9] Joseph's final submission to the 35th CSUN conference was an Accessible Death – Proposal, discussing how to help a family member with intellectual disabilities manage the death of a parent. He did not live to give this talk, and passed away January 3, 2020.[10][11]

O’Connor worked on web accessibility at SCI-Arc, Pasadena City College, and California State University, Northridge, as well maintained a side business doing web accessibility. He was active with the CSUN Academic Technology Committee, often advocating for better ADA compliance. He spoke at many events about WordPress and accessibility including how to build accessible WordPress themes, how to build accessible UX by creating personas with disabilities, and how to create accessible UX in a WordPress site.[12]

In 2011 CSUN was ranked second for website accessibility in America's universities. Joseph responded humbly by saying “This honor, by no means definitive, is nonetheless an indication that we are on the right track. When we create websites, we are mindful of the welfare of all of our students, faculty, staff, and the public.”[13]

O’Connor inspired many in the accessibility community, such as Jared Smith writing for WebAIM discussing how people doing accessibility work, “spend at least as much time motivating for change as we do educating on implementation details.”[14][1] Natalie MacLees acknowledged his contributions in the second edition of jQuery for Designers: Beginners Guide.[15]

O’Connor was a featured guest on A Podcast for Everyone, the podcast companion to the book A Web for Everyone. He spoke with co-author Whitney Quesenbery about the importance of improving accessibility in WordPress, given its extensive use as a website authoring platform. As Accessibility Team Lead, he shared details about accessible themes and tools to help create accessible content and plans for improvement, including accessibility features in the platform interface to ensure people with disabilities can author WordPress sites and content. “We owe it to our fellow human beings to make things accessible.”[16]

Personal lifeEdit

O'Connor was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, to Lucy Lynam O’Connor and Joseph O’Connor, on May 23, 1953.[11] He graduated from Fordham University in 1975, and pursued a career in film. Joseph had a part in the 1993 movie A Formula for Mayhem.[17] He married Linda in 1988 and his wife's purchase of a Macintosh computer inspired him to transition to a career in technology.[18] Their daughter was born in 1992.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Passing of Joseph O'Connor". Web Axe. 2020-01-08. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  2. ^ "Author Joseph O'Connor".
  3. ^ Dolson, Joe (10 January 2020). "Goodbye, Joseph Karr O'Connor". Make WordPress Accessible. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Goodbye, Joseph Karr O'Connor". Make WordPress Accessible. 2020-01-10. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  5. ^ a b O'Connor, Joe (2012-10-20). "Cities". Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  6. ^ "One year of accessibility-ready". Joe Dolson Web Accessibility. 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  7. ^ "Podcast 100: Joe & Joseph on WordPress Accessibility".
  8. ^ "Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design (Santa Monica, CA)". Meetup. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  9. ^ "Accessibility of Twitter".
  10. ^ O'Connor, Joe (2019-09-12). "Accessible Death – Proposal". Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  11. ^ a b c Telephone, Black (2020-01-06). "Remembering Joseph O'Connor (1953 – 2020) – Black Telephone". Black Telephone – Disability Rights. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  12. ^ "Videos of Joseph Karr O'Connor –". 2015-08-17. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  13. ^ "CSUN Nationally Ranked No. 2 for WebsiteAccessibility" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  14. ^ "WebAIM: WebAIM's Hierarchy for Motivating Accessibility Change". WebAIM. 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  15. ^ "jQuery for Designers: Beginner's Guide".
  16. ^ "Accessible WordPress with Joe O'Connor".
  17. ^ "A Formula for Mayhem (1993)". IMDB. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  18. ^ "Remembering Joseph O'Connor (1953 – 2020)". Retrieved 2020-01-10.

External linksEdit