Joseph Karr O’Connor, beloved husband of Linda Karr O’Connor, died peacefully in her arms on Friday evening, January 3, 2020. Their first date was New Year’s Eve 1985 at the Lhasa Club in Hollywood, and their last was on New Year’s Eve 2019 in the ER of St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, where Joseph successfully advocated on his own behalf to stop lifesaving treatment and end the agony of many years of debilitating chronic illness. Linda will be always be proud of his bravery and strength in taking charge of his own fate.
Joseph was born at Holy Name Hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey, on May 23, 1953. He and Linda married in 1988, and they welcomed their beautiful daughter Siobhan in 1992. The full extent of Siobhan’s physical and developmental disabilities were not immediately apparent, but it was obvious from the beginning that Siobhan was a daddy’s girl. Joseph and Linda worked tirelessly to give Siobhan the ability to communicate and thrive, and the family enjoyed several lovely visits with the O’Connors of Ballyheigue, Ireland, where Joseph delighted in Siobhan’s fascination with the local cows.
After graduating from Fordham University in 1975, Joseph pursued a career in film post-production in New York and Los Angeles. In 1989, Linda’s first Macintosh inspired his switch to a career in technology, starting with teaching adults to use computers. As his focus shifted to creating accessible web environments, Joseph managed computer labs and then websites at SciArc, Pasadena City College, and California State University, Northridge, and had his own business as a web accessibility consultant. Being a part of the disability community through his daughter gave Joseph awareness and insights that complemented his technological expertise in this important field.
In 2012, Joseph organized the Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design group, which hosts a yearly event for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and worked with the W3C Voice Assistant Standardisation Community Group. The highlight of each year was the CSUN Assistive Technology conference, where he would see everyone from around the world he interacted with online, and present programs on a range of topics, including many on his daughter Siobhan’s interactions with the world using a speech output device and the Picture Exchange Communication System.
Joseph took great pride in his work and family, as well as his 36 years of sobriety. He enjoyed movies, sailing, food and music, but suffered for many years from chronic medical conditions that might have been addressed if properly diagnosed 25 years ago. Sadly, by the time he diagnosed his condition himself, it was beyond any treatment. In 2019, Joseph realized he was dying, and had a burst of creativity in planning his own death ceremonies, from the playlist for his home wake to the design of his marker. His focus was on making his death understandable to Siobhan. His creative work is preserved on two websites: www.accessiblejoe.com and his personal site, www.blacktelephone.com. His YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/accessiblejoe
captures many videos of Siobhan and her accomplishments. His writings about his daughter and family life as well as disability rights preserve his spirit and his voice, and demonstrate his ability to feel deeply.
Joseph was a brilliant and kind man with the darkest sense of humor imaginable. He was a fierce advocate for his daughter Siobhan, and he and Linda were a formidable team. Linda will most miss his wise counsel on everything from decisions about Siobhan’s care to which earrings to wear. Siobhan cherished her daddy, and this loss has been the most profound of her life.
Joseph was preceded in death by his parents, Lucy Lynam O’Connor and Joseph O’Connor, both born in Ireland. When growing up he was called Joseph to distinguish him from his father, who was called Joe. Joseph so admired his father and recently started going by Joe professionally and with new acquaintances. He is survived by his wife Linda and daughter Siobhan, both of whom he adored, and his sister Una (Donald) McManus of Rutherford, New Jersey, and nieces Courtney and Devin McManus. A wake and visitation at the family home on 23rd St. in Santa Monica will be held Friday, January 10, from noon-3 p.m. (look for the hearse!). Colorful informal attire is welcome. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joseph’s honor may be made to the Aurelia Foundation, www.aureliafoundation.org, which provides community-based day programs to people with developmental disabilities, including his beloved daughter.