Quick Query: Filmmaker Joseph Monks and Web Accessibility

Joseph Monks is a filmmaker and freelance writer based in Miami, Fla. His new horror film, “The Bunker,” is soon to be released. Details of it and his other projects are at Monks is also blind. We recently asked him about blindness, the Internet, ecommerce, and his new film.

Joseph Monks

Joseph Monks

Practical Ecommerce: You inspire anyone who knows you, and we thank you for your time. We’ve corresponded with you via email, but we’re curious how a blind person uses email.

Joseph Monks: I use screen reader software, which enables the blind to participate online. The program reads whatever appears on the screen, enabling me to write, edit, and read email.

PeC: What about the Internet? How does a blind person use the Internet?

Monks: The screen reader reads the links, text, and navigation for me. When I access a site, I can use it almost the same as anybody with sight, though I use keystrokes instead of a mouse. When graphics are employed, if the site is coded well — with ALT tags, etc. — my screen reader will read out the description of the image file, which enables me to move around a site just like a sighted visitor.

PeC: Our readers are ecommerce business owners and those interested in ecommerce. What advice would you offer them to ensure that their sites are accessible to blind people?

Monks: Today’s e-tailer needs to recognize that soon there will be more than 75 million blind people worldwide, and we want to buy things online, too. They should be judicious in their use of Flash and code their Flash so that all buttons are recognized by screenreader software.

ALT tags are a must for all graphics and images. Never use the default file names for product images. If I want to click on a product description, if my screen reader reads dsc1412.jpg, that isn’t very helpful. Making sure a site is accessible to the blind consumer should be no tougher than making sure sites work in Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, or Safari.

PeC: Do you buy products online?

Monks: Yes. As long as a site functions well enough for me to surf it without a hassle, I will buy there and, more importantly, return, since I know it’s accessible.

PeC: You’ve recently directed a movie. Could you tell us about it?

Monks: The movie is called “The Bunker” and looks to be the first feature directed by a blind filmmaker. It’s the story of a teenage runaway who leaves home and is kidnapped the night her congressman father announces his reelection bid. The kidnapper is a serial killer with a devastating secret. It’s part horror film, part psychological thriller. Hopefully, in 2008, you might be able to see it at Blockbuster or rent it at Netflix.

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
Bio   •   RSS Feed