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Podcast Accessibility: Why and How To Make Your Podcast More Accessible

The conversation concerning the need for accessibility and inclusivity within the podcast medium is one that is continually gaining momentum. Today, we’re weighing in and sharing our thoughts regarding podcast accessibility, and why we believe it’s so important for podcasters to make every effort to make their podcasts as accessible to all consumers as possible. Let’s start by getting down to the facts. In their rudimental form, podcasts are auditory-based. They are, by definition, digital audio files. However, in this state, they are inaccessible to a large number of the population. Individuals who are deaf, hearing-impaired, or have other auditory processing disorders can be cut off from podcasts in their basic structure as they are not able to access the content in this form. This is not only an issue when we think about all the people who are missing out on all that podcasts have to offer, but it is one that could potentially have legal ramifications if podcasters do not take deliberate action to make their shows more accessible.

An Accessibility Lawsuit – The First of its Kind

Back in July this year, Gimlet Media, a podcast division of the audio powerhouse, Spotify, was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Gimlet Media specifically for their lack of accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Plaintiff Kahlimah Jones brought the charges against the company on the basis that by failing to make their content accessible by not providing subtitles or closed captioning on various podcasts, Gimlet Media consequently violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can read more on the subject here.

The ruling in this case could mean that it becomes a mandated requirement for all podcast hosts to make their shows accessible to all types of users, either by providing a transcript or closed captioning of some kind for all podcast episodes. And we believe that this would really be a positive step, not only for the podcast industry as a whole but also for the new growth opportunities this could provide for individual podcasts. A giant move towards making podcasts more accessible to more users will certainly help cement the podcasting medium as a true contender in mainstream entertainment, and podcast hosts will reap the benefits of having their content available in more than one format. This diversifying of their content can create the opportunity for podcasters to expand their audience, as well as helping to establish their brand as one with a focus on inclusivity.

Transcriptions – A First Step

So while it is currently unclear exactly what “podcast accessibility” will be defined as or what exactly may be required of podcast hosts, an easy first step podcasters can take towards accessibility and inclusivity is to start by ensuring that they provide a full transcription for each podcast episode. 

Transcriptions differ from show notes in that show notes usually feature brief episode descriptions, guest profiles, episode highlights, important points, background information, or other links pertinent to the show. Transcriptions, on the other, are a text-based version of a podcast episode, word-for-word, from beginning to end, which are made available for users to view. Transcriptions can be featured in your show notes, on your website, or they can come in the form of a downloadable document. Providing these transcriptions are a simple method to help ensure that those with auditory barriers are able to gain access to your content and benefit from what you are sharing.

But offering transcriptions are not solely for the benefit of your listeners – not by a long shot! In general, transcribing your podcast is simply a sound strategy that is integral to making your show more discoverable to potential listeners and is therefore vitally important for the success of your podcast overall. Not only does transcribing your episodes enhance the overall user experience  – for all types of users – by making your content available in multiple mediums, but having your content available in a text-based format means that you will greatly increase the SEO (search engine optimization) value of your content, which should be a high priority on any podcaster’s “to-do” list. 

NOTE: For more on why we believe transcribing your podcast episodes is a key step in your podcast success, you can check out this post on the 5 Benefits of Transcribing Your Podcast.

But the fact remains that while there are definite, strategic reasons why you should transcribe your podcast episodes that benefit you personally as the podcaster, the offering of transcriptions for podcasts should focus first and foremost on the fact that these transcripts ensure that no one is excluded from the medium. And this really should be the most important motivation for transcribing your podcast  – or whatever other methods you use to make your podcast more accessible  – that those amongst your audience who have disabilities will always have the same access to your content.

And with that settled, we can now look at just how we can put this into practice by exploring some practical ways you can go about making your podcast accessible to all types of people.

Practical Ways to Make Your Podcast Accessible

Now, if you’re wanting to make your podcast more accessible, but you’re just not sure exactly how to go about this, then sit back, relax…and keep reading! We’ve listed some of the top ways you as podcasters can make your podcast available to all users while reaping some great benefits for your show along the way.

1. Always Offer Transcripts

We’ve covered the thought process behind offering transcripts for your podcast episodes fairly thoroughly above, so all that’s left to do now is get down to the practical “how to’s” of transcriptions. All that this method of improving your podcast’s accessibility requires is for you to transcribe your episodes and make these available, either in your show notes or on your website (or both!) Then users are able to get easy access to what was shared on every episode.

But there’s no need for your transcripts to be boring! You can actually offer so much more content in your transcripts than what you are able to with your regular podcast episodes! Think fun images, interesting graphics, or charts where applicable. You could even consider some related gifs that can help make your transcripts feel intentional and give extra value to your audience.  

2. Make Use of Audiograms

We’ve mentioned audiograms on a number of occasions (because we think they’re really fun!) but mainly in the context of creating “sneak peaks” or sound bites of your episodes as a way to promote your podcast on social media. (We did a whole post on using audiograms to promote your podcast, you can check it out here.) But we also think that audiograms would be a great way to make your podcast more accessible. Audiogram creation sites such as Wavve and Headliner enable you to upload and edit up to ten minutes in length of audio to which you can then add an image, closed captions, or subtitles as well as a waveform. These could then be uploaded to your YouTube Channel or embedded on your website so that anyone can enjoy your content with no barriers.

NOTE: It must be noted that while we think that audiograms are a great way to make your podcast episodes more accessible, apps such as Headliner currently only allow a maximum of 10 minutes of audio in their editor. This is because audiograms are social platform-focused and so are traditionally used to create podcast snippets to promote via the different social media platforms. However, if your podcast episodes fall within this time limit, audiograms would be a fun and super-easy way to make your podcast accessible to all.  

3. Start A Video Podcast

 Another way to provide more access to your content is to branch out and start a video podcast as an accompaniment to your podcast. One common, and recommended, way to start a video podcast is to simply set up a camera to capture your usual podcast recordings. Whether it’s a solo recording or an interview, you can record the process, do a little editing, and then upload the final video to your YouTube channel or other video platforms such as Vimeo. You could even upload these videos to your website and make links available within the transcription or show notes of each episode. Videos not only provide enticing visual content, but by including closed captions or subtitles for your videos, you make them accessible for all users.YouTube itself provides an automated subtitle feature (beware, the accuracy often leaves much to be desired!) but there are also some free, web-based services you can use to create closed captions for your videos. With a little research to find which service best meets your needs, you’ll soon have visually-appealing and accessible content for all users to enjoy.

If starting a video podcast fills you with trepidation, never fear! Check out this post where we covered the super simple basics of starting a video podcast from the comfort of your home, and you’ll be ready for your camera debut in no time!

Related read: The Whys, Whens, and Hows of Video Podcasting

Closing Thoughts

There are literally no downsides or drawbacks to making your podcast accessible to all types of consumers. If you choose to go the route of full episode transcriptions, not only will you make your content available to those who are unable to consume audio content, but text-based versions of your show will boost your SEO value, help build your authority, and simply give all your audience members more. If your method of inclusivity involves setting up a YouTube channel, or sharing video versions of your episodes on your website, again, you’ll be making your content available to all users, but you’ll reap the benefit of cementing your authority within your niche – a true win-win for everyone. However you choose to make your podcast accessible, the bottom line is that we believe it should be done. Not only for the benefits it will bring to you personally, but because ensuring that your show is as accessible to all will make it possible for more people to find value in and simply enjoy consuming podcasts, and this, in turn, will keep pushing the industry forward.

 Related read: How To Improve the Discoverability of Your Podcast

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