Podcasts are an audio format, which makes it great for listening to on the go, by yourself, and on your own time. But there are so many ways that podcasting can, and should, be more accessible. For folks who are hard of hearing, d/Deaf, or have other auditory issues, listening to podcasts can be a bit difficult. I fundamentally believe that access to things like podcasts, pop culture, and a whole slew of other things is an important part of having an equitable community and society. Folks with disabilities, differing needs, and more shouldn’t be excluded from the podcasting community!
*Note: there are links in this post that refer to different products and services. These links are not affiliated ones and the author of this post has no financial gain from them.
Here are some ways to have a more accessible podcast and platform:
Transcripts and Closed Captions
Some folks who are hard of hearing, deaf, or have auditory issues, transcripts for podcasts can help! Certain podcasts, especially those that are scripted, have it a little easier with producing and sharing an episode’s transcripts, as there’s an actual script already done! There are a few ways to get a transcript done for each episode if you don’t have a script, including hiring a transcriptionist or transcribing service. You could also listen back to the episode and transcribe it yourself. Here are some transcription resources:
- Podcast Transcripts: How to Get Transcriptions for Podcasts from Transcribe Me!
- Creating and displaying transcripts for podcasts from Podcast Accessibility
- This is a list of the different ways you can provide transcripts and the pros/cons of each way
Similarly, there are a plethora of places to upload and host your podcast. In addition to places like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, some shows also post the audio from their shows on YouTube. If your show does this or posts videos on other social media platforms, closed captions can help make it easier for your audience to hear and understand what’s going on.
- YouTube does currently have automatic captioning for uploaded videos on their platforms and it seems like they’re also working on automatic captioning on live streams (which are currently only available in English for channels with larger audiences). YouTube Help also has a page on how to add your own captions to your videos if you want.
- If you have an iPhone and use it to record videos of yourself, there are apps that help add captions to those videos! Clipomatic is one app that some folks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex use to add captions to their Instagram Stories, as the app turns everything you say in a video into cute captions. Clipomatic does cost $4.99 on the app store but if you do record videos of yourself enough to promote your show, this app might be worth the investment!
- Audio snippets with captions on social media also make your show more accessible while promoting your show at the same time. Many shows will have little snippets of episodes on platforms like Instagram and you easily could add what’s being said to the caption of the post. If you want to have closed captions on the video itself, you’ll have to add that yourself before posting it sadly. Here are some resources on how to create those audio snippets with captions:
- How to add captions and subtitles to Instagram Videos from 3PlayMedia
- How to share podcast clips to Instagram from Wavve
- Captioning your own video for free from the University of Washington
I’m personally not hard of hearing but for me, there have been a few times where having a transcript has helped clarify something that I couldn’t quite hear in the audio or help keep track of what’s happening in an episode. Transcripts and captions are going to be a ton of work but they’re vital to keeping your show and the podcasting community as a whole accessible and could help grow your audience as well.
Social media is an important resource for many podcasts, as sharing quotes, videos, and more can help you build an audience for your show! Plus, there are so many online communities that discuss podcasts of all kinds. If you do use social media or post images online, descriptions of those images can help those who are blind or low vision.
Image descriptions can help include folks who want to participate in the community but are missing out on a portion of what you’re sharing! Ted Tahquechi is a photographer and recently wrote about why robust image descriptions are actually a great thing on his blog. Similarly, Belenen wrote about their experience of spending almost two years writing image descriptions and the great side effects. Belenen also references a Facebook post from Len Burns, who wrote a public post a few years ago about being blind and online and says, in part:
As one who strives to fully participate in community, I value what you communicate. Each time I am excluded from your conversations because a photo is undescribed, stings. When the “sting” is multiplied hundreds of times per day, I feel excluded and unvalued. Plain and simply, it hurts like hell. I can tell myself time and time again that this is not intentional, that many of these people love and support me, but this self-salving only gets me so far. At the end of the day, exclusion is still exclusion, without regard for intent.
Captions, image descriptions, and transcripts are just three ways to make your podcasts more accessible and aren’t the only ways to make your show and community more inclusive. These things are important but I know that as a person without a hearing or vision impairment, it can be really easy to forget about these things! I know that I’ve personally forgotten to add captions or descriptions to things I share online but regularly trying to be better and provide these things can help others feel included.