Perhaps I've been too subtle, so let me speak clearly and louder for those in the back: Accessibility matters.
And by accessibility, I mean doing your part to ensure people with sight and hearing issues are able to enjoy your podcast, your website, and all the digital assets associated with your brand.
Common Accessibility Myths Busted
Many podcasters are operating under the impression that accessibility is optional. It's not.
Many podcasters operate under the misconception that deaf people cannot listen to podcasts, so why bother? This is untrue.
Hearing loss is a wide spectrum, ranging from mild to moderate to complete deafness. But all along that spectrum are people who do listen to podcasts just like yours. Don’t pile up your assumptions on them. Let them listen.
Many podcasters make video-versions of their episodes and operate under the misconception that blind people can't watch videos, so why bother? This is also untrue.
As before, there exists a wide spectrum of “sightedness”. And people all along that spectrum do, in fact, watch videos. Videos just like you make for your podcast. You don’t have to understand how that’s possible; you just have to accept that it is. And it is.
People with vision loss and hearing loss have access to all sorts of tools and services to allow them to enjoy the same content that fully-sighted and full-hearing people enjoy. Some have clever hacks or techniques they use that work for them and within their unique situation.
But those tools, services, and clever hacks can only work if you, the podcaster, do your part to include them in the party.
Accessibility Holes You Can Plug Right Now, Podcaster
Starting with your next episode, make a commitment to make a transcription available. Yes, of the entire episode. And make sure it’s a corrected transcript. Machine- or AI-generated transcripts are getting better, but they’re still comically bad. So make sure a human gives the text a final pass before you post it.
I wasn’t always good about this, but I’ve changed. All of my recent (and all of my future) episodes of Podcast Pontifications now have a corrected transcript on each episode’s page. Yes, it means additional hours (and dollars) spent, but it’s worth it. Not for some silly and incorrect SEO reasons. But because it’s the right thing to do.
If you make video versions of your episodes like I do, upload subtitles. Good news: the service you used to create your correct transcript can probably kick out subtitles in a ready-to-upload format.
Again, I wasn’t always good at this, but have become so. All of my recent (and all of my future) video versions of my episodes are subtitled. Not because it’ll give me a boost in YouTube’s algorithm, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Check your podcast’s website for accessibility problems. There are a variety of website accessibility services that scan your existing web pages and report back the most glaring accessibility issues, usually with recommendations of how to fix them.
I’m rolling out a brand new design for Podcast Pontifications in the coming weeks, and I’ll be working closely with the designer to make sure we’re getting as close to perfection as we can. Yes, that’s means they have to spend more time, which means I have to spend more money. But it’s money well spent to get it right... because getting it right is the right thing to do.
When you post images on your social media properties—even if of perhaps especially if you communicate your comments via animated gifs—take a few seconds and include an alt-tag. Not every service allows for that, which is their fault. But when you see that little “+ALT” prompt, you need to type a few characters to let everyone else in on your wit.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to do this for the past few months and it’s becoming second-nature. And, in case you haven’t picked up on the theme just yet, it’s the right thing to do.
Accessibility For Generated Podcast Websites
Not every podcaster wants to take the time or spend the money to develop a robust website for their podcast. But every podcast needs a website, so most podcast hosting companies will automatically generate one. And because many of those suck, a variety of for-an-extra-fee service providers exist to make a better-looking website using little more than your podcast’s RSS feed.
If you happen to run or work for a service—either a hosting company or a website-from-RSS company—you need to ensure the pages you generate are accessible. And if you’re charging money for your service, there’s really no excuse for not having accessible pages. So get that on your development roadmap. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Accessibility As Table Stakes For Podcast Production Houses
Those of us who make podcasts for other people for a living need to lead by example. So I might as well start.
For all future clients, accessibility will be baked-in at all of our service level offerings. Not as an add-on. That means adjusting our pricing and service timing to account for the creation of full and corrected transcripts. Because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll be changing our “agnostic” stance on podcast hosting and other service providers to only recommend those who take accessibility seriously. Because it’s the right thing to do.
For existing clients, we’ll soon examine the work we’re doing on their behalf and provide an “accessibility audit” of sorts, pointing out areas of deficiency and providing a roadmap for improvement. No, I’m not “canceling” clients who are unable or unwilling to immediately make changes. Instead, I’ll gently nudge and do my part to help them get to better place. Because it’s the right thing to do.
As mentioned, I’m re-vamping Podcast Pontifications and will ensure the new site is fully accessible. After that, I’ll engage the same designer to re-tumble Simpler Media’s website, again with the goal of making it look and sound great to every potential visitor, no matter their level of perception.
I’m doing this because I want to lead by example. And because it’s the right thing to do.
Where Will You Start?
That’s a lot to think about, I know. Transcripts, subtitles, alt tags, website changes… and that’s just scratching the surface.
My suggestion: Reach out to your own podcasting circle and see what actions your fellow podcasters are already taking. Chances are, at least one person in your group already has made good strides in this direction who you can learn from. And if not, share a link to this article to start the conversation.
And if you love this idea and have already had some sparks of inspiration hit you, then go take that action! And when you're done, go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and pass a virtual coffee my way.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.