Accessibility and inclusivity in podcasting
Last month, we shared our top picks for disability and accessibility-focused podcasts you should add to your library. Now, we’re back for another segment. This time, we’re exploring how podcasting can become more accessible and inclusive.
So, we called on our community for some actionable advice to share with you. We spoke to Maya Chupkov, creator, host & producer of Proud Stutter, Natasha Lipman, the brains behind The Rest Room and Emma Vogelmann, creator of the Wheelchair Activist.
Acast Disability History Month
In November, Acast celebrated Disability History Month, intending to make podcasting even more accessible. The celebration aligned with UK Disability History Month, calling on creators such as Katherine Ryan from Telling Everybody Everything and Pete Donaldson from Football Ramble. As part of the campaign, Acast had the creators insert dynamic audio clips across all their episodes with a visual description of themselves in the hope it would act as a launchpad to inspire more creators to follow suit.
Emma told us: “I’m pleased to see Acast raising the profile of disability history month. I think they could have gone further to promote some of the amazing podcasts by disabled people, though. They mention the good practice of accessibility being done by podcasts that aren’t about or made by disabled people. What about directing people to content that will expand people’s understanding of disabled people? I happen to know the perfect podcast to get you started!”
Maya echoed Emma’s point, sharing: “It is great to see Acast taking steps to improve accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision. As a stuttering advocate, my mission is to create a world where people who stutter feel comfortable being who they are.”
While Acast is off to a good start, there’s still lots of work to be done. That starts with amplifying the voices of creators like Emma and Maya.
Improving accessibility for creators
While podcasting is primarily an audio format, the medium is evolving. Two significant components of the evolution are social media and streaming platforms. So, we wanted to understand what the community would like to see from both to improve accessibility.
Maya believes it starts within these companies and their hiring processes: “There are a ton of things big streaming and social media platforms can take to improve accessibility. For example, one simple step can be to improve its hiring processes by giving people with speech impediments, like a stutter, more time in an interview. The second thing would be to ask every applicant if they have any access needs and list a few examples like stuttering, so applicants feel more empowered to share that part of themselves.”
In terms of the usability of said platforms, Emma told us, “I would love to see major streaming and social platforms encourage creators to create accessible content. Don’t hide accessibility features in ‘advanced settings’ so no one knows about them. Twitter – albeit briefly – reminded users to add alt-text to images. Once you know how to make content accessible, you realise it’s not that hard. And it makes disabled people feel included in your conversation.
Platforms should be investing in accessibility; it’s a win-win situation. More people who can use the platform benefits the platform, creators, and users.”
Natasha echoed Emma’s point as she explained: “I’d really love if quality accessibility tools, like transcriptions and captioning, were more integrated into podcasting platforms, both in terms of making quality transcription services accessible to people, but also physically hosting the transcript on the websites (or even in the apps) with the podcast itself to create a more integrated experience.
Additionally, many streaming services, like Apple, don’t have a dedicated category for disability. Often it’s a variation of “health and wellness”, which is stuffed to the brim with fitness and wellness content. This makes it very hard to find disability or chronic illness focussed podcasts. So it would be lovely to have a category or sub-category to easily find these podcasts.”
Creating an accessible and inclusive podcast
Social and streaming platforms have a big part to play in making podcasting more accessible. But of course, there’s plenty that creators can do, too.
Emma told us: “There are so many things podcasters can do to be more accessible that I do with my podcast, The Wheelchair Activist. My key advice is to have a transcript or a captioned version of each episode. Not only is it inclusive, but it’s also helpful for SEO. I’ve reached so many more people by having a captioned video on YouTube and a downloadable transcript on my website. You’ll find more people benefit from it than you think.”
Natasha further explained the benefits of transcripts and captioning as she said: “Freely available transcripts are a really important starting point when thinking about podcast accessibility. This is something that so many of my listeners use, including non-disabled listeners.”
She added: “If you use audiograms in your marketing or release video podcasts (which can be another great way of making your podcast accessible to a different audience), accurate captions are also important.
When we record, we also consider things like the audio quality, making sure that music isn’t loudly overlapping any speaking, and trying to be mindful of how we use music and pauses to make the audio experience as clear as possible.”
Maya explained adopting an inclusive approach to guests can help: “My advice for making their show more accessible and enjoyable for listeners is to have people with disabilities on your show. For example, one of the few times I’ve heard people with speech differences was on a major network show NPR’s LifeKit. Hearing people with verbal diversities made me feel seen and inspired me to do my show.”
If you’d like to improve the accessibility of your show, here are some tips:
- Add transcripts to your shows
- Ensure your website is accessible
- Convert your shows to an MP4 and upload them to YouTube with closed captioning enabled
- Use alt-text on social posts
If you’re keen to add some disability and accessibility-focused podcasts to your library, check out our top picks here.
Content is Queen is committed to driving inclusivity and accessibility in podcasting, and we’d love you to do the same. If this is a tribe you want to be a part of, you can explore our affordable memberships here.