A quick guide to accessibility of podcasts
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. Accessible design and practices ensure unassisted access for people with disabilities or special needs as well as enable access through the use of assistive technology.
A lot of podcasts aren’t accessible because a lot of podcasters and producers haven’t thought about it for several reasons like limited budgets, lack of time and expertise, etc., but also because of lack of awareness about the need for accessibility and how to go about it.
Why make your podcast accessible?
The primary reason for making your podcasts accessible is to make your shows available to people with disabilities. This would, of course, also mean growing your potential audience. There are also people with cognitive impairments who can better process the information if they are able to read a transcript while they listen to the audio.
Even for able listeners/viewers, additions like transcripts, captions, etc. help in search and discovery as well as an easy reference at a later time. These also expose your content better to search engines, like Google or Bing, which in turn leads to further increase in your podcast’s reach.
While it is often not discussed, accessibility also benefits non-native speakers of the language in which your podcast is helping them consume your podcast or refer it for something.
Interestingly, in some countries – as well as in some government or private institutions – accessibility considerations are a mandatory requirement.
How to make your podcasts accessible
Offering transcripts is the most straightforward and important thing you can do to increase your show’s accessibility. You can create your own transcripts in-house or via commercial services that offer automated (accuracy is a hit-and-miss) or human-generated transcripts.
If you have a video podcast, you might want to consider adding captions for hearing-impaired audiences as well as audio descriptions of important visual content for visually impaired audiences.
Make sure your podcast website, or your homepage, is developed with accessibility in mind. This will allow people with disabilities to listen to your podcast and/or access the show notes and the transcripts.
You’d need to make sure that the interactive elements on the website can be accessed and activated using only the keyboard and the media player you use should also be operable with just the keyboard.
Check the web accessibility requirements as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) under its Web Accessibility Initiative for more details.