Accessible Podcasts Content Creators Guide

Recently, the podcasting industry has seen rapid growth in popularity. Nearly 51% of US adults listen to podcasts.
As of March 2021, Apple Podcasts hosts over 1.96 million different podcasts with over 47 million episodes. With an endless range of subjects and interests, there’s a podcast out there to suit everyone. With such a diverse range, podcasting should also cater to a diverse crowd. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many podcasts are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities and impairments.

Digital accessibility is about ensuring there are no barriers between web access and people with disabilities and impairments. The UN states that digital accessibility is a human right. Not only do you have a moral responsibility to make your content accessible, but it’s beneficial if you do. Globally, there are over one billion people with disabilities. That’s 15% of the population. It’s also 15% of your potential audience. Accessible content isn’t just about digital equality, it’s also about maximizing your content’s full potential.

The podcast industry is predicted to reach $4 billion by 2024. Podcasting has real money-making potential – if you know how to do it correctly. By making sure that your content can be enjoyed by everyone, you’re increasing your earning potential tenfold. On top of this, you’re making sure no one is excluded from consuming content they find interesting or helpful.

Make Yourself Heard

Sound quality is the most important factor in starting a successful podcast. It’s also one of the most critical elements in improving podcast accessibility. Take a moment to think about your podcast. Is your audio loud enough? Is it easy to understand everything you’re saying? Are your podcasts free from background sounds and unnecessary noises? If the answer to any of these is no, then it’s a surefire sign that some adjustments need to be made.

There’s a common misconception that good audio equipment has to be expensive. Which is untrue. You can find a vast selection of cheap, highly-rated microphones online. A USB microphone with a pop filter can be purchased from Amazon for as little as $30. If you already have a microphone, consider buying a pop filter on its own. These cancel out plosives and only cost around $5.

Having good-quality audio is about making the most of your voice. Speak in a loud, clear voice throughout the podcast. This keeps post-production editing to a minimum. Be sure to enunciate every word properly and only have one speaker talking at a time. Taking a moment between topics and sentences allows the listener to process everything you’re saying.

Choose a Good Platform

Choosing the right platform is essential in making your podcast more accessible. Not all platforms are created equal! Some are downright inaccessible.

Accessible media players are designed with disabilities and impairments in mind. They have features such as keyboard commands and access, clear labels for each button, and no auto-play feature. Some accessible media player options include Able Player and JW Player.

If you’re hosting your podcast on an app, make sure that all features are accessible via voice recognition. Make sure the app has large, clear buttons for the controls. You should also look out for things like customizable playback speed, download features, and clear font.

Your hosting player should have a sufficient text-to-background contrast ratio. Normal text should have a text-to-background contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For large text, the minimum contrast ratio is 3:1.

Write It Down

Some people are unable to listen to podcasts for a variety of reasons. This is often the case for individuals with hearing impairments or cognitive disabilities. Sadly, because of this many individuals are forced to miss out on audio-based content. But it does not need to be like this! Transcribing your content not only makes it more accessible, it also improves SEO.

Providing a transcription is not just about writing down everything that has been said. It’s about emulating the feel of the podcast. Adding in details such as sound bites, laughter, and other sound effects makes sure that the podcast’s essence isn’t lost. Small details like this can make the difference between an insightful reflection of your podcast and some lifeless document.

You can transcribe the podcast yourself or by using transcription services. AI transcription services are usually far cheaper than manual transcription services, which can make it a tempting offer. However, with any intelligence-based software, you can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Make sure to double-check any AI transcriptions before publishing.

If you’re looking for a free transcription method, using the voice-typing feature on Word or Google Docs is a relatively quick and easy transcription method. However, this method requires human editing as it’s unlikely to be fully accurate and it won’t be automatically punctuated.

Providing a transcript isn’t just about increasing accessibility, it also opens an assorted audience such as:

  • People who are viewing your podcast in their second language.

  • People who cannot listen to your podcast due to situational circumstances – a noisy tube, a broken speaker, no headphones, etc.

  • Individuals who are using your podcast for educational purposes.

  • People who are only interested in a specific topic within your podcast.

If you’re creating the transcription yourself, make sure it’s available in an accessible document. Take into consideration whether the document has an adjustable font size; the text should be able to be resized to at least 200% and still be readable. Some people find it difficult to read certain color combinations, particularly people who have dyslexia or people with color blindness. Uploading your transcription to a document that allows color customization can make a big difference.

Caption Your Podcast

Creating multi-platform digital content is one of the best ways to increase your audience, engagement levels, and accessibility compliance. It can seem like a lot of unnecessary effort to record your podcast in a variety of formats, but it pays off.

One billion hours of YouTube videos are watched every single day. Undoubtedly, watching videos is the most popular means of content consumption. Adding a video element to your podcast is not only great for viewership ratings, but also for increasing accessibility. For people that are unable to listen to podcasts, a visual element can be invaluable.

Firstly, you can caption videos. Many people rely on captions to consume content. This can be for a multitude of reasons. This feature is commonly utilized by people with hearing impairments, people with audio-processing problems, or second-language speakers.

Adding in a visual element is also beneficial for people who rely on visuals for context. For example, people who use lip reading or rely on facial expressions to discern tone and emotion.

Lastly, it’s simply a more popular form of digital content. People who use the internet infrequently or much younger audiences are less likely to know what a podcast is. However, most people know of and consume digital video content. By this fact alone, your content is more likely to be accessible to a wider array of people.

Podcast Cover

Covers are made to be appreciated. Often, it’s the first thing people see, and it can be a deciding factor as to whether people click on your podcast or not.

A cover can also instantly tell someone whether your content is accessible or not. Unfortunately, an inaccessible cover will translate into an inaccessible podcast. When thinking about accessibility, simplicity is key. Bold, bright colors and simple shapes are not only visually effective but also the most widely visible.

Any text on your cover must be bold and clear. Ideally, it should be on a solid contrasting color background. Text on top of images can be confusing to look at and difficult to read.

Be Inclusive!

Our world is wonderful and diverse! It’s important to remember that when creating any type of digital content. Everyone deserves respect and to see themselves represented. The world is filled with people of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, sexualities, abilities, and disabilities.

Many podcasts are opinion-based. When sharing your views and insights be mindful of the people around you. Using gender-neutral and inclusive language will ensure that everyone feels welcome and safe in your digital space.