The Sound of Inclusion: Accessible Podcasting Done Right

Web Accessibility Knowledgebase

You might not realize that listeners with disabilities are not necessarily able to tap into your podcast content, but it’s well worth making them accessible. Here’s why.

accessiBe Team

Podcasts have become a mainstream form of entertainment and education. Research shows that around 116 million Americans, over age 12, have listened to a podcast in the past month. Because of how easily available podcasts are, listenership spans various age groups with 51% of Americans ages 12-34 tuning into a podcast in the past month, compared to 36% of Americans ages 35-54 and 21% of Americans ages 55 and older. 

Podcast audiences are increasing every month, and as a business professional, you could be connecting with listeners who might just become customers. Podcasts are a great tool for brand awareness, thought leadership, lead generation, networking opportunities, and gaining an edge over the competition. You might not realize that listeners with disabilities are not necessarily able to tap into your podcast content, but it’s well worth making them accessible. Here’s why.

Expand reach

Making your podcast accessible expands your potential audience to include people with disabilities, which is about 16% of the global population. By removing accessibility barriers, you can engage a broader audience and maximize the impact of your audio content.

Accessing this broader audience can optimize your business growth. When accessible, podcasts see increased engagement and foster a new sense of customer loyalty because you’re proving that, as an inclusive brand, your practices are in line with the audience’s social values. By accounting for the needs of listeners with disabilities, you can build strong relationships with all audiences and create advocates for your brand.

Accessibility is a legal obligation and an ethical responsibility.  In 2020 a lawsuit against podcast network Gimlet Media, argued that "the company’s website is equivalent to a restaurant or a pharmacy, and should therefore provide accessible access for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act." Businesses that openly support equal opportunities should provide access to information for all listeners. 

Now that you understand the importance of accessible podcasts, here’s how you can make yours inclusive for everyone. 

Go with the accessible platform

Choosing podcast hosting platforms and distribution channels that prioritize accessibility is essential. Look for features such as closed captioning options, screen reader compatibility, and keyboard navigation to make sure that your content is accessible. By selecting platforms with built-in accessibility features, you showcase your commitment to inclusion and make it easier for listeners with disabilities to enjoy your podcast seamlessly. 

“YouTube is a great platform because it automatically generates CC and provides transcripts. Facebook automatically generates CC now. StreamYard provides CC within the studio for the Podcasters and their guests.” - Dr. Kimberly Barrington, 100 Shades of Diverse Abilities

Transcripts tell all

Offering written transcripts of your podcast episodes is a crucial step toward inclusion and accessibility. Not only do transcripts include listeners who are deaf or hard of hearing, but they also benefit anyone who simply prefers reading over listening. By providing transcripts to your audience, you make sure that everyone can engage with your brand’s audio content. Including timestamps alongside transcripts will also improve the function of a transcript and offer easy navigation, allowing listeners to quickly locate specific sections of interest within your podcast episodes. 

Videos call for captions

When incorporating video content into your podcast, or uploading a video of your recording session, it's important to provide accurate captions or subtitles. Captions not only include listeners who are deaf or hard of hearing but also help engage viewers who may be watching in noisy environments or without access to sound. By making sure your videos are captioned appropriately, you enhance the accessibility of your podcast, making it more inclusive, regardless of hearing disabilities or viewing circumstances. 

Describe in greater detail 

When discussing visual content in your podcast, such as images, graphs, or videos, providing descriptive explanations is vital. By painting a picture with words, you make sure that listeners with visual disabilities still get the same information and context from your content. Detailed descriptions enhance accessibility and enrich the listening experience for all, allowing everyone to fully comprehend and appreciate the material you're discussing or presenting.

“If you promote your podcast on social media or other platforms that support images, use alt text to describe any images you include.” - Erik Linthorst, Autism Goes to College Podcast

Clear audio counts 

The clarity and quality of your audio are major aspects of ensuring a positive listening experience for every listener. Speaking slowly and enunciating words clearly can improve comprehension, specifically for listeners who might have cognitive or hearing disabilities. Plus, minimizing background noise and avoiding distracting audio effects help maintain focus and clarity. By creating clear audio, you make a more accessible podcasting experience overall. 

“Making sure the podcaster has clear audio is important so be sure to record with a microphone and in an environment that is quiet so background noise is minimized which helps listeners who may have hearing loss or processing difficulties.” - Vickie Brett, Inclusive Education Project

A Little Extra Advice 

Before heading off into the world of accessible podcasting, take a couple of more tips to help you maintain inclusive audio content. First, remember to encourage feedback from your audience about the accessibility of your podcast. You can use their input to identify room for improvement and make necessary adjustments. Next, stay informed on best practices and emerging technologies for podcast accessibility, and keep up with developments in accessibility standards and guidelines. 

Finally, and most importantly, always advocate for accessibility within the podcasting community. Do this by supporting initiatives that promote inclusive content creation and encourage other podcasters to prioritize accessibility by sharing resources for making podcasts accessible. 

With a sustainable, accessible podcast that includes everyone as active listeners, your business can achieve advocacy status, an authentic connection with an audience, and experience business growth at new levels. Get started and get recording!