2018 International Podcast Day Special


Nic: Welcome to the A11y Rules podcast. I’m Nic Steenhout and this is a special episode for the 2018 International podcast day.

I normally talk with people involved in one way or another with web accessibility. But today, I find it important to talk about podcast accessibility. There are a lot of podcasts out there. Some do a great job at providing accessibility and making sure that everyone can access their content. But most podcasts don’t offer basic accessibility. While we celebrate podcasting, let’s make sure we open our shows to as many people as possible. After all, what’s the point of podcasting if we’re cutting off a portion of our potential audience outright?

Of course, this episode isn’t a technical how-to make your podcast and podcast website accessible, but here are a few pointers:

If you’re podcasting, or thinking about podcasting, you really ought to consider the accessibility of your podcast – both the show itself, but also the website that supports your show. I’m really just giving a few ideas here, but you can get more information about it on the site podcast-accessibility.com.

The primary means of making your podcast accessible is to provide transcripts for the show. Ok, so transcripts can be expensive. But they are also an important investment, and not just from the an accessibility perspective. There are a lot of advantages to providing transcripts. Transcripts obviously benefits people with disabilities that can’t access the audio.

First, transcripts are good for search engine optimization – They’ll bring more people to your site through search engines. The NPR show “This American Life” transcribed their 500+ episodes and they saw a traffic increase of between 3% and 6%. That’s not insignificant.

Transcripts also benefit your colleagues who aren’t in a position to listen to an entire show, or those who read faster than they can listen to the show, even if they speed it up to twice the speed. They’re also good for people who aren’t native speakers of your show’s language. Having a transcript makes it easier to understand, and sometimes translate.

And transcripts benefit you! You end up with a text version of your episodes, which you can index and search and refer to later on.

The best way to provide a transcript is by displaying it, in text/HTML, right on the episode’s page. Don’t put it on a separate page. Don’t load it as a PDF or other downloadable format. Make it easy for people, and search engines, to find the content and associate it with your episode. Do mention on the show that there are transcripts available. It does make a difference!

I won’t name which services to use for getting transcriptions done. But I can tell you that for quality human transcription, you can find services (for English) around US$1/minute of audio. If you’re aiming at machine transcription, you can get as low as US$0.10/minute of audio, but the accuracy suffers greatly. Then again, as a deaf friend of mine once said “I’d rather a relatively inaccurate transcript than no transcript at all”.

As for your podcast’s website, the more accessible it is, the more people are going to be able to access your show. The site for this podcast, at a11yrules.com, has been coded to meet WCAG 2.1 level AA. While it would be great if you aimed for that level of accessibility, you don’t need to.

Here are some points to consider when looking at your site’s accessibility:

1 – Can you navigate through the entire site using only the keyboard? This involves not only being able to go from one interactive element to the next, but also being able to see the focus on these elements.

2 – Are all interactive elements (buttons and links, primarily) triggerable with they keyboard?

3 – Do all images have alt attributes? Decorative images need empty alt, and informative images need clear, concise and descriptive alt text.

4 – Do all your form fields have labels that are associated programmatically? This will allow screen readers to know what is the purpose of each field.

5 – Can you resize the text up to 200% and still be able to read the text without horizontal scroll or text being chopped up?

6 – Do you have enough contrast between your foreground and background colors? This will benefit people with low vision, but also anyone looking at your site from their mobile phone, particularly if they are outside in full sun!

What do you think? Have you implemented accessibility on your podcast and podcast website? Did you find it difficult? What barriers did you encounter? What do you wish you’d known before you got started? Let me know!

Do reach out to me if you need help with improving your podcast or website’s accessibility.