Increasing Podcast Accessibility: Good News for Everyone

By: Laura Swanson
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With an estimated 120 million podcast listeners in 2021, it’s safe to say the popularity of podcasts has exploded over the years. Available via several smartphone apps, podcasts offer a convenient, on-the-go way to stay up to date with current events, dive deep into niche topics, or anything in between. Below we’ll list why increasing podcast accessibility is good news for everyone. But first, a recap on current podcast accessibility news.

Podcasts and podcasting platforms have come under fire in recent years over questions of accessibility. Many have argued that without captions and/or transcripts, podcasts are completely inaccessible for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The most recent lawsuit filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) argues that SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failing to make their podcasts accessible. This isn’t the first time podcasting platforms have come under fire for not including transcripts, but it could be a game-changer considering the suit is aimed at multiple top platforms in the industry.

The suit also comes at a time when ADA lawsuits continue to rise across the board, and the trend is not expected to change anytime soon. More and more, accessibility solutions like captions and transcripts are not only a legal requirement, they’re an expectation from consumers.

Consider the increase in popularity for captions as well as the greater awareness of the benefits of captions. Articles with viewers proudly proclaiming a use of captions/same-language subtitles all the time continue to crop up, as do groups like Turn On The Subtitles (TOTS), touting caption benefits for literacy and language skills.

While the outcome of the most current lawsuit remains to be seen, it’s clear the demand for accessibility in news and entertainment now includes podcasts, and that demand is unlikely to go away any time soon. But calls to provide transcripts for podcasts increase accessibility and are good news for everyone.

Good news for the world:

  • Transcripts can help individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing access the same content that hearing people access.
  • Transcripts providing accessibility helps to build a more inclusive and equitable world.

Good news for podcast fans:

  • Transcripts can help consumers find content. Search engines can’t “read” audio content, but they can read transcripts. Search engines being able to pull from podcast transcripts rather than just podcast/episode titles and summaries could help consumers better find what they’re looking for.
  • Transcripts can help fans spread the word. It’s easier for a fan to copy and paste a transcript quote to share with friends or via social media.

Good news for podcasters:

  • Transcripts can open up a wider audience for podcasts. It’s estimated that 20% of people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. That’s a lot more potential fans to reach!
  • Transcripts can make your content more easily found, making your message more likely to reach its intended audiences. Search engines being able to read a transcription means that when consumers search the web for topics pertaining to subjects you discuss in your podcast, they’re more likely to find your content.

As a leader in media accessibility solutions, VITAC cheers the growing calls for accessibility in all media formats and, as always, will keep our customers current with trends and legal requirements. You can be sure to stay up to date too, by subscribing to our newsletter here.