Accessibility of podcasts

Since I get asked about this more often: There are a few things to consider with podcasts to make them accessible.

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Platform for hosting and distribution

First of all, it is important that the podcast is delivered via accessible platforms. It is crucial for listeners that the player is easy to use. I, for example, use Podigee, which in my experience works well with screen readers and keyboards. The possibility of downloading should also be provided via the player. If necessary, the user can simply listen to the content in the browser; Firefox, for example, has a simple music player integrated. Or she can use her own player on her computer. The standard website for Podigee's hosted podcast is also quite usable, but I have not systematically checked it for accessibility. I assume that with the hosters with high-quality accounts you can also design the website for the podcast yourself, but I can't and didn't want to invest that much.

However, it is more important that the podcast is available on as many podcast platforms as possible. These include Google Podcast, streaming services such as Spotify or Deezer, or even the Apple platform.

The background to this is that podcasts are now predominantly listened to on smartphones and these platforms have better usability than most sites. Then the platform's own player is used and it doesn't matter whether the originating provider offers an accessible player. I was surprised to find that my own podcast is predominantly listened to via Spotify, almost half of the listeners use Spotify. I would have guessed Google Podcasts or another podcast platform. With Spotify, I miss the function to set the playback speed. In addition, the RSS feed is heavily used, although it is not possible to find out whether the feed is used via alternative podcatchers or directly via the web.

Technical quality

The sound quality is also crucial. Some persons find it annoying, others can't understand anything. I regularly stop listening to episodes if they are recorded too quietly. Turning up the volume completely can amplify background noise or have other effects, such as poor speakers. If, like me, you use external Bluetooth earphones without their own amplifier, the increase in volume is limited, among others. This means that podcasts that are too quiet cannot be turned up as loud as you like.

Almost more important is a constant volume. The worst thing for a hearing-impaired person, besides poor audio quality, is having to constantly turn up the volume loud and soft because the recording is not consistently loud, for example because the speakers are using different and less than optimal technology.

To be fair, a professional sounding recording cannot be expected from a hobby podcaster. Anyone can turn on the compressor or buy a reasonably good microphone. A good microfone and recording board, on the other hand, costs a lot of money and takes up a lot of space. Likewise, you can't expect a professional, trained voice from an amateur. No one will undergo professional voice training for a hobby podcast.

On the other hand, providers must be aware that poor sound quality is the most important reason for rejection. A reasonably good microphone and a preamplifier as well as a reasonably quiet recording situation should be within the scope. You can also get a little out of it in post-production with Audacity and the like. But the decisive factor is the recording quality.

Without wanting to offend anyone: Every person who is interviewed should invest the 40 € in a simple USB headset. If someone sounds as if they were sitting 6 metres away from the mic, we know that the laptop mic was used again. You can hardly save anything in post-production. Even the smartphones sound a little better here.

From my experience from numerous lectures and trainings - which I have given or heard - I can say that the ultimate tip is to speak slowly. Everything else, such as good intonation and clean pronunciation, is fine tuning.

As said above, raising the perceived loudness is useful, but it does not save poor sound quality. In general, two options should be used here. The compressor ensures an even volume, the function Normalise loudness - as it is called in Audacity - increases the overall volume. Here you do not have to go to the maximum level, because then it quickly overdrives. Noise reduction is also important here, as raising the level naturally increases the background noise.

Other options such as graphic EQ can polish up the recording, but in my experience have no effect for the hard of hearing.


Last but not least, the transcript is important: a text version of the podcast. It is mandatory according to WCAG, but it is also a good service. After all, it reads faster than listening to it. It is not possible to listen to something quickly in the podcast.

I actually use YouTube for automatic transcription The paid tools are probably better, but also rather difficult to cope with in terms of cost. In fact, the transcript or the correction of it does most of the work.

Other things like chapter markers are optional. If a podcast lasts several hours and is not listened to for entertainment reasons, this may make sense. However, I haven't had that case yet.

My favourite feature is an adjustment of the playback speed. I usually listen to German podcasts at a speed of 1.5. Because persons talk too slowly. But that has nothing to do with accessibility either, it's convenience.

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