Accessibility for Audio and Podcasts

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How to make audio and podcasts accessible

Accessibility is one of those words that most people are familiar with, but likely can’t define precisely. In short, it’s features that give people with impairments access to a building, website, or product. 

Accessibility is removing barriers to access to products, information, etc. for people with a range of needs. Accessibility = access.

Accessibility is not to be confused with usability. The latter usually describes how easy something is to use. Lawnmowers are more usable than scythes, but one usually wouldn’t describe it as accessible.

Dozens of governments have accessibility laws and regulations and many more organizations (both public and private) have accessibility rules and recommendations. On the web, there are accessibility recommendations and guidelines from governing bodies like the W3C.

In the United States, the government protects impaired individuals through the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA for short. It protects people from discrimination in employment, public transportation, telecommunication, voting, and many other public services. It even covers businesses that provide accommodations, such as restaurants and schools. The idea is that public services and basic needs shouldn’t be inaccessible to individuals that need accommodations. 

Audio and Podcast Accessibility

Audio without making the textual equivalent of the content available locks away knowledge and information leaving your content inaccessible in a variety of scenarios.

The Backtracks platform allows you to make all your audio content and podcast content accessible to those with hearing impairments, allows people to read along with your content, and gives you audio SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with no extra effort.

Here is an example of accessible audio content with Backtracks:

Backtracks [00:00:00] Backtracks makes your audio content and podcasts accessible to any audience.

Backtracks [00:00:05] The Backtracks player has time-synchronized and interactive transcripts to allow audio content to be accessible and readable by people as well as search engines. [00:00:13.51] Make your audio content and podcasts accessible, interactive, and usable with Backtracks. [00:00:19] Learn more at backtracks.fm.

Any person or organization wishing to be in compliance of state, national, and organizational laws and regulations around accessibility can use Backtracks to quickly unlock value from their audio in a systematized manner. Contact us today to learn more and unlock meaning, insights, and value from your audio. You can even have multi-lingual audiences and audio content scenarios addressed with Backtracks.

Who is Required to Provide Accommodations? 

According to the ADA, businesses of more than 15 employees need to provide accommodations to sufficiently qualified employees that require it. This requirement aims to reduce discrimination in the workplace. Providing specialized furniture, clearing tight or cluttered walkways, adjusting monitors, and providing flexible schedules are all accommodations commonly offered by employers. 

Businesses such as restaurants have guidelines to follow too. Following restaurants as an example, doors need to be 36 inches wide, and all furniture inside must also be at least 36 inches apart. Restroom doors have the same requirement and must be large enough for wheelchairs to move around. They’re even required to have bars for support. Parking lots must also have at least one handicap spot per 25 spots. These examples barely scratch the surface; there are detailed descriptions for furniture, layout, and facilities that restaurants must follow. 

Beyond physical life, a recent development has been the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). It builds on older requirements for television networks, mandating that television streaming services provide closed captioning for the hearing impaired. It even stipulates that large television service providers (such as ABC or NBC) provide audio descriptions for the visually impaired as part of their program. The quota has been gradually increasing over time. 

Mobile phones and web content are also held to a standard by the CVAA. Phones provide options for the hard of hearing and visually impaired: large text, compatibility with hearing aids, and high contrast are few of many examples of accessibility features applied to handheld devices. Computers can accommodate people with limited dexterity. On-screen keyboards, disabling rapid keystrokes, and speech recognition are all ways to make typing on a computer more accessible. 

Many other institutions and services must also follow these standards, including stadiums, airplanes, banks, hospitals, and many more. 

Accessibility’s Understated Impact 

On a financial and frankly greedy level, accessibility boosts sales. Businesses that can accommodate impaired customers will generate more sales than one that cannot. Websites have adopted these ideas to improve traffic; many web developers have begun using practices that help the visually and motor-impaired. From including captions to images and tables to providing keyboard control of the webpage to even including high contrast displays, high-traffic websites tend to be very accessible. 

But on a deeper level, mandatory accessibility is a natural extension of fundamental human rights. From proper housing to employment, many of the rights guaranteed by the ADA, CVAA, and the plethora of other impairment-geared legislature are things the rest of the country takes for granted. 

From making meaningful contributions in the workplace to enjoying meals at restaurants to browsing content online, people with impairments or any disability deserve the full range of rights that all others enjoy. It is a societal duty to ensure that. 

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