PE075: Podcasting for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Audience Members

PE075: Podcasting for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Audience Members

“You may be thinking… okay Andrea, that’s ridiculous! If you are deaf you obviously don’t listen to podcasts  — just like if you are blind you obviously don’t watch videos… except that’s not true, or at least that’s a very limited way to consider the question. And you are missing a whole segment of the population!”

~Andrea Klunder

I just HAD TO pop into the feed with a long overdue bossy solo episode. It’s been since August (practically forever) that I was in here telling you what to do! You know it’s only cuz I love you and I want to help you make a show that you and your listeners will love.

Something just came up recently that took me into an impromptu research project and really got the wheels turning around marketing, growth and sustainability from a values based angle.

Now before we get into it… a couple things.

  1. I recorded this ON ELECTION DAY in the U.S and at that moment, we didn’t know what’s happening in our country with all of that.
  2. Why would I be recording on on election day? B/c I already early voted and because I was having a lot of anxiety around things I cannot control and therefore decided to do the thing I can (mostly) control and sharing something with you that is important to me — AND as I was listening to some of my favorite shows who released election day content, I was thinking of how grateful I am for this medium and for so many of the thoughtful content creators out there who help me feel like one way or another everything will be okay (eventually.) 
  3. What this episode is about  is NOT related to politics — it is related to accessibility and inclusive practices for podcasters. It was inspired but a new client who came to me inquiring about a quote for services and I wanted to not only give them a fair quote, but make sure that I was quoting them for what would be BEST for their show — not that I know better than they do, BUT recently I heard Seth Godin say once on the Akimbo podcast that marketing is:

    showing up, 
    telling a story that’s true,
    helping people understand their choices,
    and letting them thank you.

    PLUS I love these two podcasters and their work and wanted to serve them to the best of my ability.

Continued below…

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Article Continued

“So the most common question I get from podcasters (both new and expeirienced) is: how do I grow my show?

~Andrea Klunder

And there are the standard responses like word of mouth, social media, be everywhere, networking — but have you ever thought about making your show/ your content MORE accessible to MORE people? 

Let me be more specific – have you ever thought about how someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may experience your podcast?

You may be thinking… okay Andrea, that’s ridiculous! If you are deaf you obviously don’t listen to podcasts  — just like if you are blind you obviously don’t watch videos… except that’s not true, or at least that’s a very limited way to consider the question. And you are missing a whole segment of the population.

So the client I was working with was wondering about detailed show notes (which you may know can be quite time consuming and the bane of many an indie podcaster’s existence) and there was some discussion about transcripts vs a narrative style blog post.

In fact the general thinking you will find when googling around about podcast accessibility is that you should provide accurate transcripts of all your episodes — which can be problematic b/c AI generated transcripts are not to be trusted for forward facing public consumption, human edited transcripts are costly or time consuming, and have YOU ever tried to read an interview transcript? Not the most enjoyable past time.

So I decided to do a little research and compile what I am calling my best practices for inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing audience members. This is as of October, 2020, and these recommendations are by no means exhaustive, nor have I even gotten so far as to implement all of these practices myself, but rather, I am offering this as a starting place for conversation around guidelines and best practices for this particular segment of the audience.

My sources:

  • I listened to a podcast interview with podcaster and inclusion advocate Miri Josephs,
  • I had a personal conversation with a friend who has cochlear implants to assist with her hearing,
  • I incorporated content provided by an instructor for students who are deaf and hard of hearing through a nonprofit organization with whom I partner.

Overwhelmingly, before we even talk about show notes and transcripts, there’s something that we need to address, which is audio quality.

Audio Quality

  • Overall clean audio, no static, hum, echo, etc
  • Normalized, consistent overall volume to podcast spec (usually around -16LUFS)
  • Multiple speakers voices have matched loudness
  • Minimize people talking over each other (crosstalk)
  • If there is crosstalk, key points are repeated clearly
  • Minimize music and other SFX that may be too loud or distracting from speech

Now here we get on to what I’m calling delivery methods of content. So yes, we are primarily talking about podcasts and you are primarily a podcaster, but let’s face it – What you have to say, what you have to share, what you have to offer to your audience is not just about the podcast.

It’s about the actual content. It’s about the actual message. And the change or transformation or benefit or value that is available to the members of your audience as a result of that content. 

So I asked my friend who I referred to earlier, given the choice for the same content that she wanted to consume, would she prefer to:

  1. Listen to the audio podcast with no additional media supports
  2. Read a magazine style blog article provided that the content was the same as the content and the episode
  3. Read an exact transcript of the episode
  4. Watch a video where you can see the faces of the speakers
  5. Watch a video where you cannot see the faces of the speakers, but you have subtitles. An example of this would be how, if you host with Libsyn, like I do, and like, I recommend you have the option to export your podcast episodes to YouTube directly from your Libsyn account. And if it is an audio podcast with no video component, it will create a YouTube vide that is just the still image of your cover art with the audio and you can add subtitles to that video within YouTube.
  6. Watch a video with faces AND subtitles?

So those were our six options and here is how she ranked them…

Delivery Methods (in order of preference from my friend)

  1. Read a magazine style blog article provided that it contains the same content as the episode.
  2. Watch a video with faces (lip reading) and subtitles.*
  3. Watch a video with faces only (no subtitles.)
  4. Watch a video with subtitles only (like an audiogram) maybe only for short format content only.
  5. Read a transcript – not simultaneously with audio or video, for information gathering purposes or reference only, not really enjoyable. She noted that most transcripts are so awkward and not well edited — deaf people are used to reading awkward transcriptions and the bar has been lowered for being able to interpret inaccurate text due to text messaging/autocorrect. A well edited transcript is, however, appreciated.
  6. Listen to audio only – never. In the podcast interview, some audience members who are hard of hearing (the guest had 40 db lost hearing) MAY enjoy audio content provided the practices in the Audio Quality section are followed.

*She also noted that for some reason LIVE video is easier for her to follow than pre-recorded but isn’t sure why.

This does NOT speak for every single person in this community. Deaf and hard of hearing audience members are not a monolith who all have the same preferences, but I thought that this was a great personal example.

So here were my conclusions for possible applications of this mini research project.

Possible Applications

  • Implement audio quality and editing standards for clarity and ease of listening.
  • Recontextualize “show notes” as a stand alone detailed and quote/nuance rich blog article.
  • Record episodes using face-to-camera video in addition to audio and publish video versions to YouTube with YouTube generated subtitles, edited by a human. YouTube subtitles are fairly accurate for most native English speakers, but do not differentiate speakers automatically and need help with punctuation and proper nouns.
  • Consider generating transcripts within Descript, editing by a human for accuracy, and then exporting the files to upload to YouTube. Benefit is that speaker names can be easily designated. AI transcription is slightly less accurate than Google/YouTube. But then you also have a publishable transcript as well.
  • Export “video” version of audio episode with static image to YouTube directly from Libsyn. Login to YouTube publisher to add/edit subtitles.
  • Generate short form audiograms for social media with key sections of the conversation subtitled, perhaps with labeled photos of the speakers for reference. Headliner app allows for audiograms up to 10min of content to be subtitled (and edited.) 
  • Engage community/audience by uploading AI generated transcripts to an open, editable Google Doc and allow community members to voluntarily edit. This is a cost-effective way some people have found to provide transcripts. I am personally unsure whether I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a best practice.

Not yet explored

Sign language interpretation for video.

So there you have it! The humble beginnings of my best practices for inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing audiences for podcasters.

Have YOU worked on any inclusive practices for the deaf and hard of hearing audience members in your community, or maybe there are other community members or maybe there are other parts of your audience that you have specifically worked on inclusion practices for?

What’s worked and what hasn’t worked?

You can share your thoughts with me in a review for this episode. email me text or audio feedback to andrea [at] the, or DM me on Instagram @andreaklunder.

I thank you so much for being a part of this community and listening to to me tell you what to do… I can’t wait to get that feedback from you and find out what you have to say!

Peace, love, and podcasting!

P.S. This show notes post is WAY longer than usual to give you a sense of what a full article for a 30min episode might be like, rather than my standard 300-500 word blog version.

Also, sharing a link to the unedited transcript AI generated by Descript for this episode. For this episode, it’s not TERRIBLE since I scripted half of the episode in advance and then spoke extemporaneously on the topic, I am one white native English speaker with a midwestern American accent recording in a fairly sound controlled environment.

If you look closely, you will notice that some sections may be missing or slightly different. That is b/c the transcript is from my first read-through during which I forgot to select my microphone and it sounded like garbage. So I re-recorded FROM the transcript but may have modified a few things here and there. I didn’t want the expense of re-transcribing.

Tools & Resources

Headliner – get 2 weeks of Pro for free with this link


YouTube Studio

Libsyn – podcast host – get your first month free with promo code: envy

Auphonic – not mentioned but a good way to normalize, reduce background noise, export to -16 lufs, etc if you are using software that doesn’t support that function

Mentioned in this episode

Radio Survivor episode on deaf accessibility for podcasting with Miri Josephs

Akimbo podcast

David Kadavy – episode on The Creative Impostor

Power Your Story Podcast

Connect with me!

Facebook Group The Creative Impostor
Facebook Page @thecreativeimpostor
Instagram: @thecreativeimpostor
LinkedIn: @andreaklunder (I only accept connections from people I actually know, so include a message to say you’re a Podcast Envy listener.)

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