Make sure your podcast website is as accessible as your content.
Ever since starting my podcast journey after losing my vision, I’ve enjoyed many elegant soundscapes, worlds created through tones of voices, and musical scores that have made me eager to hear what happens next.
Podcasts, are, by nature, designed for the blind and the visually impaired because they are audio experiences. They don’t need an extra audio description track to enjoy, for example. Even though Netflix, Apple, and Amazon, have audio described movies and TV shows, I always find myself loading up a podcast, partly because of my internet connection speed, and, the other, because I don’t have to wonder if a show will be as available to me as it does other sighted people.
Enjoying podcasts isn’t a problem, but sometimes, subscribing to a podcast can be a nightmare.
Many podcasters have a website. I’ll often visit websites and look for subscribe links, so that I can then send them to my Apple email for later additions that night or the next day. The problem I run into frequently, is an inaccessible website.
For those not in the know, blind and visually impaired people use screen readers, computer tools that interpret the GUI into a navigable, linear, audio interface controlled by keyboard only. Screen readers exist on desktop computers and on mobile Phones. Windows has NVDA and JAWS, two of the most popular screen readers for windows, Apple desktops, watches, and other Apple devices, have their own screen reader called VoiceOver. Android has talkback.
For a screen reader to properly see the application or website, developers have to label their content. Buttons, images, links, anything that’s not text, developers have to label.
If a screen reader can’t see what that button or link or images is, it can’t tell the user what it is. Many podcasters have websites, mostly created with Squarespace, that don’t have properly labeled images and links, as well as buttons.
There are way too many inaccessible podcasters sites to list, but the common problem is finding the subscribe link I’m looking for. Podcasters usually don’t have a subscribe link in their navigation bar, so I have to skim the entire website in most cases, to find the subscribe page, if it’s even a page. Most of the time, the subscribe links are linked images without alt text, a text description of the image only screen readers can see, scattered throughout the website somewhere.
If I’m lucky and there is a subscribe page, usually, the links to the RSS feed, iTunes link, or otherwise, are images without alt text. Or, they are empty links. Links that don’t have a title. So, I’m left trying to find the podcast on devices and, this takes some time if your title is similar to someone else’s podcast.
I’ve stopped trying to subscribe to many podcasts if I can’t find their subscribe link within ten minutes. The way I’ve been getting around this frustration, is seeing if one of the podcast critics did a review of the show. Because I’m huge into audio fiction, I stop by Wil William’s website first to see if a review is there. Wil puts the most common subscribe links at the end of reviews so all I have to do is copy the URL.
DiscoverPod also includes subscribe links in their reviews, which makes it easy to find and subscribe to shows.
Since so many inaccessible websites are out there, I’d like to highlight a few podcaster’s websites that are mostly accessible to screen readers.
20 Sided Stories. They use Wordpress as their host. Wordpress, unlike SquareSpace, Weebly, or Wix, have made an ongoing commitment to providing their creators an accessible experience for their users. While there’s a few inaccessible buttons on the website due to RadioPublics very inaccessible embed code and application, they label all their links. Subscribe links are under a heading on the main homepage.
Pod News’s subscribe pages. I wish creators would link to these subscribe pages more. Pod News created their own subscribe page for podcasts and is very accessible. Even though creators can link Pod News’s subscribe page of their own podcast, I have yet to find any that have used Pod news’s individual subscribe page for their podcast.
Bric Moon Fiction. Full disclosure. I’ve written a short story for them. Their website is very accessible to screen readers. All their forms are labeled, and links are labeled. Even though there’s a few missing image descriptions, visually impaired listeners can still subscribe through the provided links.