Podcasting for the Blind & Partially Sighted
Launching and running a podcast can have its challenges, and there are many reasons why people might be held back in the medium.
Having low or no vision is certainly a big challenge, but it's one that can be overcome all the same.
This is a case study of two podcasters who've figured out the tools and techniques that enable them to get their voice out there.
Stuart is an Assistive Technology trainer at Fife Society for the Blind in Scotland, and is blind himself.
His podcast – Accessible Tech Mentor – is designed to highlight accessible apps for smart phones and also highlight some stand alone specialist technology which can be used to promote independence among visually impaired people.
To script my episodes, I usually research a topic thoroughly before recording, just so that I have a full understanding of the content I'm discussing.
I use a braille note taking device, so that I can record key notes which I can refer to when recording the podcast. I also have a specific structure to the podcasts so that I don’t go off track.
First, I give the name of the piece of technology or app I am discussing. Then I describe why it is useful. I go through the main features of the product. Then give examples of how the technology can support everyday living and promote independence. And finally, I give other relevant information, if any.
I also try and keep the podcasts short (10 minutes maximum), so that people’s attention doesn’t wander.
In the past, I've tried using dedicated recording devices to record my podcasts and found them completely inaccessible. Other dedicated recording devices which are designed for visually impaired people such as the Victor Reader Stream proved accessible, but the recording quality was extremely poor.
I therefore decided to try and record using the Voice Memos app on my iPhone, and have used it ever since. The recording quality is, in my opinion, fabulous and the app is fully accessible and easy to navigate and use. I will just say that you must be familiar with using accessibility features built-in to iPhone before you attempt to use the Voice Memos app.
I have used Adobe Audition to edit my podcasts from day one. This software is almost completely accessible using screen readers such as JAWS, and can be controlled using the keyboard on your computer. Editing, pasting in other sound clips, etc, also works extremely well with Adobe Audition.
I upload my podcasts to media hosting platform Audioboom. I previously tried to upload to YouTube, and the process was completely inaccessible. I think this is because YouTube is mainly designed around video content. Audioboom on the other hand, is fully accessible with all screen readers, and is actually used by visually impaired people all over the world.
It also means that if I choose to, I can link my Audioboom account with other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to try and promote the podcast.
My advice for aspiring podcasters is to know your subject when making podcasts. Also, don’t try and just throw podcasts out there every few days, take your time and make quality podcasts. Quality is always better than quantity. Also, don’t worry about making mistakes in the podcasts or being nervous when recording them, this actually adds to the authenticity of the podcasts in my opinion, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t make mistakes.
Tanja is a Boston-based audio drama producer and voice actor who runs LightningBolt Theater of the Mind.
LightningBolt provides “new and rich audio experiences for your ears, from SciFi and romance to action and horror.”
I have Glaucoma and Retinopathy of Prematurity. My visual acuity is very low; the fine bloom chart can't measure it. Here's an idea of how I see. I have tunnel vision in both eyes which means my field is central and 10 degrees give or take in each eye. I can see about 10 to 20 feet ahead of me depending on lighting and contrast.
I see basic colors but have trouble distinguishing between similar shades and mistake them all the time. I can slowly spot read (letter by letter) 75 font sized print preferably white text on a black background. The more lighting and contrast the better.
I use Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Notepad, my BrailleNote Apex which is like a PDA and has a braille display that I read, paper braille copies of the script, and I listen with my screen reader JAWS.
Stitcher is not very accessible and Sound Cloud can be tough to manage when it comes to downloading material or managing my account.
Podbean is fine if I'm downloading material but can be tricky when posting my own shows. It is doable though.
Tools & Techniques
I usually use my media player like Winamp which gives me a time stamp when editing or listening back to audio that I've previously recorded in order to remind myself of the voice type used in the past with the project being worked on. Other than that I usually read the scripts ahead of time and gauge if I should convert that to braille or not.
I'm also working on practicing listening to my screen reader as I go through scripts so that I can save some time in the recording process. As I listen I speak the line, almost like an audio teleprompter. Still working on the skill set.
I'm having trouble sometimes hearing the screen reader if I need to raise my voice for the line and it can still sound choppy doing it that way.
The other method I use is memorization of lines if they're short. I also have practiced reading scripts with others before so that I can get pacing and timing correct.
- AppleVis – Empowering Blind & Low-Vision Users of Apple Products and Related Applications
- Audioboom – Accessible Media Host
- JAWS – The World's Most Popular Screenreader
- The Accessible Digital Project – Advocates taking steps to ensure digital media accessibility for everyone
Are You a Blind or Partially Sighted Podcaster?
Thanks to Tanja and Stuart for the invaluable information they've provided here.
If you yourself are a blind or partially sighted podcaster, I'd love to hear your opinions too.
What works for you, and what doesn't? What sites and services are the most accessible? And what's your advice for those in a similar situation to you before you started out?
Let us know in the comments section below.