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This is the script for the first episode of The Accessible Podcast, a project developed for the Inclusive Writing and Communication Course. 

INTRO Andreea: Hi and welcome to “The Accessible Podcast”, an audio experience for all audiences. I am Andreea Demirgian, your host. This podcast is brought to you by Mohawk College, through its AMP program. Today we’re talking about why everybody should have access to podcasts. My guests are Erin Poudrier, ASL interpreter and Vanessa Wells, captioning specialist.

Andreea: Everybody loves a good podcast. Quality information, music, great voices, sound effects… They create an immersive experience the human brain really enjoys. But what if your listener is on the bus, sitting next to someone that won’t stop talking? What if he can’t download the entire podcast, because of a limited data plan? What if she thinks her best friend SHOULD listen to what your expert said at precisely 5 minutes and 13 seconds into the podcast? What if they cannot hear, but would like to have access to that particular information? Erin Poudrier is an American Sign Language interpreter. Sometimes she feels the same frustration your audience might experience if they are in any of the circumstances I have described.

Erin: “I do a lot of listening to podcasts, specifically CBC documentaries podcasts. So many times I am listening to these podcasts and these stories and I am saying ‘oh… my Deaf friend or the deaf person I have been working with would be so interested in this topic’ and I can’t even forward the story to them like I would any kind of other stories. I feel the frustration. Actually most of the time they are unaware of what they are missing.”

Andreea: When people cannot understand what a podcast is about, they feel left out. Vanessa Wells is a captioning specialist. Recently she has started to experience loss of hearing and that gave her a new perspective on how important captioning is.

Vanessa:  “A lot of people, especially in employment situations, social situations, they don’t want to talk about their deafness or their hearing issues. So a lot of us just don’t even bother explaining, we’re kind of invisible. In terms of people with hearing problems, they absolutely have the right to captioning, to have access to content. On my blog, I had a friend who’s got 20% hearing. I had her write about her experience. She said: “When I have captions, I feel like I can participate in society.”

Andreea: A transcript or captions might make podcasts more accessible. They can attract larger audiences and include more people. It’s easier to link to a transcript than to audio or video files. It’s easier to pull a quote from a text file than try to create one from audio or video. You can highlight a transcript, and you can share it. Moreover, you can tap into new audiences: the new immigrants. Over 14% of Canada’s population has English as a Second Language. You can even think of having your podcast interpreted in ASL for the Deaf or people hard of hearing, as Erin Poudrier suggests.

Erin:  “The problem with just having it in English or as a transcript is that it’s so linear that it doesn’t really provide the richness and the tangibility that stories really ought to. English is their second language and it’s difficult to even kind of grasp the English sometimes when they are reading that. When it’s produced in their natural language it’s more dynamic, it’s more tangible, it’s more relatable, all of the goals to which a storyline is trying to develop with their reader or with their audience. So I really do believe that they should be provided into ASL interpretation.”

Andreea: In a nutshell, accessible podcasts will draw in more listeners and a diverse audience. and take their message further. Costs might be a barrier. But it is well worth the effort when you are trying to send a message into the world. Will you consider captioning your podcast or, at least, uploading a transcript?

This has been “The Accessible”, an audio experience for all audiences, brought to you by Mohawk College, through its Accessible Media Production Program.

Next week, Rob Harvey will tell us why no one should trust AI with captioning.

An accessible transcript of this podcast is available on our website. I am Andreea Demirgian. Thank you for listening!