Character listening to podcast with an audio transcript
Image description: A pink cartoon character wearing green headphones looks at a caption in the lower right (which is transcribing the purple audio waves in the background). The transcript says, "Good morning! Today, we're talking about what it means to be a pink nugget in this day and age."

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Why This is Important

Audio transcripts are primarily for Deaf and hard of hearing people to access audio in a written format.

Blind and visually impaired people use screen readers to interact with websites and apps. A screen reader is a type of assistive tech that converts things on screen to audio and/or braille. It's important that things are understandable and interactive to screen readers.

Keyboard accessibility is essential for people who do not use a computer mouse (which might be because they have unpredictable or very specific movement due to a motor disability). Many Blind and visually impaired people also use keyboard interactions in order to use their screen reader.

Error support is accessible to people with a diversity of disabilities. A cognitive disability might affect how a person perceives and understands things. A physical disability might lead to unpredictable movement. Other factors such as environment, stress, and multi-tasking may also lead to errors.

In order to be accessible, gestures and interactions must account for people with physical and motor disabilities, who might have unpredictable or very specific movement.

Audio transcripts are essential for providing access to Deaf/HoH people, especially if the content is an audio-only experience, such as podcasts. They also provide important access for other situations (such as very noisy or quiet environments) and other non-Deaf people (such as more visual people, people with cognitive disabilities, etc).

This references WCAG criteria 1.2.1 Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded) (Level A) and 1.2.9 Audio-only (Live) (Level AAA).

Level AAA compliance is considered more difficult to meet because it requires more resources to fulfill. It also might encompass conflicting access needs (meaning what is accessible to some might be inaccessible to others). Use your best judgment of your target audience and your team's capabilities to determine if this is a pragmatic goal to reach.

How to Implement This

Transcribe the audio

It's recommended to use an automated tool to jumpstart the transcribing process. Then, manually listen and refine the transcript

Free or low-cost transcription tools

Paid or higher-cost transcription tools

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Recording the transcript and audio at the same time is usually more efficient. However, if that option is not available, you can also play the audio recording from one device and run the transcription tool in the other.

Note: AI-powered, automated transcription tools are often based on racist and white supremacist algorithms. The accuracy rate will undoubtedly drop if the people speaking are non-white, do not speak English as their first language, or speak a specific dialect of English (e.g. Black Vernacular English). Read more in this Business Insider article.

Tips for refining the transcript

The transcript should be accessible to people with visual and cognitive disabilities.

  • Use descriptive titles and headings
  • Make sure the text is large (16 pt or bigger), uses high contrast, and in a simple sans serif font
  • Describe non-speech sounds too (e.g. sigh, pause, laugh)
  • Label the speaker

Share the transcript

There are a few different ways to implement and share the transcript. Here are some examples:

  • The Disability Visibility podcast includes 2 links to the transcript, one a google doc and the other a PDF format.
  • Nancy Podcast includes the transcript in the webpage itself, under the "transcript" tab. - Nancy podcast example
  • Ted Talks includes the transcript in the webpage itself, AND highlights the specific text that is being spoken (this is some next level shit).

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How to Test This

Manual Test
Semi-Automated Test
Automated Test

If there is audio content, check for any corresponding audio transcripts.

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