Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Audio transcripts are important

Many people are unable to access your audio or video content if you don’t provide a transcript or captions. The obvious target group being excluded is people who are Deaf, or people with hearing impairments. Some people with cognitive impairments also process the written word better than they process spoken words. By not providing transcripts or captions, you are discriminating against people with disabilities. It isn’t good from a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) perspective. And it often carries risk from a legal perspective.

Red headphones over a screenshot of a podcast transcript

If that is not a “good enough” reason to provide transcripts, think of the other groups that benefit from transcripts. I am fond of pointing out that accessibility benefits everyone. It’s true in this case as well. Several groups of people without disabilities benefit from transcripts or captions. Here are a few:

  • Non-native speakers of the language your content is in.
  • People in noisy environments that try to listen to your audio/video
  • People who can read 6,000 words faster than they can listen to a 1-hour show
  • People with slow internet connection, or limited bandwidth
  • You!
    • Your content is indexable and searchable
    • Improve SEO and traffic to your site refuses to provide transcripts

I had planned to write a post about the importance of transcripts. What prompted me to do so now is a recent interaction with

I was interested in one of their show, but could not find a transcript for it. I contacted the show to ask about a transcript. Their response took me aback.

we do not have a transcript for that episode and have no plans to publish one at this time

This response was less than satisfactory. It reflects the attitude of too many video and audio content producers. It’s disappointing, and lacks vision. And of course, it’s discriminating.

I was quite surprised about this attitude considering the guests for that particular show (folks from Sauce Labs, whom I know get the importance of accessibility. And of course, their long list of sponsors, which include Amazon Audible, Capterra,, and many other big companies that claim to have CSR.

It’s even more suprising since they announced in 2014 that they would provide transcripts for their popular shows, which include “This week in Tech”. “This week in Tech” is the show I was looking for a transcript. I have been unable to find transcripts for any episode of any show on I have not gone back years, and I may have missed something. If it’s that difficult to find, it’s as if they didn’t provide transcripts at all.

Transcribing is relatively affordable

There are many companies out there offering transcription services. Costs vary tremendously. But it’s easy to find a reliable company that does transcriptions at an affordable price. For example, offers transcriptions for US$1/minute with turn around times of about 24 hours.

Small outfits running podcasts, like myself, may find it difficult to justify $60/hour of show produced. But large content producers like have no excuse. In fact, with a declared US$10 million in revenue in 2016 alone, could afford to hire someone to produce transcripts for all their shows.

Non-native language speaker

I run the A11y Rules Podcast, a show where I interview people involved in one way or another with web accessibility. I make a point of providing transcripts with every show. Yes, I practice what I preach! Someone recently pointed out to me that for him, a native French speaker, transcripts work much better. Because it’s much easier to read English than understand it.

Noisy environments

People will access your shows in all kinds of situations. Many of these situations are noisy. They may be in an open plan office. They may be walking to work. They may be on a bus.

These noisy environments will conflict with their ability to hear the show – even if they boost the sound to a point they nearly burst their eardrums.

Reading faster than listening

Many people read much faster than the speed of an audio or video stream. Some people want to have quick access to the information without having to sit there for 30 minutes, or an hour.

While the media you chose (audio, or video) is obviously important to you, the end goal should be to provide people with information. You should provide multiple ways to access that information.

Slow or limited connection

Most tech professionals are on connection speeds of 60 Mbps or faster. They benefit from unlimited bandwidth. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is blessed with that kind of access. A friend recently illustrated this when she told me that in her search for a new home, she came across ads boasting of “fast internet available”. And invariably, that meant up to 5 Mpbs. Which is admittedly faster than dial-up, but less than ideal nonetheless.

Then there are people on mobile phones who may not have access to great plans with lots of data, poor cell reception, etc.

Indexable content

With a transcript, you have all the content of your show indexed and searchable. You can refer to previous shows. You can quote and cite what you, or your guests, said. You can use that content in many different ways. This becomes important when you have dozens, or hundreds of shows.

Improve SEO and traffic

This American Life, a popular radio show in the US had over 520 1-hour episode. They decided to provide transcripts for all the shows. A case study of traffic after implementing the transcripts shows that:

  • 7.23% of all unique visitors viewed at least one transcript.
  • They received 4.36% of new inbound traffic.
  • They received an increase of 6.68% of search traffic.
  • They saw an increase of 3.89% of inbound links

These numbers are significant by any metric you chose.

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for to provide transcripts for your audio or video content? It’s the right thing to do for different audience groups. It also has direct benefits to your company.