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No Captions in Your Podcast? Are You Breaking the Law?

Soon, creating a podcast without captions may become a legal liability in the USA. Things are already moving in that direction and some legal action has already taken place to make captions for podcasts necessary.

Podcasts are a contemporary form of entertainment and, as such, they should be available to everybody. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) think that podcasts without captions exclude deaf and hard of hearing from being able to enjoy this medium.

Not only are they claiming that no-captions podcasts are a discriminatory practice - they are suing a major podcast provider SiriusXM, including its two subsidiaries, Pandora and Stitcher.  In their complaint, NAD and DRA state that failing to provide captions for podcasts means breaking federal, state, and local laws.

The Importance of Captions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

This is so much more than just a matter of being able to understand or not understand a podcast. The implications of making this type of content are not always obvious to those who don’t have difficulties hearing. However, there is much we can learn from the plaintiffs who are participating in this lawsuit. Here are some of the eye-opening reasons for proper captions.


No Captions Can Exclude People from Conversations

Imagine that everybody you know watched Star Wars (as they probably did) and you only heard about it from your friends’ conversations. Wouldn’t it be quite uncomfortable not being able to understand all the inside jokes about the lightsaber noise or weird Yoda sentence pattern?

It may sound trivial, but cultural references like this are hugely important for daily conversations and human interactions. Denying a group of people such experiences by making them inaccessible means hurting their ability to connect with others in a certain way.

While podcasts still don’t have the cultural importance as Star Wars, they are a highly relevant form of entertainment. Plaintiff Dr. Amber Martin claims to be feeling locked out from a lot of information they would like to have, but are unable to due to lack of captions.


No Captions in Podcasts Make Things Complicated for Deaf Parents

It is challenging to be a parent in today’s world and control the content your underage child is exposed to. Now, imagine that there is this entire world of content that your child has access to, but it is completely inaccessible to you. Wouldn’t that be scary?

This is what plaintiff Mei Nishimoto faces with their school-aged child. They are unable to screen, monitor, or recommend the content their child is listening to because the lack of captions makes it inaccessible. 


No Captions in Podcasts Put Deaf Marketers’ Careers in Jeopardy

Plaintiff Jazmine Jones had a job that required her to monitor social media and microblogging trends. Her career was strongly influenced by the fact that she was excluded from the world of podcasts. 

Given that many authors are switching to this format, she got cut off and her livelihood and career suffered. Making captions for podcasts necessary would make a huge difference for all the marketers who have hearing impairments.

These are just some of the ways how not adding captions to podcasts can be considered discriminatory toward those that don’t hear well. This is a matter of necessity rather than a matter of convenience for many.

On the other hand, adding captions can be a challenging task for podcast owners, right? 

Wrong! Adding captions to podcasts has never been easier. Even if it meant going back into the archives and adding captions to all the previous podcast episodes, this would not have to be a monumental task. 

How to Add Captions for Podcasts

You can make your podcast content inclusive and in alignment with all laws and regulations in just a couple of easy steps:

Step #1 Upload your podcast to Subly

Subly supports all audio files, so it doesn’t matter which one you used for your podcast. You can upload .mp4 and .mov video files if you want, as well.

Upload audio file


Step #2 Click to transcribe your podcast

On your left side of the Subly editing screen, you will see the entire transcription of your podcast episode, complete with the timestamps. Make sure you revise the automatically generated version and check it for accuracy and the transcript, and add audio cues to turn subtitles into closed captions.

Edit podcast captions


Step #3 Save your podcast captions

You can use your generated closed captions in many ways. You can add them as a transcript for a podcast. You can turn captions into blog posts, or you can repurpose your podcast and transcript and turn your podcast episode into a video.

Either way, this is a simple process that can help you enrich your content, grow your audience, be more inclusive, improve your SEO, and more. That’s a lot of benefits for just a couple of minutes of work per episode.

Download podcast captions


The information about the complaint, as well as the names and the plaintiffs were taken from the website press release of the National Association of the Deaf, titled Lawsuit Challenges Inaccessibility of Major Podcast Platforms


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