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A digital artwork with slices of five images arranged in a fan. From left to right they are: a photograph of a character sheet with blue dice and a green pencil, The International Symbol of Access (a blue background with a white stylized image of a person in a wheelchair), a chaotic pile of dice in many colors and styles, splattered rainbow paints with a black and white drawing of a brain on top, and miniature houses with figurines of people in action poses.

A digital artwork with slices of five images arranged in a fan. From left to right they are: a photograph of a character sheet with blue dice and a green pencil, The International Symbol of Access (a blue background with a white stylized image of a person in a wheelchair), a chaotic pile of dice in many colors and styles, splattered rainbow paints with a black and white drawing of a brain on top, and miniature houses with figurines of people in action poses.

 

What it Is

Traits associated with specific disabilities are regularly used to make monstrous and evil creatures seem more creepy, frightening, or disgusting. For example, disability associated traits like hunchbacks, non-normative limb shapes, and joints that bend in unusual ways are often used to make demons appear misshapen and deformed. Giving monsters traits associated with real disabilities sends a negative message about what it means to have those traits. This is particularly so when the disabled trait is being used to make them the monster or villain more intimidating.

Not only does this reinforce negative ideas about disability, this also results in harassment and mistreatment of people with these traits. For example, Elsa S. Henry, a prominent disability activist and game designer, grew up being called “an evil witch” by her classmates because of the stereotypical association of cataracts with evil (story recounted in “Accessibility with Elsa S Henry” on the Modifier podcast).

The following are traits associated with specific disabilities that are commonly applied to monsters and evil beings as a way of making them more intimidating. I want to be clear that these traits aren’t inherently negative. They are fine traits for characters to have, but treating them as monstrous is stigmatizing. Continue Reading »

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Otter.ai is an online app that is designed for transcribing and sharing meeting notes. It is a great option for free automatic podcast transcription. In particular, the ability to easily share transcripts with others and work on them together is super helpful. (Be aware that a google account may be necessary to use this sharing ability.)

As with any kind of automatic transcription, the transcripts that Otter produces will have many errors in them and little punctuation. However, editing a transcript is less work than transcribing from nothing. In addition, Otter’s transcript editor has tools that make the transcription process smoother and faster.

The technology in Otter is designed to learn over time, which means that more you use it the more accurate it should become. Because Otter is an app designed to transcribe meetings in real time, it has a lot of potential as an accessibility tool for gaming. Otter offers ten hours of free transcription per month and one hundred hours of transcription $10/month.

The following are my step-by-step instructions for using Otter to create podcast transcripts. I am using Windows on my computer, so they will be most exact for Windows users.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

 

Signing Up for Otter

  1. Sign up for a free account at https://otter.ai by clicking the button that says “Get started now, its free.” There will be the option to sign up with google or to fill out a form. If you use a google account it is easier to use features such as transcript sharing.
  2. You have the option to “Help Otter learn your unique voice” by clicking on the button in the center of the screen or to click on the “Skip this step” link in the upper right of the screen. If you do this step, this test recording will end up in the app for you to experiment with.
  3. Next you will have the option to “Sync your calendar and contacts” by clicking on the “Sync your google account” button in the center of the screen or to click on the “Go to the app” link in the upper right of the screen. This step is not necessary in order to use Otter for transcription.
  4. You should now be in the app.

 

Using Otter to Transcribe an Episode Continue Reading »

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From tabletop role-playing games to comics to board games to twitch channels, there are lot new and exciting geeky projects being produced by creators big and small. However many of these projects aren’t fully accessible to disabled participants and audience members. The best way to change this is to get people with disabilities involved in creating these projects.

The Disability Consultants for Geeky Projects List is designed to raise awareness of the many people doing this important work, help people connect with each other, and help creators find disability consultants who are a good fit for their projects. To be added to this list, please fill out this form.

A digital artwork with slices of five images arranged in a fan. From left to right they are: a photograph of a character sheet with blue dice and a green pencil, The International Symbol of Access (a blue background with a white stylized image of a person in a wheelchair), a chaotic pile of dice in many colors and styles, splattered rainbow paints with a black and white drawing of a brain on top, and miniature houses with figurines of people in action poses.

A digital artwork with slices of five images arranged in a fan. From left to right they are: a photograph of a character sheet with blue dice and a green pencil, The International Symbol of Access (a blue background with a white stylized image of a person in a wheelchair), a chaotic pile of dice in many colors and styles, splattered rainbow paints with a black and white drawing of a brain on top, and miniature houses with figurines of people in action poses.

 

 

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Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

I record some of my podcasts using Google Hangouts because it is the best free option for online recording that I’ve found. The benefits of this recording method are that it is free, reliable, easy for guests to use, and works okay with slow computers. The downsides are that it limits audio quality, there are some audio glitches, all participants are recorded in the same track, and it is complicated for the person doing the recording to set up.

Note that this specific step-by-step guide is on the verge of being outdated in the shift from Creator Studio to YouTube Studio. I am planning on updating it for the new YouTube Studio soon.

  1. For this you will need a google account, a YouTube account, and a YouTube channel. If you don’t already have them, make them.
  2. Sign in to your channel at www.youtube.com in chrome (can’t use firefox!).
  3. In the top right, click on your account icon.
  4. Click on YouTube Studio (beta).
  5. One the left side bar click on Creator Studio Classic.
  6. Once in the studio, click on Live Streaming in the left side bar.
  7. Click on Events (a subsection of Live Streaming).
  8. In the top right of the screen click on + New live event.
  9. This opens a section where you can name it and choose settings.
  10. Probably want to choose private.
  11. Select Quick (using Google Hangouts On Air) in the Type section.
  12. Once you have filled everything in that you need to click Go live now (scheduling is an option).
  13. Check the audio settings in the bar at the top (gear icon). You may wish to stay with voice setting.
  14. Add other people with the bar at the top (person symbol with a +).
  15. Click the control panel icon in the side bar to adjust everyone’s volumes individually.
  16. When ready click the Go Live button in the bottom center and wait for the yellow live icon to appear in the top right.
  17. When done click End Broadcast. You can stay and chat in the room for a bit after.
  18. When done chatting hit the red hang up icon in the top middle bar and it will upload (be sure it is done process before checking it out).

In the future I will add a section on finding the video of your podcast and converting it to a wav file.

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Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

 

I created this reference because it is hard to get step-by-step instructions for getting audio transcripts off YouTube. Articles like “Dirty, Fast, and Free Audio Transcription with YouTube” by Andy Baio give some great examples of timing and how long the automatic transcription process takes, but don’t cover the step-by-step way to get those transcripts.

Be aware that, as with any type of automatic transcription, the transcripts that YouTube creates have a lot of errors in them, so it is important for a person to go through and correct them. YouTube transcripts are useful because they reduce the amount of work that it takes to make a transcript. In addition, the YouTube transcript editor can make the process of transcribing faster.

Because YouTube is a video site, there are a significant number of steps involved in getting the automatic transcript. If you are looking for the easiest way to get an automatically generated transcript for a podcast, I’d suggest trying Otter.ai first. However if you already use YouTube or you want to make your podcasts available on YouTube, this is a great way of doing both.

 

The Basics

In order to use this method for creating transcripts you will need a YouTube channel. If you don’t have one, here is what you need to know.

  1. First you need a YouTube account. If you don’t already have one, you can follow the instructions in “Create an Account on YouTube.” Note that a Google account is required for creating a YouTube account.
  2. Once you have a YouTube account, you can follow the instructions in “Create a New Channel.”

 

Turning an Audio File into a Video File and Uploading It with TunesToTube

In order to get a podcast onto YouTube it must be a video. There are many ways to turn an audio file into a video file. This procedure uses the free and easy to use TunesToTube service. This service also automatically uploads the video file to YouTube.

  1. Go to TunesToTube.
  2. Click on Sign in with Google and sign in with the Google account that is connected to your YouTube channel. (You may need to click “Allow” to allow TunesToTube to have access to your Google account.)
  3. You should now be at the TuneToTube upload page. Click on the blue Upload files button and select the mp3 you want to upload (up to 50MB).
  4. Click on the blue Upload files button a second time to upload an image (1280x720px is full screen).
    • If you don’t have an image, scroll down to find the “OR Generate the background Image using the Title:” section in the bottom left of the screen (this may be hidden from view until you scroll down).
    • Alternatively, you can find a great royalty free stock photo at pixabay to use with your audio.
  5. A title will be automatically generated. If you want to, you can alter the title or add a description and tags (located in the middle of the screen). The description and tags aren’t necessary if all you want is the transcript.
  6. If you do not want this video to be made public, be sure to click on the blue Private button located in the middle section.
  7. Once the files are uploaded, click on the blue Create video button located on the right side of the screen.
  8. A processing screen will come up. Once the video is created it will say, “Processing Complete.”
  9. You are now ready to move on to the “Getting a Transcript from a YouTube Video” section of this article. (Skip the “Uploading Video Files to YouTube” section, as you have already done this.)

Continue Reading »

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I will be leading a workshop about “Making RPG Podcasts Accessible” on January 20th at PodCon2 in Seattle. For those who can’t attend this workshop in-person, it will be in the remote attendance feed for PodCon2. As an accessibility feature, I have created reference document that goes over all of the topics covered in the workshop, which you can find on the Writing Alchemy website.

Workshop Description: In the US one in four adults has a disability. This means that there are a lot of disabled people in the RPG podcast community, however physical, social, and game play barriers often prevent the full inclusion of disabled participants and audience members. This workshop is about identifying common barriers and addressing them. We will discuss areas to be aware of, accessibility tools, strategies for handling pitfalls, and ways to improve representation of disabled people.

Also, on Tuesday you can check out my interview with Tess on the I Am Hear podcast where we talk about disability, accessibility, my first experiences with role-playing games, and the way I’m designing my role-playing game, Magic Goes Awry, around the core principle of accessibility.

For more details on either of these things, check out my full announcement on the Writing Alchemy podcast feed, or read the transcript.

Photograph of a silver and black desktop microphone sitting on a white surface with its black cord trailing off to the left.

Photograph of a silver and black desktop microphone sitting on a white surface with its black cord trailing off to the left.

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Black and white clip art depiction of audio being turned into a transcript.

Black and white clip art depiction of audio being turned into a transcript. On the left, the sound is depicted by a pair of headphones with an audio wave going between the two ears pads. A simple black arrow goes from left to right. On the right, the transcript is represented by a stylized typed document.

 

In order to make these transcripts as accessible as possible, each one is produced in four formats: as an online post for access convenience, in a word document with a low vision friendly font (Veranda), in a pdf with a dyslexia friendly font (OpenDyslexic), and a low contrast blue on black pdf as an access option for people with migraines (Veranda).

 

Writing Alchemy Announcement – “Making RPG Podcasts Accessible” at PodCon2

[*Happy, bouncy, electronic music plays and then fades out.]

Fay Onyx: Hello everyone! I’m here because there is an announcement that I’m really excited to share with all of you! I will be leading a workshop entitled “Making RPG Podcasts Accessible” on January twentieth at PodCon2 in Seattle. If you will be attending PodCon2 in-person, I’d love to meet you at my workshop.

Here is the workshop description: In the US one in four adults has a disability. This means that there are a lot of disabled people in the RPG podcast community, however physical, social, and game play barriers often prevent the full inclusion of disabled participants and audience members. This workshop is about identifying common barriers and addressing them. We will discuss areas to be aware of, accessibility tools, strategies for handling pitfalls, and ways to improve representation of disabled people.

For those who can’t attend in-person, my workshop will also be in the remote attendance feed. Remote attendance costs forty dollars. PodCon2 does offer scholarships, but they seem to be focused around physical attendance and I’m not sure how many are left at this point. I will, however, put a link to the scholarship application page in the show notes, because that is definitely worth checking out. Continue Reading »

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Zombies are coming toward our three heroes. Join them in the eighteenth game episode of Unfamiliar Heroes as they struggle to get to the shelter of the Inn on the Bridge!

Willa the gecko lizardperson rogue, Tarragon the orc bard, and D’Zân the weredragon druid are participating in The Owlbear Reintroduction Program, a program that is reestablishing owlbears in areas where the owlbear populations have been previously wiped out. Of course, this is not as simple as it sounds, because owlbears are large, ferocious, magical predators. Throw in a group of skilled poachers determined to steal owlbear eggs and things are bound to get interesting. This improvised, tabletop adventure was created with the Magic Goes Awry role-playing system!

I so excited to get Episode 37 up just in time for the new year. This episode has been a long time in the making. One benefit of that longer process is the many sound effects which have been used to enhance the storytelling. I hope you enjoy it!

Listen now!

This illustration depicts three characters, each from a different genre of story, and each with a disability. On the left is a black gnome archer riding in a chariot pulled by a large brown dog. The chariot has a chair in it so that they can sit instead of stand. In the middle is a Latina woman manipulating a tech device on her wrist as she begins to go invisible. She is wearing an air filtering mask of the type that people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity sometimes wear. On the right is a white muscular superhero wearing a very gay, blue superhero outfit. He has lightning crackling between his two hands, which are shaped atypically. This beautiful work of art was created the amazing Rose Adare!

This illustration depicts three characters, each from a different genre of story, and each with a disability. On the left is a black gnome archer riding in a chariot pulled by a large brown dog. The chariot has a chair in it so that they can sit instead of stand. In the middle is a Latina woman manipulating a tech device on her wrist as she begins to go invisible. She is wearing an air filtering mask of the type that people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity sometimes wear. On the right is a white muscular superhero wearing a very gay, blue superhero outfit. He has lightning crackling between his two hands, which are shaped atypically. This beautiful work of art was created the amazing Rose Adare!

Unfamiliar Heroes is a podcast series where people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or divergent minds use tabletop role-playing games to together create stories that center disabled, sick, and mentally divergent characters. In its core values this project centers the experiences of people living at the intersections of oppression. Unfamiliar Heroes is part of the Writing Alchemy Podcast.

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Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

 

Why Content Warnings Are Important

The purpose of a content warning is to warn audience members about types content in the episode that are unusual for the show which they may find harmful or disturbing.

Delving suddenly into things like body horror, gore, disturbing violence, bereavement, intense depictions of oppression, abuse, sexual assault, sexualized violence, suicide, drug use, and explicit sexuality can bring up painful personal struggles and trauma from people’s lives.

Content warnings help build trust with audience members by giving them the tools they need to make effective choices about when and how they expose themselves to content which personally impacts them.

Keep in mind that content warnings don’t necessary mean that people aren’t going to listen. It might just mean that a listener with insomnia chooses to listen to an episode with intense content on their way to work rather than when they are trying to calm down for bed.

Note that different communities favor the term “content warning” and others favor “trigger warning.” Both are equally valid. I personally prefer the term “content warning” because I feel that it is inclusive of a wider range of experiences, so that is what I’ve used here.

 

How to Do Content Warnings

For podcasts, content warnings are usually given in the introductory portion of the podcast, before the main content starts. In addition, it is often good to place them in the episode description text.

Typically content warnings give an overview for the type of content without going into much detail. A content warning for disturbing violence might go something like, “Please note that this episode contains depictions of violence that some people may find disturbing.” It can also be helpful to let people know what portion of the episode to skip if needed. For example, “If you want to avoid this content, skip the second half of the episode.”

Content warnings need to be specific enough that audience members can figure out whether the content of this episode is likely to impact them and make effective decisions about how they want to engage with that content. At the same time, the content warning needs to be broad enough that it doesn’t strongly evoke the disturbing content itself. This also helps prevent the content warning from becoming a significant spoiler for the show. The ideal level of specificity depends on what is normal for a particular podcast series. For example, a content warning of “Violence” would be specific enough for a humorous high school drama, but wouldn’t be specific enough for a Dungeons and Dragons podcast that has violence in most of its episodes.

Here are three examples of well done content warnings: Episode 2.6 of The Far Meridian, Episode 44 of Rusty Quill Gaming, and Episode 5 of Middle: Below. These examples show how content warnings can be adjusted to fit the aesthetic of a particular show while still taking the content warning itself seriously and treating the people who benefit from it respectfully.

For those with audience members that are particularly sensitive to spoilers or those situations where the content warnings are significant spoilers, there are several options. You can simply start the content warning with a spoiler warning (another type of content warning). For example, “I’m about to give a content warning for this episode which contains mild spoilers. If you would like to avoid this, you can skip forward one minute.” However, if this is an ongoing concern for your podcast, you could choose to put the content warning at the bottom of the show notes with a statement like, “Content warnings for this episode are listed at the end of this show notes page,” written somewhere near the top of the show notes. The Penumbra Podcast does this very effectively (I believe that their full show notes can only be viewed on podcast apps), though I would recommend stating somewhere in the show audio that content warnings can be found in the show notes.

 

Conclusion

I’m going to end on the reminder that content warnings are about empowering audience members with the knowledge they need to make healthy decisions about how they engage with podcast content. This helps ensure that each time someone listens to a podcast episode it is a positive experience. And isn’t this what we all want our podcasts to be, a consistently positive experience for all of our listeners?

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Bonus Cast #5

This Bonus Cast is about the new podcast transcripts and ways I’m trying to make them accessible. The transcript of this bonus cast can be found here.

I am working on the next podcast episode, but in the meantime I wanted to share this announcement. It is so exciting to have some transcripts up online!

Photograph of a silver and black desktop microphone sitting on a white surface with its black cord trailing off to the left.

Photograph of a silver and black desktop microphone sitting on a white surface with its black cord trailing off to the left.

Bonus casts are something that I want to be doing from time to time. This will be a great way for me to share some interesting thoughts, behind the scenes tidbits, and fun pieces of world building. If you have any questions or topic ideas, please send them my way. I’d love to hear from you!

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