After doing some research on how the disabled access the internet using several different methods and going over the Yahoo Style Guide, I have come to a couple of conclusions that may help the people writing as much as the folks reading it. Take for example a person with a vision impairment. If they are someone that prefers to use a screen reader to access articles and various bits of information, the experience of listening to an article that you wrote may be similar to hearing a radio talk show. The only exception of course is that screen readers tend to have a bit of a robotic quality to them. If you’ve ever used a text to speech program you will understand this right away. The voice that is talking out the information to the individual is very cold and monotone; and does not particularly impart any emotion if that was the intention. Imagine Charlie Brown’s teacher reading you something.
But whether a person you are trying to get to read your article has a disability or not, it is hopefully your goal to get them engaged in some fashion. But when someone is given the challenge of either not being able to read or to have to deal with the tedium of having things read to them in the same monotone voice; you are going to have to go the extra mile to get them into what you were trying to say. And in my opinion, nothing works better than talking to them.
By that, I mean that every time you write an article, whether it be about humor, computer repair or a cooking recipe, take that article and record an audio reading of it. That way, when someone wants to read one of your articles that cannot see to read so well; they can get the full experience of getting the information you are trying to put out there and even a little more of the emotion that you were trying to convey. Doing this is extremely simple. In fact, you probably have most of the tools to do this within arm’s reach of you right now. All you really need are a microphone and some kind of audio editing software. There are a million quality audio editors out there, so take your pick on which one suits your own preferences.
First thing when it comes to recording something like this is you want to make sure it is as quiet as can be. People tend to look for a clean, professional style in what they read and audio is no exception. Unless your article is about dogs, you might want to let Rex outside for a few. Next, if your article is a particularly long one, try spacing the whole recording into recording a paragraph or two at a time. This will lessen your own frustration if you have to do multiple takes of a section due to a flub of a line. Every time you record one of the sections make sure to label them in the order that they will appear in the finished product. Once you have completed the reading, simply clip the sections together and save them as a file. Then all you have to do is post it and you are finished.
When writing this, I have come to a conclusion on a few Do’s and Don’ts. Before I go into them I would like to say that making an audio recording is fairly simple in itself, and most audio editing programs have self contained tutorials. One I personally recommend is Multiquence. Has an extremely user friendly interface and takes little if any time to learn. Now, the Do’s and Don’ts.
DO…speak in a clear voice. People like to understand what they are hearing. Take this as if you are giving a speech to a group of people, albeit one person at a time.
DON’T…get too overly dramatic with what you are reading. Unless it’s warranted, there is no need to make your recording sound like a night at a dinner theater.
DO…Make the final recorded product high quality that can be heard with no effort.
DON’T…Make it so high quality that it takes too long to download. A digital voice recording typically does not need that high a sound quality to be heard properly. That and most sites have restrictions on the file size of your audio. So be judicious in how high the sound quality is.
DO…Make the opening of your piece as interesting as you possibly can. Get to the point quickly. If not interested, people will tend to read or listen to the first few lines of something and then move on.
DON’T…Use sound effects. Like I said above, people only give a short period of time to something before they make a decision on whether to continue listening or not. And if you are taking up that valuable time with a barrage of sound effects or stock music; you may have lost them before the first word is spoken.
DO…provide a link to your audio recording of the piece in the actual print article itself.
So there you have it, a quick guide to making articles just a little bit more accessible. And if it is what you are going after, a little more entertaining as well. By the way, an audio recording of this will be available shortly by accessing the audio recordings section in my list of published articles.