By Maya Chupkov (Proud Stutter)
As the podcast industry continues to grow at an exponential rate, the industry has a responsibility to ensure we include verbally diverse voices. This session will delve into how the podcasting industry can be more inclusive of people with speech differences. Proud Stutter host and creator Maya Chupkov will delve into how podcasting can help shift the narrative around stuttering and disabled voices. She will also be talking about how she is using podcasting to advocate and empower the stuttering community worldwide, and how you can too.
How Can The Podcasting Industry and Creators Be An Ally For People Who Stutter?
Tip #1: Create an inclusive environment
Whether you are a podcast host, producer, platform, or company, we can all improve when it comes to creating safer spaces for people with speech disabilities. Similar to disclosing pronouns in our intros, we should also incorporate accessibility needs. Asking people at the beginning of meetings if they have any accessibility needs should be a best practice, whether it is during a team meeting, a podcast interview, or a client meeting. If you are in charge of preparing for an interview, include questions like “Do you have any access needs for our interview?
How can I make the interview as accessible as possible for you?” You can also reframe this question in different situations, including at the beginning of a collaboration. Whether someone might be “out” about their disability or not, at the beginning of a working relationship, ask the question, “Do you have any accessibility needs?”
Whenever I am in a new space and getting introduced to new people, these accessibility questions allow me to comfortably tell people I have a stutter and that sometimes it takes longer for me to say what I want to say. My dream scenario is that every space makes this question routine - whether it is beginning an interview, doing a brainstorm with new people, or any scenario.
DOs: Be flexible when it comes to accessibility needs.
DONTs: Never assume what a person needs. It’s all about the attitude around accessibility.
DOs: Give people as much time as they need to get their words out.
DONTs: Do not use the overcoming frame. It can be harmful because, speaking from my experience with a stutter, it’s not something that has a cure and I will never be able to overcome it. People who stutter should be empowered to speak however is most comfortable for them — even if that speaking style contains pauses, repetitions, and blocks.
Tip #2: Always continue to learn
Understanding the diversity of the disability experience is a continuous learning journey. Accessibility is not as simple as checking a box. There are so many nuances and things to learn because so many of our experiences are based on both our environment and how our bodies operate.
Stuttering is an extremely misunderstood disability. There are hardly any representative examples of the stuttering experience in books, TV, film, and the media. Usually, depictions in these mediums miss the mark of my experience entirely and mostly feature a man’s perspective.
These harmful depictions in popular culture are a big reason I started Proud Stutter. I am sick and tired of hiding my voice just because people may not understand it. I’m finally taking matters into my own hands by providing a platform for the stuttering community so we can claim our identities more freely and start to shift the narrative.
Tip #3: Have people who are verbally diverse on your show
I rarely hear someone with a speech impediment on podcasts. One of the few times I’ve heard people with speech differences was on NPR LifeKit. I admire the way the show's producers go out of their way to be more inclusive of people with different disabilities and backgrounds. Meghan Keane and Sylvia Douglis really walk the walk when it comes to truly being inclusive. LifeKit was one of the first podcasts I’ve ever listened to, and it flipped my world upside down listening to experts with speech disabilities. What’s even better is the topic wasn’t even about their disability; they were talking as if their speech difference wasn’t a big deal. This is extremely important in normalizing and de-stigmatizing.
DONTs: Do not use the lingo “good talker.” The term in radio and podcasting perpetuates the exclusion of marginalized voices. Whether you have a heavy accent or a speech impediment, all voices deserve to be heard.
Tip #4: Be careful how you market your software
There are many tech companies out there that have features around ranking and measuring audio quality. However, they may not know their marketing behaviors, and how they measure good quality audio can be extremely ableist.
For example, stuttering and filler words should not impact the quality of the scoring. Many stutterers use filler words and pause in their speech to try to hide their stutter.
DONTs: Be careful how you name your products and create copy for your website. CleanVoice, a podcast software company, is an extremely offensive name because it indicates that your voice is not clean if it includes a stutter. On its home page it says, “Although your content may be great if the listening experience is poor, people are likely to tune out. We analyze various factors like stuttering to determine a score.” My question for Cleanvoice is: Will Proud Stutter get negative points because I include people who stutter?
DO: We need to do better as an industry about how we critique sound and sound quality. I work extra hard to make my own audio sound listenable but that doesn’t mean I have to edit out my guests who stutter. Part of what makes them unique is their stutter.
Tip #5: Create affordable, easy-to-use transcription tools and editing best practices
Editing can be a powerful way to normalize speech differences. Sometimes it's okay to leave a block or a stutter in your edits, especially if that person identifies as someone with a speech impediment.
DO: When writing transcripts for an episode, consider asking the person in the episode: “How would you like your speech represented? Would you like me to notate your stuttering explicitly?” I was asked this for the first time and I felt more comfortable during the interview.
DO: Create free transcription software that has easy integration for nonprofit and independent podcasts.
You can find Maya's podcast here:
and her website for more information: