Shade’s Lou Mensah calls for greater disability awareness in podcasting

More needs to be done to take into account hidden and physical disabilities, she says

Lou Mensah, host of award-winning arts and culture podcast Shade, has called for greater disability awareness within the podcast industry, saying that while podcasting is among the most accessible mediums for people with disabilities, more still needs to be done. 

On the latest episode of PodPod, Mensah spoke about her independently-made podcast Shade, which she launched in 2019 as a space to hold conversations with other artists about representation in the creative industry. 

During the episode, Mensah was also open about the fact that she has a disability that leaves her immunocompromised and how podcasting was able to act as an accessible medium for her to be engaged in the art space. 

“I was really craving to connect and network and communicate with like-minded people who worked in the arts, who otherwise I wouldn't be able to access,” said Mensah. “...I'm invited to podcast shows and panel talks and all of those things but I can't access those because of my disability…especially through Covid.” 

“I thought that podcasting was the perfect medium because you can really set up for very little money, you can have a mic or not a mic … and just have your laptop or even your phone,” she added. “So I didn't have to go to a studio, which I couldn't afford and I wasn't able to go to, I could do it around my other commitments looking after my daughter, and it could be immediate.”

Mensah also spoke about how the podcasting industry should cater just as much to people with hidden disabilities as they do in providing access for people with visible disabilities. These individuals often face challenges including financial difficulties due to not being able to work full-time, not being able to mix with people during events if they’re immunocompromised, and not having the energy to work to the same extent as someone who is able-bodied. 

“For some people with disabilities as well, there's an energy component to it, so travelling to, preparing for the podcast, the pre-production, then the actual recording, all of that is very difficult for people that have disabilities that affect their energy levels,” said Mensah. “So people won't be aware when they look at me or when they meet me. I can be as effervescent as anybody else, but it may perhaps take me a week to recover.” 

In series five of the Shade podcast, titled ‘Interludes’, Mensah was able to share the workload on her podcast by collaborating with sound designer Axel Kacoutié who featured on a previous episode of PodPodtalking about his work on Spotify’s music analysis podcast Decode.