NPR Highlights Need for Captions on Zoom for People with Hearing Loss

I am proud to take my advocacy for free ASR captions for people with hearing loss on Zoom to the airwaves — and just in time for virtual holiday dinners. On November 23, 2020, I was interviewed on Here & Now, National Public Radio (NPR)’s midday news program with Peter O’Dowd. NPR distributes Here & Now to over 450 stations in the United States, with an estimated 4.5 million weekly listeners. I hope Zoom was listening! 

Listen to the interview here. Thank you to NPR for also making a full transcript available.

To help with our advocacy, please sign and share the petition: Provide Free Captions for People with Hearing Loss on Video Conferencing Platforms.

Captions Needed for People with Hearing Loss on Zoom Calls

In the interview, I discuss the challenges people with hearing loss have faced during the pandemic. Face masks have taken away our speechreading super-power, making in-person conversations difficult. Video conferencing calls are a great way to stay connected with friends and family but for people with hearing loss, it is not as easy as it sounds. While video calls aid with lipreading, it is still often difficult to follow a conversation.

Poor audio quality and weak internet connections can create a mismatch between lip movements and sound, especially if discussions involve more than one person. Captions could change all that, but for Zoom, the most popular video conferencing platform, caption capabilities are hidden behind a paywall, making them difficult for most people with hearing loss to access. This needs to change. 

Captions are Our Ramps

In the interview I state: “You would never build a building, include ramps but then ask people in wheelchairs to pay to use them. The same holds for people with hearing loss. Captions are our ramps. Why should we have to pay to use the feature we require for equal access?”

A big thank you to NPR for raising awareness about this important issue!

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44 thoughts on “NPR Highlights Need for Captions on Zoom for People with Hearing Loss

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you Sally! And welcome!

  1. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Wish we can enter a dialogue with Zoom reps about this problem. Is it a money issue for them? Logistics? Thanks, Shari! I’d love to be able to see if Zoom captioning would allow me to work again.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Zoom says it is an issue of server capacity, but that does not ring true to me. Feel free to email Zoom’s accessibility contact at alex.mooc@zoom.us. Thanks for joining in the advocacy.

  2. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    I will absolutely do this. Any template for wording I should use?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Feel free to borrow language from this article or the NPR write up. Thanks for your advocacy!

  3. It’s not only Zoom calling that needs captioning. The whole system for accessibility for the hearing impaired has been just as much based on our ability to lip read. I can’t hear the cashier in the supermarket, can’t hear my name being called in a doctor’s office, can’t use Live Transcribe in the doctor unless he has Wifi. It’s as if someone put stones on a wheelchair ramp or misspelled the braille in an elevator. But it’s not obvious to anyone but ourselves. We are just not providing adequate accessibility to the hearing impaired.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Very true. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Well said. Last week I had the experience of a postal worker at the PO where I was trying to send packages tell me to shut off my transcribing–I suppose she didn’t want to be recorded! She kept talking to me and told her she can say anything she wants but I can’t hear her. I went home and sent a letter to the PO General in DC and the local PO where I had the issue. If if I don’t ever hear back, it was important to do.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  5. I’m currently struggling about Zoom with my 5-member HOA board of directors. We meet via Zoom these days. The talking moves so quickly, with folks talking on top of one another, and virtually no oversight by the president, that I, being HOH, have a very hard time following what is said. After a 2-hour meeting, I am exhausted. Yes, captions would be great, but a helpful first step would be simply practicing the courtesies of speaking more slowly and one at a time! Zoom is definitely problematic for those of us with hearing loss!
    Thanks for doing your part to publicize the problem, Shari!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

  6. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    An observation that comes to my mind is that the ADA doesn’t seem to be advocating for us as much as people with other disabilities. I can be completely off base on this since I don’t know the details of their work but I don’t hear about the ADA doing much in this area. Given the pandemic one would think it would be a priority on their part.

  7. Interesting comment but I’m not sure that’s their job. I make complaints to them when I think it merits it, but this new world that we’re living in with technology has changed the rules completely. I follow a chef on FB – he is wonderful and puts short cooking videos on FB every day. However there is no captioning – I have raised it with them multiple times but their comment is that it’s too expensive for a small foundation to do. The rules originally created for captioning basically say if something is going to be aired on TV, it must have captioning. That leaves out many ways we are currently getting information and leaves us with no place to turn. So Zoom is just a small part of the world we are missing out on. The chef I’m speaking of has now created a foundation and is selling membership to videos – and they are not captioned either.

  8. Hi I heard this on NPR and I am now also a subscriber. Great Information!!! I have hearing issues and wear hearing aids to assist. But I thought one point was overlooked. The captioning also helps tremendously with being able to better understand various accents. I work with people from all over the world and with the captioning functionality it makes it sooooo much easier to understand a difficult accent. While my hearing stream the audio it’s still very difficult sometimes to hear on top of end user audio quality issues across the world, internet connection variations, and headset functionality. Thanks so much for talking about this topic as it’s been sorely neglected.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great point. Thank you for adding to the discussion. And welcome to the community!

  9. Thank you for raising awareness on this issue!

    My company’s been building a more affordable solution for captioning Zoom calls (www.spf.io)…we recently had one school district choose us over the Otter.ai approach because they had to pay per teacher to accommodate one Deaf student while we offered it based on usage/time.

    It’s hard to make this technology completely free unless you’re a Fortune 500 company drawing revenue from other lines of business, but I’m hoping with ongoing innovation we can put it within reach of everyday Zoom users!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for the work you are doing but I don’t think we should have to pay for accessibility. Captions are our ramps.

      1. Yes, we focus on enabling organizations to make their events, meetings and experiences accessible. I agree that the Deaf and people with hearing loss should not have to pay for accessibility!

      2. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
        Shari Eberts says:

        Thanks for clarifying.

  10. More basic question
    I love in a Sr community
    Am 96 and been wearing hearing aids for 10 years
    So much interaction is at meals…..NOISY all around
    What app. might help for distances just at table for four
    Charlotte

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Perhaps a speech to text app like Otter or Live Transcribe would help. Or an App like Chatable or Ear Machine that amplifies voices. Thanks for the question.

  11. Susan Berger reflects the attitude of too many of us when she says the ADA “doesn’t seem to be advocating for us.”

    Susan, the ADA is one of several laws under which we have certain rights to accessibility. But they don’t advocate. THAT’S YOUR JOB AND MINE.

    From your post about the terrible way you were treated at a Post Office, I gather you are not aware that the US Access Board oversees compliance with ADA and other laws by federal agencies – including the USPS, You can and should file a complaint online. The Dept. of Justice has a similar online complaint intake portal for Title II and Title III (state and local government entities and private entities).

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It would be wonderful if the ADA rules and regulations were implemented more regularly, but when they are not, it is up to us to point that out and advocate for change. Thanks for sharing the information.

  12. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Firstly, my comment left open the possibility that I was off base in my observation. Secondly, that I have an “attitude” expecting the ADA to advocate isn’t accurate. I’m not abdicating my “job” to advocate. I still say there is room for the ADA to do more whatever that would be. Thank you for pointing out the info on the US Access Board. I will look into this in addition to the letters I’ve written.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for being a great advocate Susan, for yourself and for all of us.

  13. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thanks, Shari. You, for sure, have been a wonderful advocate, educator and change-maker these past few years. I’m hoping any push from us, whether large or small, will help make inroads which could ultimately make our lives easier than they are now. Wishing you and everyone here a healthy, happy Thanksgiving during this most unusual year.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you Susan! Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Another problem with captions is that they must be provided by the host. I use Otter on my iPad, holding it below the monitor since I can’t control whether the host provides captions. I attended a meeting yesterday that was captioned by Rev, which has been greatly improved since the last time I used it. The best feature was the moveable captions. They could be dragged to a spot right under each speaker’s mouth. This avoided the back and forth of watching the lips but moving your eyes to the captions when you miss a phrase, and thus miss the speaker’s next words.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing what works for you.

  15. bluereadergal – This blog will be about books. Who does not like books? I have always loved books. Reading allows you to travel to whole new worlds. Everyone should read. I will cover whatever books captures my attention and share it with the world. Books, stories, and libraries are amazing!
    bluereadergal says:

    I had the captions on during a parent teacher conference and it was helpful for me!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Wonderful! Thanks for your comment.

  16. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Could you clarify which captioning you used on Zoom that you are referring to? Thanks!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for your advocacy.

  17. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    I wrote as well but as of now, there’s been no response.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for trying Susan.

  18. I took a live course, Zoom for Education, provided by Zoom. It had automated captions using Otter. I asked the instructor about the captions and was told it is provided now for education accounts (K -12), will be provided for higher education by the end of the year. When asked about regular accounts she said “next year”. I didn’t get the chance to ask about the free accounts. So just FYI.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good news, but this is a very slow timetable in my opinion. The pandemic is when this feature is needed most. Thank you for sharing the update.

  19. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thanks. The education accounts are paid accounts through an educational institution, correct?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I believe so.

  20. Nilsa – I write to heal myself and to spread awareness about gender and diversity issues. I believe everyone has a story and our stories help us connect and understand each other.
    Nilsa says:

    Thank you so much for your advocacy. I’m struggling at my college because there’s no captioning.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is awful. Under the ADA in the US, you should be able to request accommodations in educational settings. Here is a link to information about this from HLAA. I hope it is helpful. https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-loss-time-of-coronavirus/

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