Hey Zoom! Where is Universal Live Transcript?

I recently attended a Zoom webinar hosted by my daughter’s school. I was excited because accommodations were prominently featured on the invite. “If you would like to request accommodation for this meeting, please email such and such.” So I did. Within a day, someone from the planning office reached out to find out what I needed. A brief email exchange confirmed the webinar would include Zoom’s Live Transcript auto-captions. Great! That was easy. 

Or so I thought. The evening of the webinar, the captions were not available and the ability to request them real-time had not been enabled. Disappointed, I asked about the captions in the Q&A box. The reply was disheartening: “Our CART (communication access real time translation) operator cancelled at the last minute and it was too late to turn on Zoom’s Live Transcript. We will provide a transcript after the meeting.”

Heavy sigh.

What started off as a stellar accessibility experience had turned sour. I wanted to participate in the moment with the other new parents in real time—not read about it after the fact. A post-game transcript is just not good enough.

Zoom’s Auto-Captions Still Not Universal

Situations like this happen to people with hearing loss on a regular basis. The host forgets to turn on Live Transcript or isn’t aware that it exists. It is incredibly frustrating.

Kudos to Zoom for making its high-quality auto-captions available for all accounts, including free accounts, but it is still only available if the meeting host enables this feature ahead of time. From Zoom’s news release:

It’s important to us that everyone can successfully connect, communicate, and participate using Zoom. Without the proper accessibility tools, people with disabilities face tremendous barriers when using video communication solutions.

That’s why we are focused on building out a platform that is accessible to everyone, and features such as auto-generated captions are an important part of that mission.

While Zoom has made progress in making their platform more accessible, it does not yet provide the equal access it seeks. True equal access means Live Transcript would be available for all participants at all meetings/webinars without host support.

How to Enact Zoom’s Auto-Captions

Zoom does not make it easy for hosts to enable auto-captions. Currently it is a two-step process—one at the account level and then a second at the meeting level. User-enabled auto-captioning would be much simpler for everyone.

Readers, are you having trouble with access to auto-captions on Zoom?

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41 thoughts on “Hey Zoom! Where is Universal Live Transcript?

  1. Agree with you 100%. MS Teams has user-enabled captioning as a standard feature of their platform. It works great. Zoom needs to add this feature ASAP.

    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 wish they would. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  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:

    Shari, once again thank you for posting about something so relevant. With every Zoom I’m interested in attending I have to chase down someone who can address the CC issue. Often people are very willing but not as often successfully implementing. I’d very much like to know why in addition to Zoom having a problem creating user-enabled auto-captioning is reluctant to discuss. Though it’s not always accurate, it’s the least they can 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:

      Great question. I’m not sure why it has to be such a convoluted process. Thank you for continuing to advocate on this issue.

    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 happens many times. We must remind and remind again. Thanks for your comment.

  3. What’s worse is when an audiologist has a Zoom event and doesn’t enable captions! I mentioned it during the first meeting and was told he had been too busy to figure out how to use the feature (he had a paid account). Next meeting was not captioned. I ended up leaving.

    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 disappointing! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. Thank you for staying on top of this issue. I’ve promoted petitions relating to Zoom captioning in the past, but as you (and other commenters) have noted, the issues persist more than a year and a half into the pandemic, when Zoom usage skyrocketed. It’s a constant concern for those of us who rely on it on a regular basis. And what about Microsoft Teams, Webex, and other videoconference platforms? Not sure if/how captioning works on those, so I always try to request Zoom if given a choice.

    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:

      Google Meet has universal captioning. While Zoom has made progress — Live Transcript is now free for all accounts — the host must still enable it which can make it challenging. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Shari, I have heard that a lot of people with free Zoom accounts have been having a problem with turning on the captions (aka Live Transcript) and that Zoom has not been helpful. I’m in a weekly meeting where the host has with due diligence been trying to turn on the captions repeatedly but without success, and she has a paid account, After the excitement of Zoom’s announcement that they would supply captions on all accounts, this is very frustrating and disheartening.

    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 doesn’t make the process easy. The setting must be enabled at the main account level as well as any group or individual user level. It can be confusing to find the person at an organization with the proper access. Thank you for continuing the conversation.

  6. I’ve been on zoom several times and never knew this feature of captions even existed. Thanks for enlightening me although from the comments I’m reading, its far from perfect. I believe it will get better.

    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:

      Yes, when it is enabled by the host, it is incredibly helpful. Be sure to request it in advance so the host can enable it. Thank you for your comment.

  7. Having spent over an hour on a live chat with a Zoom person yesterday on this very subject, I find this timely. I have a paid Zoom account, and have hosted several meetings. Closed captioning/live transcript is enabled on my account. And for some time it worked as intended, namely that it permitted the user at a Zoom meeting to easily turn on the captions. But one day last week that was not the case, which was the reason for my lengthy chat. It turns out that my Zoom account setting enabling CC was not locked, and somehow the setting changed. I see nothing in the account settings about locking CC (or for that matter any other features that a host may wish to use routinely at all meetings). So bottom line, maybe my problem is resolved, maybe not. I’m not at all confident. Zoom does not make it easy.

    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:

      How strange. It should be easier! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  8. Katherine Bouton – New York – Katherine Bouton is the author of "Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss." (2018) available at Amazon.com in paperback or ebook. It updates and amplifies the now-out-of-print "Living Better with Hearing Loss." Her first book, "Shouting Won't Help," tells the story of her hearing loss and her bumpy and sometimes hilarious journey to acceptance. She is a former editor at and contributor to The New York Times. She served for seven years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She is immediate past President of the New York City Chapter of HLAA. Her blog can be found at katherinebouton.com. She has had idiopathic progressive bilateral hearing loss since she was 30.
    Katherine Bouton says:

    Thank you Shari for keeping at this. And thank you also for those directions:

    “Zoom does not make it easy for hosts to enable auto-captions. Currently it is a two-step process—one at the account level and then a second at the meeting level. User-enabled auto-captioning would be much simpler for everyone.”

    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 your advocacy.

  9. I was invited as the President of the county Commission on Disabilities to be on a steering committee of the County Emergency Services Office, They were redoing the 5 year emergency plan and all involved parties met on Zoom, I have a paid account enabled for closed captions. In the first meeting they had no caption despite my my request for them. I stopped the leader and asked to be made co-host so I could enable captions. They complied. I started the captioning and sent the leader an email describing how to add caption. There was no problems after that.

    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 am so glad it is working well for you. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  10. I wanted to share another issue I have run across twice. If you signed up for a Zoom business account at the beginning of the pandemic, you had to sign a Business Association Agreement (BAA) with them. That BAA did not include verbiage for Live Transcripts. So after a lot of run around and the Zoom Customer Support people not being able to explain to me why the button to turn on “Allow live transcription service to transcribe meeting automatically” was not even showing up. I had to contact my Zoom account rep and sign a new BAA. Once that was in place, the button showed up and I could turn the feature on for our organization. I have since had to explain this to other organizations as I advocate for my clients.

    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:

      Wow! I hadn’t heard about that one. It should be so much easier! Thank you for sharing this important detail.

  11. I use Zoom’s auto-transcription A LOT! It really makes my life easier. But it’s like Zoom is keeping it a big secret. When I ask for it, 90% of the time I have to explain that Zoom provides it (at no added expense to the hosts) and then I have to walk them through enabling it and do a test run. It usually takes at least as long as the meeting I want to attend. I begin to feel like Zoom should be paying me a commission for doing their training for them. 🙂

    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 feel the same way. It would be much easier if the user could just activate the captions themselves. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  12. To bring up related issue: Almost 2 years into Life-With-Zoom I have yet to have a captioned or transcribed tele-medical visit. This is so dangerous. Ironically the last one was me trying to get information on the ototoxicity of a series of drugs my endocrinologist is recommending. It was impossible. I paid for the appointment and couldn’t understand a sentence of it. My hearing loss probably won’t kill me, but the absence of captioning on tele-medical appointments may do me in as I misunderstand directions and make bad choices based on not being able to understand what my providers say. Tomorrow I have a Zoom-based intake. I’ve spent 3 1/2 weeks trying to request that captions be turned on. No one, in this large medical system, knows who I should even ask. I finally got an email that my request would be forwarded to the provider. But I guess I won’t know until I get there if there will be captions. This is so dangerous — and, given ADA, captions should always be available in medical situations.

    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 dangerous. Truly unacceptable in a medical setting. Have you tried using Otter.ai on your smartphone as a backup? It’s not perfect but may be better than nothing.

  13. I’m happy to say I have been successful in that two organizations I am involved with have been able to acquire zoom captions upon my urging.
    Shari, thank you for bringing this important issue to the forefront.

    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 wonderful news. Thank you for your advocacy.

  14. So sorry you have encountered this. The person with a Zoom paid account needs to go into their Settings and keep searching either for accessibility features or I think Live Transcript. They first need to enable it on their account. Then, every time they host a meeting, they need to also “activate it”. I do not know how it is done, but I often go into a Zoom session, and I am able to click on something that says “request captions.” That sends a message to the host, and they typically activate it within seconds. But Shari is right: Zoom needs to fix this!

    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 your experiences.

  15. Thank you Shari for clarifying the issues…I am a non-native speaker of English and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this captioning issue. You helped me put my thoughts into 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:

      So glad you found it helpful. Thank you for your comment.

  16. Ami – Norfolk – Hey fellow superheroes! I'm Ami, I'm 24 and I live in Norfolk, UK. On my blog, UndercoverSuperhero, I openly talk about my recovery journey which stemmed from being in hospital and a specialist neurological rehabilitation centre for 9 months. I talk about how I maintain a positive mindset whilst coming to terms with my disability. I love superheroes, so much so that my partner and I are having a superhero themed wedding! I generally like to talk about anything and everything on my blog, I also have an ongoing series called "The Reality of..." which allows readers and bloggers to raise awareness of the disabilities, mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, impairments, that they live with as it is so important to raise awareness! Everybody has a voice! 💚
    Ami says:

    It’s not only Zoom but Microsoft Teams too, every meeting I have on these platforms I end up leaving early due to becoming frustrated. It is so disheartening, always being left until last because of our hearing loss. I’ve started to notice that I’m too understanding that my level of accessibility needs is too much. So frustrating.

    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 is very frustrating. Have you tried an app like Otter.ai on your phone? It can help you create your own ASR captions. It is not as convenient as having them on the main screen, but they can be a big help. Thank you for your comment.

      1. Ami – Norfolk – Hey fellow superheroes! I'm Ami, I'm 24 and I live in Norfolk, UK. On my blog, UndercoverSuperhero, I openly talk about my recovery journey which stemmed from being in hospital and a specialist neurological rehabilitation centre for 9 months. I talk about how I maintain a positive mindset whilst coming to terms with my disability. I love superheroes, so much so that my partner and I are having a superhero themed wedding! I generally like to talk about anything and everything on my blog, I also have an ongoing series called "The Reality of..." which allows readers and bloggers to raise awareness of the disabilities, mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, impairments, that they live with as it is so important to raise awareness! Everybody has a voice! 💚
        Ami says:

        I’ve not tried Otter but will look into it, thanks

      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:
  17. I have attended a dozen Zoom calls and events this week. I am exhausted asking the organizers to enable Live Transcript. For the most part, the organizers forget or don’t even think of enabling the closed captioning first in Settings. Zoom, why can’t you make this easier for the hearing loss community? Thank you Shari for continuing to remind them to make their site accessible for all.

    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 question Ruth. It should be easier. Thanks for your efforts to educate hosts about the need for captioning.

  18. Hello Shari and Ruth! Microsoft Teams has universal captioning, which is what is used at my workplace. WebEx has a captioning option that the host would need to enable. In terms of universal accessibility, Teams and Google Meet are light years ahead of Zoom. Until Zoom provides universal captioning, we should encourage virtual event organizers to use other more accessible conferencing platforms.

    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 and others have had less success with Teams when trying to access the captions from outside the host’s workplace, but I am glad it works for you. Universal captioning should be the norm on all the platforms. Thank you for your advocacy on this issue.

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