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.”
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.
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?