It’s rare when a meeting that I attend is set up for people with hearing loss. Organizers will often respond to my requests for captions or save me a seat close to the front, but never has anyone proactively arranged technology to help me hear. Until a few weeks ago.
I was blown away.
Proactive Planning Made Accessibility Easy
When I arrived, the organizer approached me with a big smile. “We have figured out a way for you to have captions for the meeting,” she said. It was my first time attending a conference hosted by this organization, but they had done their homework, even meeting ahead of time to discuss how to make the session more accessible for me. I get goosebumps thinking about it.
It was a hybrid event, so that made it easier, because automatic speech recognition (ASR) captions are easily activated on Zoom (if organizer’s take the time to do so.) I was present in the room, but was able to access the captions by joining the Zoom meeting via my smartphone. I propped it on the table and enjoyed the captioned transcript in real-time. Others on the Zoom meeting were able to access the captions as well if they chose to do so.
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. But it is doable and step one usually needs to be done only once.
ASR Captions are Helpful in Many Situations
The captioning was not perfect—ASR captions rarely are—but it was enough to help me fill in the blanks that I missed. They reduced my listening effort which helped me to enjoy the full session. I was very grateful to have them.
And the captions gave me a great excuse to show everyone in the room how easy providing accessibility can be. Those seated near me were curious about the interesting words on my phone. Many hadn’t known that Zoom provided such a service. Now they do.
This experience was a win-win-win. It was a win for me because I got the access that I needed. A win for the organization for providing great accessibility. And a win for hearing loss advocacy because others learned how easily they could do the same elsewhere.
If only all meetings were just like this.
Readers, what is your best hearing loss access experience?