“Please enable the audio so I can participate in your Zoom meeting,” said no one ever. So, why is advance notice still needed to enable captioning?
Zoom made its high-quality ASR captions available FREE for all accounts in the Fall, but in a practical sense, its platform remains inaccessible for people with hearing loss. I regularly attend Zoom meetings where captions are not available because they must still be enabled in a cumbersome two step process prior to the meeting or webinar. Defaulting the captioning settings to “ON” would solve this problem. Each user could then choose whether or not to enable them for themselves. Everyone would be happy.
Come on Zoom! It’s time to take this final step to make your platform accessibile for people with hearing loss.
Common Complaints About Zoom Captioning
Since starting the petition “Provide Free Captions for People with Hearing Loss on Video Conferencing Platforms” that garnered more than 80,000 signatures, I have received frequent emails from people sharing their nightmare stories about Zoom captioning.
Common difficulties include:
- Hosts still don’t know auto-captioning on Zoom is possible.
- The host did not have access to the account’s main settings to turn on the captions.
- The host forgot to turn them on ahead of time and was unable to do so mid-meeting.
- The host’s institution declined to enable captioning for privacy or legal reasons. (This one doesn’t make sense to me because there is a separate setting to allow or disallow participants from saving the transcript. If there is no transcript, then ASR captioning is as secure as captioning provided by in-person captioning services.)
- There were captions in the main session, but none in the breakout rooms.
Most of these issues could be resolved by defaulting all caption related settings to “ON.”
Make Zoom Meetings Hearing Loss Friendly
If you host Zoom meetings, please do this now. If you attend Zoom meetings, please ask all your hosts to do the same. Two steps are required—one at the account level and a second at the meeting level.
This step must only be done once.
- Log into your Zoom account on a web browser. These settings are not on the app.
- Select “Settings” and scroll down to “In Meeting (Advanced).”
- Toggle the switch by “Closed Captioning” to turn them on.
- Check all three boxes below.
Once you have completed the steps at the Account Level, each time you start a new meeting, the [CC] Live Transcript button should appear on the Zoom toolbar.
- Click on the button and select “Enable Live Transcription.”
- If you do not select this feature, users can request that you enable it. Accessibility best practice is to enable them before anyone needs to ask.
How To Promote Universal Captioning on Zoom
Advocacy for communication access is an ongoing process. We must all do our part to keep raising awareness about captioning—why it is important and the many options for how to provide it. Here are some steps you can take.
- If you haven’t already, enable Live Transcript on your Zoom account. It is available on all accounts—even free ones.
- Educate those you interact with on Zoom about Live Transcript. Share the steps in this post with your friends, family, employers, instructors, and any and all institutions you frequent.
- Utilize the captions when available so others can see their benefit.
- Thank people when they do enable the captions so they better understand the importance of accessible content.
- Continue to contact zoom at firstname.lastname@example.org to request universal captioning on its platform.
Zoom indicates they are working to provide universal captioning, but the timing remains unknown. Advocacy efforts may speed the timeline.
Readers, are you still frustrated by access to Zoom captioning?