Zoom Continues to Miss the Boat on True Accessibility

“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.

Why are there no captions?

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.

Account Level

This step must only be done once.

  1. Log into your Zoom account on a web browser. These settings are not on the app.
  2. Select “Settings” and scroll down to “In Meeting (Advanced).”
  3. Toggle the switch by “Closed Captioning” to turn them on.
  4. Check all three boxes below.

Meeting Level

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.

  1. Click on the button and select “Enable Live Transcription.”
  2. 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.

  1. If you haven’t already, enable Live Transcript on your Zoom account. It is available on all accounts—even free ones.
  2. 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.
  3. Utilize the captions when available so others can see their benefit.
  4. Thank people when they do enable the captions so they better understand the importance of accessible content.
  5. Continue to contact zoom at access@zoom.us 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?

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Book: Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss

34 thoughts on “Zoom Continues to Miss the Boat on True Accessibility

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      Fingers crossed. Thanks for your comment.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      Interesting. I find it to be quite accurate and well synced. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  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:

    YES! That there is no default setting so each participant has control –after two pandemic years and still counting–reflects a continuing insensitivity. I’ll be emailing Zoom and forwarding this piece.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      Please do! Thanks for your advocacy!

    2. Laura – An aspiring writer and trained librarian who is finally trying to finish all those ideas and unfinished stories I’ve thought of, started and worked on over the years. 2018 was finally the year I got closer to becoming a published writer by writing 12 short stories in 12 months. #12monthsofstories was a short story every month for a year (a goal I did in 2018). To keep me motivated and writing I chronicled my journey on my writing blog which I titled “12 Months of Stories” during 2018 but I’m now calling “Writing By Laura.” As long as I’ve been on various social media, I usually get the username “wordsbylaura.” Instead of that I decided to call this blog “Writing By Laura.” Also, I used to have a separate blog called “Watching Pop Culture With My Parents” and I’ve now turned it into a monthly segment on this blog.
      Laura says:

      Good idea to email Zoom and forward this blog post. I will do the same!

      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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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, please do!

      2. Laura – An aspiring writer and trained librarian who is finally trying to finish all those ideas and unfinished stories I’ve thought of, started and worked on over the years. 2018 was finally the year I got closer to becoming a published writer by writing 12 short stories in 12 months. #12monthsofstories was a short story every month for a year (a goal I did in 2018). To keep me motivated and writing I chronicled my journey on my writing blog which I titled “12 Months of Stories” during 2018 but I’m now calling “Writing By Laura.” As long as I’ve been on various social media, I usually get the username “wordsbylaura.” Instead of that I decided to call this blog “Writing By Laura.” Also, I used to have a separate blog called “Watching Pop Culture With My Parents” and I’ve now turned it into a monthly segment on this blog.
        Laura says:

        I did!

  2. Oh, my word. That we STILL have to deal with this. I attended a Zoom presentation recently and the host had no idea how to enable the captions. I ended up switching to the same presentation on FB Live – which had captions. All a host should do is enable it, and like you said, then each participant can choose to use the captions or not. In an aside, I did make use of your FCC television captioning help link from a few months ago, and success! Our television captions have never been this good! There are still errors, but at at least we aren’t missing every third line anymore. Having a responsible, thorough Directv rep on the case was a huge bonus.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 work on the TV captions! Thanks for the update.

  3. I keep instructions on how to enable captions on Zoom on file on my laptop. Whenever I’m invited to a meeting or presentation I send them to the host. It usually helps…usually.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      Smart, but how frustrating that we need to request them each time. They should be automatically available. Thank you for sharing your strategies.

  4. I just attended the WORST Zoom meeting ever! Naturally, there were no captions…that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the audio and video were not synched, so those of us who read lips were constantly “reading” a sentence behind the video. AARGH! I don’t have any idea how this happened, but I hope to never see it 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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 rough! Possibly a poor Internet connection. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  5. Thank you for your tireless efforts to continue to call this out. What is amazing to me that so many bar and professional legal associations (and other large organizations) do not enable Live Transcript, nor advocate for its seamless availability. Where are the lawyers protecting ADA accommodations????

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 amazing! And disappointing. Thank you for continuing to advocate for your needs.

  6. You hit a nerve we share. Our County Board of Supervisors required a meeting of all its Commissions and Boards to educate them on their duties. As a Commissioner for the Commission on Disabilities I requested they turn on the captioning. They couldn’t and or didn’t know how. It was appalling as the presentation made a big point of our duty to be inclusive! Later I got a profuse apology. But at the request of our Commission I wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors asking them to have the IT people enable captioning on every Zoom account the County owns.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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! That is disappointing. Thank you for continuing to educate.

  7. Thank you Shari for your blog on Zoom’s captioning. There’s a Zoom event that I attend regularly that still doesn’t provide Live Transcript. I’ve asked several times for them to provide Live Transcript and unfortunately they don’t. Please provide more information on the FCC television captioning help link……is this something that I can utilize when watching tv in place of the station’s captioning which is horrible.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 frustrating. Please share the instructions with them to make it easier (if you have not already done that). The FCC post is here: https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2021/06/08/for-people-with-hearing-loss-captions-are-our-sound/ In it I discuss a place to log complaints about poor TV captions so they can be corrected. Thanks for your question.

  8. Thanks for this post, Shari. I am surprised at how few people are familiar with the CC function. I am not aware of a Live Transcribe function on Zoom, so maybe you can explain that to me (I have an old Android phone which I installed Live Transcribe app as a resource for live conversation). When CC is enabled on Zoom, sometimes everyone in the audience is viewing subtitles and has to manually disable them if they do not wish to have them on their screen. Am not sure how to dictate the way for only those who want them to turn them on. I will be representing a disability non-profit and speaking to various organization about disabilities, and even the senior members of the organization who reached out to me were unaware of CC. We have to educate re: CC as well as on the quality of microphones- when people conduct meetings with poor mics, accuracy of CC is compromised. Progress has been made, now we need to take it up a notch or two!

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      Live Transcript is what Zoom call its auto-captions. Ideally, the CC button would show up on each person’s screen and they could turn it on (or not) at will. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Also, the captions in Zoom is so small and if we make it bigger, it is not easy to read as it covers 3 lines and the row is not very long. Many of the words were not visible or typed out. Its like maybe 50 letters per row.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      You can also view the captions in Full Transcript mode which puts them to the side of the screen. Give it a try!

  10. Sharon, I utilize the CC option or the Live Transcript whenever it’s available. Unfortunately, the Zoom event I attend regularly and have asked several times for them to provide CC or Live Transcript, they don’t. Don’t know if it’s because the presiding host(s) don’t have those options on their end.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      All Zoom accounts are now enabled with this feature BUT the setting needs to be turned on before it will work. See the detailed instructions in the post for how to do that and please share them with the meeting host. Good luck!

  11. Laura – An aspiring writer and trained librarian who is finally trying to finish all those ideas and unfinished stories I’ve thought of, started and worked on over the years. 2018 was finally the year I got closer to becoming a published writer by writing 12 short stories in 12 months. #12monthsofstories was a short story every month for a year (a goal I did in 2018). To keep me motivated and writing I chronicled my journey on my writing blog which I titled “12 Months of Stories” during 2018 but I’m now calling “Writing By Laura.” As long as I’ve been on various social media, I usually get the username “wordsbylaura.” Instead of that I decided to call this blog “Writing By Laura.” Also, I used to have a separate blog called “Watching Pop Culture With My Parents” and I’ve now turned it into a monthly segment on this blog.
    Laura says:

    I have begun participating in more online meetings because I have the ability to always caption things with Otter and Google Chrome live captions. However, I am happiest when a meeting doesn’t take place in Zoom and another app is used instead. You’re right Zoom has made the captioning process overly complicated. I participate in a regular meeting that uses breakout rooms in Zoom and all the people I meet with now know how inaccessible Zoom is because of their lack of captions in breakout rooms. I also don’t like how I have to request that captions can be turned on. Sure I can do it anonymously but after I do it in every meeting they know it’s 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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 makes it more frustrating than it should be. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  12. Shari,
    Appreciate this article. I work for a very large company and lost my hearing 2 yrs ago. I never realized how much advocating I needed to do to get accommodations and accessibility. This was also exacerbated by the fact we just went into COVID lockdown after my first cochlear implant. Everyone was doing Zoom, but fortunately my company uses Microsoft Teams which has fantastic CC capabilities. Still Zoom seemed to be the choice of many of my interactions because of its accessibility, ease of use and its free. Needless to say I struggled, but got creative and took my old Android phone, downloaded the Google translate app (which is great) and mounted it next to my computer speakers. When a Zoom call was happening I could use my phone to caption. Zoom has finally come around, but still do not make CC an easy option. I could go on and on about other corporate struggles, but alas the day is short:-).

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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 have found workarounds that work for you, but it certainly should be easier. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  13. Hello, I agree that Zoom should provide all users with the option of using captions or not. Just a simple toggle button would be nice. I recently attended a 3-day online conference facilitated by Zoom, and I provided the link to Zoom guidelines for activating captions well in advance of the meeting. It worked well and I thought the captions were reasonably good. A snag, however, occurred when pre-recorded lectures were shown at various times. The pre-recorded lectures se were not captioned, and Zoom did not caption them, either. But since I had my Android phone’s Live Transcribe on, I could still get captions. I just propped my cell phone near my computer’s speakers. So, as you can see, there’s still much work to be done to bring captions to the deaf and HOH community.

    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 Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. 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:

      There is a lot of complexity. I am glad you had the Live Transcribe as a back-up. It sometimes feels like baby steps of improvement, but each movement forward will help so many. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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