Zoom Baby-Steps Toward Better Access for People with Hearing Loss

A few minutes had passed in a recent Zoom call with a hearing loss friend when I jumped.

Do you need the captions? I’m sorry I forgot to put them on.

No worries. I already turned them on myself.

Well, this is new.

Zoom takes another baby step towards true accessibility

Auto-Captions Can Be Self-Enabled in the Meeting…

Until now, when someone in a Zoom meeting wanted to use auto-captions (and the host hadn’t already turned them on), they needed to request that they be enabled. But in Zoom’s latest release update, it finally allows people to turn on the captions for themselves as needed. This is a nice step forward for people who attend a lot of regular Zoom meetings — inside a company or with a recurring club or class. No longer will we need to ask in EVERY meeting that the auto-captions are engaged. Zoom’s August 7, 2022 release notes provide more details.

Additionally, automated captions no longer require host enablement during the meeting, as they can be self-enabled by participants as needed. This feature will not be immediately available, as it is rolling out to different groups of customers over the next month.

Zoom’s August 7, 2002 release notes

…But Only When Allowed in the Main Account Settings

This is a nice step forward, but the major hurdle remains. Getting the host (or their company) to enable auto-captions in the account’s main settings. Without that initial and complicated step, this improved functionality in the meeting won’t mean much.

How to Enable Auto Captions in Zoom’s Main Settings

If you host Zoom meetings, please do this now. If you attend Zoom meetings, please ask all your hosts to do the same. Only one step is now required at the account level.

This step must only be done once.

  1. Log into your Zoom account on a web browser. These settings are not in the app.
  2. Select “Settings” and scroll down to “In Meeting (Advanced).”
  3. Toggle the switch by “Manual captions” and check the two boxes underneath to allow 3rd-party services to add closed captioning (i.e., CART) or to assign a participant to type.
  4. Toggle the switch by “Automated captions.” In some version of Zoom, auto-captions will only work if “Manual captions” are also toggled on.
  5. Toggle the switch by “Full transcript” to allow people to view the captions in the side panel.
  6. Toggle the switch by “Save captions” to allow participants to download the caption transcript for their future use. This will only work if “Full transcript” is also enabled.

Why Not Just Default the Settings On?

The question remains: Why won’t Zoom simply enable these settings as a default? It would be far easier for the vast majority of users who would like to make their Zoom meetings and webinars more accessible. For the small number of users with concerns, they could easily turn off the features in the settings.

Downloadability of Transcripts Now A Separate Feature

Sometimes hosts are unwilling to enable captions because of privacy concerns. Perhaps they don’t want the transcript of a brainstorming meeting to circulate afterwards. If a host has these concerns, there is now a solution. Have them enable “Automated captions” but not “Save captions.” Then no transcript can be downloaded.

We are happy to see Zoom continue its baby-steps towards true accessibility for people with hearing loss, but will they ever get there? Here’s hoping.

Readers, can you enable auto-captions in Zoom meetings without host help?

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Book: Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss

5 thoughts on “Zoom Baby-Steps Toward Better Access for People with Hearing Loss

    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:

      Thank you for being ahead of the curve!

  1. So THAT’S what’s going on!
    Last week, suddenly, there was no way for me to Request Captions when the host hadn’t already turned them on. We both poked around and, at some point, captions appeared, but neither of us had any idea why. Or how. Or how to do that again. Stressful? Yep! This week, at the same meeting, I had to request captions the old way. Perhaps we were hosted on a different host’s computer that hadn’t been upgraded yet. It’s all a process, but I’m glad for the baby steps and very glad for your reporting, Shari.

    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 can be confusing when things are in flux. Glad it all worked out. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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