Zoom and accessibility

Posted April 2020

When using online tools for remote work, it is important not only to use tools with an accessible interface, but also to know how to use them so people with disabilities can participate.

This page offers some tips for using Zoom so that your remote online experiences are accessible. Information and resources will be added as we gain more information.

Fortunately, Zoom provides a pretty accessible interface and provides information about accessibility, including how to create closed captions.


Live captioning of Zoom meetings

If you are going to host a meeting, depending on the audience, you may need to arrange for closed captioning while the meeting is in session. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Automated live transcription/captioning (using otter.ai in Zoom): Zoom offers real-time live transcription capability through an AI engine. (Note your campus Zoom admin needs to enable it.) Also referred to as “closed captioning,” live transcription provides captions during a live meeting, but not for a recording.

    A different feature, audio transcripts, can be used to generate captions and a transcript for recorded Zoom sessions (see the section Captioning and Transcripts for Recorded Zoom Meetings). Live transcription and audio transcripts may be turned on at the same time.

    It is recommended that live transcription be turned on by default, unless there is a reason to turn it off for a particular session. Please note the following cautions. Live transcription
  • Third-party captioning service for live captioning. You can hire a service with captioners who create the live captions for you, integrating into your Zoom session through an API. It is recommended you use StreamText when using a live captioning service. It integrates with the captioning services, enabling the captions to appear in a separate browser window, which lets the user change fonts, etc.

    Many services are available and some options are listed below. As always, a new tool or integration service should be reviewed by location security and privacy teams prior to implementation. A formal information security risk assessment may be required and, for clinical or other locations with HIPAA requirements, a Business Associate Agreement may be necessary.
  • Automated captioning that needs correction: You can decide to use other automated tools that are not embedded in Zoom to provide captions for live meetings, if you're OK with errors in meaning, punctuation, and spelling. Many services are available; here are options:

Captioning and transcripts for recorded Zoom meetings

If you are going to record and post a Zoom session to a website, you need to be sure to caption the video, if you didn't arrange for live captioning during the meeting. Be sure to inform the audience if the meeting is being recorded. See the note under Chat for guidance.

  • UC Guidelines for Transcripts and Captions. This overview describes what transcripts and captions are, how to prioritize work, and provides an introduction to getting started.
  • Automated Transcripts of Zoom Meetings. Zoom lets you create a post-recording transcript of a recorded meeting that you have uploaded to Cloud Recordings. You can then display the transcript text within the video itself, almost like captions.
  • Automated Captions through YouTube. To get captions added post production, another option is to export the recording to YouTube, which will auto caption the recording. You then need to proof and correct the captions.
    1. If your campus doesn't use Google, create a YouTube account for your work-related videos.
    2. Upload the video to YouTube as a private recording until the captions are completed and you want to make the video public.
    3. Once your video has been uploaded, go to the YouTube Studio. From there, click on your video and select the Advanced tab.
      1. YouTube is migrating to “YouTube Studio” from “Video Manager.” Currently the Studio doesn't have the CC option. For now, they are allowing you to use the old version to add captioning.
    4. Under Subtitles and CC for original video language, select English by YouTube (automatic) and select Edit in Classic Studio.
      1. If you don't see that option, YouTube probably just needs more time to process the video. The longer the video, the longer the processing will take.
    5. This should take you to the caption editing page. Above the video, click the Edit This should allow you to edit the captions on the right of the video screen. Once you've finished, click Publish Edits above the video.

Features that enhance accessibility

These can be turned on/off by each location Zoom admin. The following features help support accessibility and it is recommended that they be turned on.

  • Audio Transcripts. Turning on this feature allows meeting hosts to receive text transcripts, as well as the video file with the embedded transcript, when they record a meeting to the cloud. The transcript can be useful for people with disabilities to review after the meeting. It also can be useful for people who add or correct captions.
  • Closed Captioning. Turning on this feature enables meeting hosts to add closed captions during a meeting or to integrate a third-party captioning service to create live captions.

Tips for meetings with screen reader users

  • Meeting invitations. When creating a meeting invitation,
    • Put the URL on a blank link without any other text or characters around it. This enables the screen reader user to just hit enter to access it, rather than also having to tab over the text.
    • Do not put the URL in the location line because it does not appear as a live hyperlink; put it in subject line or the body of the email.
  • Participant list. Screen reader users can access the participant list, though it's cumbersome for them. Be sure to read the participant names out loud at the start of the meeting.
  • Participation. Suggest people use “raise hand” so that everyone can have a chance to speak and make sure they know the keyboard shortcuts: Alt Y (command Y) for raise hand, and Alt A (command A) for muting yourself.
  • Screen shares and whiteboarding. These features are inaccessible. The content should be described out loud whenever used.
  • Chat
    • Chat is disruptive for screen reader users because when they turn on speech mode, it is read out loud over other talk and hinders them from following the rest of the meeting.
    • Use the chat for important things, to avoid excluding the screen reader user.
    • Be sure to record the meeting, which provides an archive of the chat as a text file. This ensures the screen reader user can later access links and other information shared in chat. If you plan to record the meeting, you must advise the participants of this and take steps to ensure their privacy, including disabling the feature that allows others to record the meeting too (provided that option is available at your location). A draft script appears below, which you can also include in the meeting invitation:
      • This meeting/session will be recorded [and posted online]. [I have disabled the recording feature for others so no one else will be able to record the session.] If you have privacy concerns and do not wish to appear in the recording, you may turn off or "stop video" now. If you disable live video, you may use a profile image rather than your name or photograph. Let the organizer know what image you will be using so they can recognize you. If you would like to ask a question privately, you may do so via chat to the organizer's name and not to "everyone."
  • Control another computer. If a screen reader user is sharing their screen and encounters problems, they can allow another meeting participant to control their computer and fix the problem. (The screen reader user will hear all actions the person is taking.) To do this, the other participant can Request Control, or the screen reader user can go to the More menu, click Enable Remote Control, and then select the other participant's name and hit enter. That person will accept control. Later under Zoom meeting controls and View Options, the other person can give up remote control.

General presentation etiquette

  • Prepare in advance for an accessible session. Find a quiet site so there's no background noise. Have presenters look at the camera so people can see facial expressions and/or read lips.
  • Provide accessible materials. Slides presented in Zoom are not accessible to screen readers, so try to send materials in advance or post them somewhere to make them available. Make sure those materials (PPT or a document) are themselves accessible.
  • Be accommodating. Let participants know they can request accommodations if necessary. If you're using features that may not be accessible, like whiteboarding, plan how you'll describe/provide the information to participants who need it. Maybe you'll find an additional accessible tool to provide that feature.
  • Describe what's going on in the meeting. Describe charts and graphics, announce who's speaking. Remember, not everyone may be able to see what's going on.
  • Inform the audience. Inform the audience if the meeting is being recorded and/or captioned. For recordings, see the note under Chat. For captioning, mention that it's important to speak clearly and not talk over others.

Location-specific resources