Zoom Accessibility – The Basics

Zoom program icon focused in the midst of a screen of blurred icons for other programs.

Zoom Accessibility

As the world has been dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, Zoom meetings have entered our popular culture as both a means of conducting business and maintaining contact with friends and family.

With all the use Zoom has been getting, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the accessibility features you can enable to make your Zoom meetings as inclusive as possible.

Pre-Meeting Preparation

There are some essential settings you will want to make sure are enabled before the meeting begins, and a few suggestions that can make your meeting more accessible, enjoyable, and worthwhile for all participants.

Zoom Settings

Zoom includes a group of meeting settings to enable features like Closed Captioning and different ways of interacting with meeting participants, such as polling and non-verbal feedback tools.

In order to use these features, the Zoom account holder will need to enable the settings at the account level. This means that if you work for a school where your Zoom account is managed by IT, you may need to get their help to make sure these settings are enabled.

Enabling Zoom Account Settings

From the Zoom settings in the main Zoom application window, you can access the Zoom account settings.

The Zoom account settings will open in your browser after you click the prompt at the bottom of the Zoom Settings window to “View More Settings”.

Zoom settings screen highlighting the prompt for Zoom account settings.

There are two groups of settings you want to enable from the “Meetings” tab.

First are the Meeting Reactions and Non-verbal feedback options under the “In Meeting (Basic)” settings:

Basic Meeting settings for enabling Non-verbal feedback and Meeting reactions.

Second are the Captioning settings found under the “In Meeting (Advanced)” settings:

Advanced Meeting settings for enabling captioning and saving captions.

Live Transcription

Notice that there is an option for a live transcription service, which utilizes speech recognition technology. This is NOT an acceptable replacement for a live captioner.

Do not enable Live Transcription unless all of the meeting hosts using the Zoom account have been made aware that it is not to be used in lieu of a live captioner when captioning is required by a participant.

While the live transcription feature is not accurate enough to rely on as an accommodation, it might provide a good start on a transcript that can be edited and corrected after the meeting. Your results may vary, depending on audio conditions and participants’ speaking voice.

Advance Agenda and Handouts

Another useful thing to do before the meeting starts is to send out the agenda and any handouts for the meeting. This also provides an opportunity to remind participants of any protocol for interacting during the meeting, and to ask if anyone requires any accommodations.

Remember to make the meeting agenda and any handouts accessible before you send them to meeting participants.

In-Meeting Accessibility

There are several considerations for ensuring a meeting is accessible for all participants. Be strategic and prepared in understanding the different tools in Zoom for sharing information and interacting with other participants.

Inter-personal Accessibility

As you manage the meeting, make sure to remind participants of the different tools you will be using to share information, ask questions, and interact with each other.

The following suggestions will help you increase the accessibility of your Zoom meetings:

  • Repeat questions that are asked verbally and through chat.
  • Describe images, charts, graphs and any other visual information of significance.
  • Speak in a relaxed pace and avoid making rapid movements with the mouse when you are sharing your screen.
  • When using annotations or the Whiteboard, always narrate the visual content you are creating.
  • If you are using an American Sign Language Interpreter, use the Spotlight tool in Zoom to keep the interpreter’s video window prominently displayed. Likewise, if you are using break-out rooms, manually create the breakout rooms so you can ensure the interpreter is placed in the correct breakout room.

Managing Captioning

The Zoom meeting host has the ability to share a lot of capabilities with selected co-hosts, but only the meeting host is able to manage closed captioning.

When the meeting host clicks on the closed captioning button, the captioning preferences window will be displayed.

Captioning settings from Zoom meeting host perspective.

You can assign the role of captioner to another meeting participant, or you can copy the API token to enable the use of a third-party captioning tool.

It is highly recommended that you do not try to caption the meeting while you are hosting it. It has been found that the quality of the meeting and the captions both suffer when the meeting host tries to be the captioner while also managing the meeting.

Keyboard Shortcuts

There are several keyboard shortcuts you can use within a Zoom meeting to make the experience easier to manage and more accessible to.

The following keyboard shortcuts are just a brief collection that can be useful for you in hosting a Zoom meeting. You may also want to share them with meeting participants before the meeting.

  • Change focus to Zoom meeting controls = CTRL + ALT + SHIFT
  • Mute or Unmute audio = ALT + A
  • Mute or Unmute audio for all except host (only available to Host) = ALT + M
  • Show or hide floating meeting controls = ALT + SHIFT + H
  • Cycle through Zoom program windows = F6
  • Increase or decrease chat display size = CTRL + PLUS or MINUS

Final Thoughts

While there are many possible scenarios you may encounter when hosting Zoom meetings, the best results will happen when you are well-prepared and able to adjust to new information.

Understanding how to use the Zoom tools for interacting with participants and managing a meeting can make a huge difference in your Zoom meeting experience. Being comfortable with using the different meeting tools in Zoom will allow you to better manage last-minute surprises and accessibility challenges.

Further Reading

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