Accessibility 101: How to Optimize Zoom Meeting Accessibility

illustration of a diverse group of professionals attending a virtual meeting

Accessibility 101: How to Optimize Zoom Meeting Accessibility

Ability Central’s core mission is to make information and communication accessible to everyone.  Ability Central regularly hosts meetings with participants who are Deaf, have sensory processing issues, are visually impaired, or have difficulty speaking.  

Because of the advances in technology and communication, it is easier to accommodate working from home—which means that workplace teams are trading the board room for Zoom meetings and remote work communications.  

This is Ability Central’s "Accessibility 101" on how to make Zoom meetings inclusive and accommodating for Deaf and disabled individuals on your work team.  

 

Ask In Advance About Accommodations 

When it comes to accessibility, two things ring true: plan for accessibility from the very beginning and always ask people what their access needs are. In all communication about the meeting, make it clear what accommodation is available and who to contact if someone needs to put in a request. By advertising the available accommodation, you create space for people to communicate their needs. Following through with the accommodation establishes equity for disabled individuals during the meeting. Taking the time to explore what people need in advance, and a moment at the start of the meeting to make sure everyone’s access needs are being met creates a smooth transition into workplace topics. 

People’s needs may change—stay curious and in communication. For Zoom calls, ask about the format in which they want to receive information before the meeting takes place. Is there a way your disabled team member prefers to have the meeting scheduled? Does the individual require adjustments to the call settings to make closed captions or a recording available? Maybe a disabled individual needs an interpreter present on the Zoom meeting for optimal understanding.  

Remember that everyone has access needs and the best way to improve access will always be asking what a person’s needs are then accepting and implementing feedback. Our best teachers about accessibility are the people with disabilities requesting accommodation. 

 

Auto-Captions versus Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) 

Autogenerated captioning features seem convenient, but they are often riddled with errors and miss out on other sounds and auditory cues that contribute to the full environmental experience. Utilizing communication access real-time translation services (CART) helps to ensure the fullest level of access for people who are hard of hearing, late-deafened, have speech disabilities, or anyone who may benefit from reading a transcription of the meeting.  

 

Setting Up Closed Captioning on Zoom 

One of the simplest and most effective ways to make a Zoom meeting accessible is to set up closed captioning. While opting for CART services is ideal, it is not always possible. In those instances, utilizing autogenerated captions is better than nothing at all.  

To enable Closed captioning for a group of users: 

  1. Sign into the Zoom (Version: 5.9.1 (3506)) web portal as an admin with the privilege to edit groups. 

  1. In the navigation menu, click User Management then Group Management. 

  1. Click the applicable group name from the list. 

  1. Click the Meeting tab. 

  1. Under In Meeting (Advanced), click the Closed captioning toggle to enable or disable it. 

  1. If a verification dialog displays, click Enable or Disable to verify the change. 
    Note: If the option is grayed out, it has been locked at the account level and needs to be changed at that level. 

  1. (Optional) If you want to make this setting mandatory for all users in the group, click the lock icon, and then click Lock to confirm the setting. 

 

Tap into Interpreters 

If you have team members in the Deaf community, having a qualified sign language interpreter present can dramatically improve communication and information access. The interpreter(s) will provide language support to Deaf individuals in the meeting space by interpreting the spoken words, sounds, and auditory cues to ASL and vice versa. Depending on the length of your meeting, multiple interpreters may need to be hired.  

With large groups of people via Zoom, it is important that the video spotlights the speaker and interpreter, while other participants keep their videos off. This removes visual distractions and allows the Deaf individual(s) to focus solely on the interpreter (it can help hearing individuals concentrate, too).  

Finding an ASL interpreter for Zoom meetings is easier now that remote interpreting is more commonplace—but as always, check in with the individual to see their preferences. When in doubt, seek answers from the Deaf community.  

 

Audio 

Consider using a headset and microphone to make the meeting easier to follow for people who are hard of hearing or may have an auditory processing disability. Headsets and microphones may be a little intimidating for some, but they are an extremely useful tool for accessibility. As they not only increase the quality of the audio but can also block out other environmental noises that could be distracting. Remind participants to keep themselves muted, to use the ‘hand raise’ button if they’d like to speak, and to wait to be acknowledged before speaking to reduce interruptions and maintain the flow of the conversation.  

 

Record your Meetings on Zoom to Send After 

Recording meetings can be a great way to refer to spoken communication for individuals with visual impairments. This is also a useful approach for neurodivergent people or people who learn best by listening. With closed captions enabled, recordings can offer opportunity for clarity.  

To enable local recording for a group of users:  

  1. Sign into the Zoom (Version: 5.9.1 (3506)) web portal as an administrator with the privilege to edit user groups. 

  1. In the navigation menu, click User Management then Group Management

  1. Click the applicable group name from the list. 

  1. Click the Recording tab. 

  1. Click the Local Recording toggle to enable or disable it. 

  1. If a verification dialog displays, click Enable or Disable to verify the change. 

  1. (Optional) Enable the Hosts can give meeting participants permission to record locally option to allow the host to give permission to record locally as well.  

  1. (Optional) If you want to make this setting mandatory for all users in the group, click the lock icon, and then click Lock to confirm the setting.   

 

When in Doubt—Remember to Ask 

Accessibility varies from individual to individual. Accommodating one person is not cookie-cutter throughout the disability community—each person has their own set of needs. The best way you can come to welcome your disabled team members is by simply asking them what makes a difference in their experience. 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. So, don’t be afraid to be curious and communicative about what your team needs to succeed. 

Ability Central’s Portal offers access to information and resources based on disability interest, from Visual to Deaf and Hearing Loss. Exploring accessibility options can help accommodate members of your team via Zoom effectively.