Zoom Accessibility Best Practices
To get started using Zoom, consult the Northwestern Remote Teaching technology tools page. The list below is a collection of information and tips on how to make Zoom meetings as accessible as possible for all participants, including participants with disabilities. Most functions in Zoom are user-friendly and are accessible to people who use assistive technology. There are, however, a few exceptions and best practices to note.
Sound quality is important for all users and critical for people who are hard of hearing.
- Reduce background noise:When speaking, ensure you are in a noise-free environment and stay close to the microphone.
- Mute participants who are not speaking: Especially in large meetings, all participants should be muted except for the person who is speaking. If participants are not consistently muting themselves, the host can mute individual participants in the Manage Participants panel. The host also can use the Mute All tool or the Mute Participants on Entry option to apply muting to multiple participants at once. Or, the “Mute participants on entry” option can be selected when scheduling the meeting. Let participants know that they have been muted upon entry and state expectations for how and when they should unmute themselves and participate.
You may wish to record a Zoom session, especially for participants who cannot attend or who don’t have a good internet connection.
- Choose where to store the recording:You can either record a meeting and save it to Zoom Cloud or save the file to your computer. One reason to store to the cloud is if you want your media transcribed. Files saved to the computer will not be transcribed. See the “Transcripts and Captioning” section, below, for more on this.
- If you chose to record in Zoom Cloud, you can share a direct link with anyone who needs access to the recording.
Transcripts and captioning for completed Zoom recordings
Sharing transcripts of completed Zoom sessions is helpful for participants who would like to review the session.
- Zoom recordings stored in Zoom Cloud are set to be auto-transcribed. The transcripts generated through this process will not be completely accurate, but the video owner can correct them for accuracy. Transcripts may be useful for a variety of viewers; for longer videos in particular, the interactive transcript tool in Zoom Cloud can help viewers jump to a specific part of the video they'd like to rewatch.
- Auto-generated transcripts will appear alongside the video, the same text will appear as captions for the video. If your recording requires captioning to fulfill a student or employee accommodation request, Zoom Cloud’s auto-generated transcripts are not sufficient and you will need to either edit the transcripts or have them professionally captioned. Contact AccessibleNU at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on professional captioning services
For live captioning (or “real-time captioning”) provided by a person (not an automated service), two steps are required to incorporate live captions into your Zoom session.
- The session host will need to enable closed captioning in their Zoom account. To do this:
- Login to Zoom
- Click “Settings”
- Scroll down to “In Meeting (Advanced)”
- Toggle “Closed Captions” to “On”
- Secondly, the captioner will need to be provided the ability to add captions to the Zoom meeting. The session host should allow the captioner to join the meeting as a participant and grant them the ability to provide closed captions.
In-meeting chat can be very useful during meetings, including as a participation channel for people who are working in noisy environments. There are just a few things to keep in mind for accessibility:
- Share chat content through additional channels.Some participants may be unable to access or fully utilize chat. Participants who are calling in to a meeting will not be able to see or contribute to chat. Assistive technology users can access, read, and contribute to chat, but may be unable to activate links in the chat window. Finally, all users run the risk of losing important links or content from the chat if this information is not saved in some way.
- Recommendations to consider if chat comments are being incorporated into a meeting:
- Read the comments aloud as part of the meeting.
- Send links from the chat to all participants by email before or after the meeting.
- Optionally, save the entire chat to your computer or the cloud, for your own reference or to share with others.
Sharing your screen is a good way to display PowerPoints or other media, pull up an editable whiteboard, or walk participants through a process step-by-step. For the benefit of participants who are calling in, who have bad internet connections, or are blind or have low vision, consider the following best practices:
- Verbalize what is on the screen.For the benefit of people unable to see the screen or who cannot read the screen-share contents using assistive technology, verbalize what is seen and the actions you are taking.
- Share materials ahead of time.Send any materials you plan to display through screen sharing to your participants ahead of time. This allows everyone to access the materials and follow along even if they cannot see the screen share during the meeting.
There are creative ways to use the polling feature for participation during meetings or to survey participants. Hosts should keep these best practices in mind:
- Ensure everyone can participate.The polling feature is accessible to people who use assistive technology. It is not usable, however, by people who are joining a meeting by phone. If you have participants joining by phone, offer an alternative way for them to send in feedback.
- Alert participants when launching a poll.Notify participants verbally when you are launching a poll. This is especially helpful for assistive technology users as well as anyone who may not be looking at their screen.
- Give enough time.Allow plenty of time for participants to find and participate in the poll.
Breakout rooms can be used for small-group discussion and collaboration.
- Plan ahead for technical difficulties.Some devices and technical set-ups do not allow participants to join breakout rooms. See Zoom’s breakout room guidance for more information. Participants who cannot join breakout rooms can use the main room as an alternative space for discussion.
- Pay attention to accommodations.If live captioners or ASL interpreters are present, make sure to assign them to the same breakout room as the participant receiving the live captioning or ASL interpreting.
- Give participants the ability to record.If the Zoom session is being recorded for later review or captioning, the host will need to give participants the ability to record if the host will not be in the breakout room that needs to be recorded.
ASL interpreters will need to join the call just like any other participant and share their video. For best functionality, interpreters should have the Zoom application downloaded on their device before joining the call.
Participants who wish to view the ASL interpreter should select “Pin Video” in the context menu (“...”), which is available by hovering over the interpreter’s video thumbnail. (Please note: Accessing the Pin Video feature currently requires the use of the mouse to hover. This issue is being reported to the vendor.)
Adapted from the University of Colorado Boulder Office of Integrity, Safety, and Compliance