A person looking at a laptop computer with four other people in a video chat

Accessible Video Conferencing While Social Distancing & Working From Home

7 Apr 2020

To date, most states in the U.S. have some type of “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Many are relying on video conferencing tools to socialize and stay connected to friends and family. These video conferencing tools have become even more important for the almost 30% of Americans who are able to work from home. Read through a few “tips for working at home” lists and you’ll see that virtual meetings–with face to face conferencing–are key in keeping teams engaged and connected while telecommuting. 

But can everyone fully participate in these meetings/gatherings? Perhaps the most pressing accessibility issue with video conferencing is the presence or lack of real-time closed captions for those with auditory disabilities. We’ve taken a look at some of the most popular platforms to see what they each offer in terms of closed-captioning

Real Time Captioning:

The four platforms below feature real-time captioning. That means that as other members of a video call speak, automated text captions will appear on the screen. Since the captions are generated using speech recognition software, they may not be 100% accurate, but they will allow all members of a group–with or without disabilities–more tools to engage remotely. Click on each of links below to learn how to enable real-time captioning in each of the platforms:

User-generated closed captioning:

Both Zoom and WebEx allow a member of the video call to type captions as the meeting is happening, but do not feature real-time captioning without an additional 3rd party integration. Visit the two links below to learn how to enable captioning during a meeting:

But, both of these platforms offer the ability to have recorded meetings automatically transcribed after they’ve taken place. Here are the transcription instructions for Zoom, and here are the instructions for WebEx.

Chances are, even after the COVID-19 pandemic settles down, many will continue to periodically work remotely and use video conferencing for meetings. And as vital as closed captioning is for those with auditory disabilities, closed captioning creates flexible use for everyone.