Zoom Accessibility: Video Conferencing

University of Michigan ITS is providing access to Zoom. Zoom video conferencing has increased keyboard and screen reader accessibility. To learn more about Zoom’s commitment to accessibility, please review Zoom’s Accessibility page.

Zoom is a video/audio conferencing application that can be used to host meetings containing many individuals. From an accessibility standpoint, it works fairly well compared to some other similar conferencing applications when using a screen reader.

This resource was last updated 6/21/2022.

Zoom has broadly inclusive support for closed captioning and ASL interpretation:

  • Zoom has an API that integrates with 3rd party closed captioning providers
    • Note: this includes 3rd party auto captioning services.
  • Zoom also has an automated Live Transcript feature. The Live Transcription can be used to provide for automated captions which may be saved during a meeting by clicking on Live Transcript--> View Full Transcript, and then clicking on the "Save Transcript" button at the bottom of the transcript. Note that this feature will not work in breakout rooms.
  • In Zoom you may pin multiple screens (e.g., ASL interpreter and slides)
  • In Zoom you may record video calls to refer back to or to provide to your students

You can automatically save chat messages; this will save both messages sent to "Everyone" and any private conversations you have. Additionally, users can copy and paste some or all chat messages. All of these features are helpful for preserving conversations and the content of presentations.

Some users may find that setting a solid color background for Zoom may help eliminate distractions for themselves or others in the call. Please note that adding animated backgrounds may be distracting and could create an inaccessible environment for others on a call. Avoid using background animations with a lot of blinking or flashing content or backgrounds with overly high or low contrast as compared to the Zoom interface.

Additional Resources for Zoom

Please note, that none of these links are endorsements towards any product or company/organization, but rather are referenced here as potential resources which you can look into on your own. 

  • Shared - ASL Interpreter/CART Contacts is a working community list curated by U-M National Center for Institutional Diversity [NCID]. It lists service providers for live captioning/CART and American Sign Language [ASL] interpretation. Note that when people with disabilities request ASL or live captioning as an accommodation for attending an event or meeting, it is because they are not well served by autocaptioning, and units are generally required to provide for these services. Questions may be addressed to the U-M ADA Coordinator.
  • Accessibility Tips for a Better Zoom/Virtual Meeting Experience: Gaullaudet University has shared this guide for providing access to D/deaf and Hard-of-Hearing users.

Known accessibility issues

Desktop Client

  • Issue: When navigating between the settings categories using the arrow keys, the screen reader will say that each tab is selected as you navigate, however, if you tab, you will find that the current tab is not selected. You will also find that when you move back to the list, the item that was selected before you started cycling through settings pages, will still be selected.
    • Work around: When you navigate to one of the tabs using the arrow keys, you can press (enter) to select it. The screen reader will not say anything to alert the user about the actual selection, however, this can be verified by tabbing from the list and examining the controls now available. When you use (shift+tab) to move back to the list, you will find that focus lands on the category that was selected with (enter).
  • Issue: Currently on both Windows and Mac, it is not possible to read by letter or word in some of the edit boxes, such as the input for the participants name when joining the chat and the chat input box once in a meeting.
    • Work_around: If you want to edit your message, which will likely become necessary as the message gets longer, write the message in another program and then paste it in the chat input once it is verified to be correct.
    • To copy the chat:
    • Open a program such as Text Edit or Notepad, to type the chat message.
    • Once the message is proofread, use (control+a on Windows) or (command+a on Mac) to select all of the text.
    • Next, use (control+c on Windows) or (command+c on Mac) to copy the text to the clipboard.
    • After you have the text in the clipboard, move back to the Zoom application. If the chat Window is not open, tab to the button to open the chat panel and select it.
  • Once you have navigated to the input text box for the chat, use (control+v on Windows) or (command+v on Mac) to paste the text from the clipboard.
  • Issue: When using Zoom on Mac, poor call quality will be experienced and messages about the internet being unstable will be displayed if there is a Bluetooth braille display paired with VoiceOver and VoiceOver is enabled. The braille display does not need to be connected as even having the displayed paired and not in use at the moment will cause the bugs.
    • work-around: Until this issue is resolved, the best way to work around the issue is to remove the display from VoiceOver as simply turning it off will not solve the problem.
    • Open the VoiceOver preferences with (control+option+f8 or control+option+fn+f8 depending on your setup).
    • Select Braille in the category table. This can be accomplished by moving to the table, pressing (control+option+shift+down arrow) to interact with the table, and then using (control+option+right arrow) to navigate to the braille category. Next, use (control+option+shift+up arrow) to stop interacting with the table.
    • Next, select the displays tab by using (control+option+right arrow) to move onto the group of tabs. Once you have moved the focus onto Displays, press (control+option+space) to select the tab.
    • In the displays tab, you will find a list of displays in a table. Select the Bluetooth display that you have paired in the table. This can be accomplished by moving to the table, pressing (control+option+shift+down arrow) to interact with the table, and then using (control+option+right arrow) to navigate to the braille category. Next, use (control+option+shift+up arrow) to stop interacting with the table.
    • There is a Remove button past the table. If you select this button, the display will be removed.

Navigating a Meeting using Zoom

Desktop App

  • The apps on Mac and Windows have a similar user interface and are operated in a similar way when using a screen reader.
  • In both apps, it is possible to use the (tab) and (shift+tab) keys to navigate. It is also possible to use (control+option+left) and (control+option+right) on the mac. It is best to operate controls with (enter) on Windows and (control+option+space) on mac. If no keyboard commands are given in instructions, these keys should be used.
  • It is possible to join meetings as a guest, however, it is best to log in to access all the functionality of the app, like scheduling meetings. You can also adjust important preferences, such as whether the microphone and camera are on or off when you enter meetings.
  • Select the Sign In option from the main screen of Zoom and then select Sign IN with SSO. On the next page, enter umich and select the continue button. Finally, a web browser will be launched and you can log in with your University of Michigan credentials. After logging in, the browser will take you back to the app.
  • The main screen of the app has two tabs, Home and Meetings. ON Windows, when the screen reader says that focus is on the tab list, pressing (left arrow) and (right arrow), changes the active tab and updates the user interface to match the focused tab. On the Mac, you can use (tab) or (shift+tab) to move between the tabs and (control+option+space) to activate the focused tab.
  • You can schedule meetings from the Home tab.
  • When you are scheduling meetings, you can use the (up arrow) and (down arrow) to adjust the different controls for items such as the date and time pickers. When you are adjusting items that are specifically marked as combo boxes, after you use the arrow keys to adjust them, you need to press (enter) to confirm your choice or keyboard focus will seem to be stuck because (tab) and (shift+tab) will not move  between controls.
  • Pressing (enter) on the "advanced" control will cause the screen reader to say expanded. Expanding this control gives you options for securing the meeting by adding a password, or enabling the waiting room which are checkboxes.
  • One handy feature of Zoom is the ability to start an unplanned meeting right away in your personal Zoom room. The meting ID always stays the same. If you select the button called (New Meeting Option Dropdown), there are two options which you can navigate between with the arrow keys. The first allows you to turn video on and off in the room and the second gives a meeting ID you can give to others to join your always available meeting room.
  • You can join zoom meetings via a link that you receive in an e-mail or via the Join button in the app. Once you have entered your Name and Meeting ID, you are taken to a video preview which contains buttons for joining with or without video. When you select one of these, you are taken to the audio dialog. This has two tabs, one for joining via computer and the other for joining by phone. The tabs function the same as the tabs for Home and Meetings mentioned earlier.
  • Once you are in a meeting, you can navigate between controls to turn video on or off, mute and unmute the microphone, open the meting information to get meeting details to give to others to join, and open the security menu.
  • The security menu is an important menu that can be navigated with the arrow keys. It allows you to turn features on and off like waiting room and meeting lock. You can also control other features for participants if you are the host such as allowing them to chat or rename themselves.
  • If you tab once beyond either the button to start or stop the camera or the one to mute or unmute the microphone, there is a button which opens a menu that you navigate with (up arrow) and (down arrow). In this menu, you can select which microphone or camera is used.
  • When you select the button to open the participants panel, you can explore who is in the meeting, view the nonverbal feedback of others, and provide nonverbal feedback of your own. When open, the list of participants can be navigated with the (up arrow) and (down arrow) when focused. One thing to note is that when you tab past the list of participants, you next find a group of buttons such as "yes, no, go faster, and go slower". Screen reader users should know that these group of buttons always affect the non-verbal feedback others see next to their name and do not change function based on the focused participant in the list. These buttons are like checkboxes. Unfortunately, these buttons do not communicate their state when focused. Screen reader users can press any of the buttons to get this feedback as the new state is always announced. It is also possible to move back to the list and go to your entry as the screen reader reads all the non-verbal feedback participants have added when arrowing over them in the list.
  • If you select More Meeting Controls you gain access to more features, one of the important features being chat. If you select chat in this menu, the screen reader will announce that the chat has either been expanded or collapsed. If the window is maximized, some of the controls that are in this menu such as chat will be available in the main window, as controls that can be accessed with (tab) rather than via the menu.
  • When the Chat is open, all chat messages are in a list that can be navigated with the (up arrow) and (down arrow) keys. Between the chat output and the chat input fields, there are a few dropdowns that can be activated with (enter) and navigated with the (up arrow) and (down arrow) keys.
    • Users should note that it is tricky to read the chat output with screen readers and not possible to read the chat input. If these features are a priority, users should see the section on the web client below, although there some disadvantages to be aware of.

Using the Mobile client on iOS

  • As with the desktop client, it makes sense to log in to the mobile app for full functionality. I recommend using the flick gestures as you will only see these screens once when you set up the app, therefore, remembering the placement of the buttons is not necessary. As with the desktop app, users should select the Sign In button followed by Sign in with SSO. Enter umich in the domain entry field and select continue.
  • As with the desktop app, there are Home and Meetings tabs and these contain the same controls as the desktop app. There is also a settings tab available with settings for the app. VoiceOver users should note that the tab bar containing these tabs is at the bottom of the screen running horizontally from left to right. The section of the screen above the tab bar contains the rest of the controls.
  • Scheduling a meeting on iOS is almost the same as on the desktop. The same fields are available, and they run in a column down the screen from top to bottom. If you select one of the items which require making a selection, a native iOS picker is used, and you can flick up and down to make your selection then pick Done.
  • When you are joining a meeting, options for the video preview and joining audio are presented in columns. This is a bit different than the desktop app in the case of audio because the option to join via Audio through the app or join via a landline are buttons in a column from the top to bottom of the screen rather than tabs.
  • Once you are in a meeting, the tabs across the bottom of the screen are replaced with the buttons to do most things in the call. This includes muting and unmuting video and audio, viewing participants, and the More item which allows you to access the chat.
  • If you open the “Participants” item, users are arranged in a column from the top to bottom of the screen. VoiceOver reads all nonverbal feedback associated with a user.
  • If you open the More item, you can access the chat and nonverbal feedback. It is at the top of a column about half way down the screen. Right above the chat, a horizontal group of buttons run from left to right and these are for applying nonverbal feedback.
  • When the chat is open, there is a close button in the top left of the screen and a mute button for notifications in the top right. Chat messages run in a column from the top to about two thirds of the way down the screen. Near the bottom of the screen from left to right, is a button that opens a menu for selecting who to send the message to, the message input box, and the Send button.

Note: When using Zoom on a mobile device, you may find that captions interfere with your ability to perform some functions such as chatting with participants and getting information about the meeting due to VoiceOver reading off the captions as they arrive. If you are in a meeting with closed captions enabled and you would like to disable the closed captions, select the more button, which is the last control on the screen (four finger single tap takes you to the bottom of the screen). Next, select “Meeting Settings” which is about two-thirds of the way down the screen. Next, toggle off “Closed Captions,” which should be about half way down the screen. Lastly, select the “Done” button in the top-right-hand corner. This should save your changes and the captions should no longer appear for you. You can also choose this setting in the Zoom mobile app. If you pick “Settings” which is at the bottom-right-hand corner, you may then navigate to “Meetings” which is about a third of the way down the screen and then you swipe right to get to the “Closed Caption,” which is initially off screen, but will scroll into view. From here, double tap on “Closed Caption” to disable it, and then do a four finger single tap at the top of the screen (this will take you to the top of the reading order). Double tap the back button to save your settings.

Using the Web client

  • To access a Zoom meeting in the web client, you first need to select the open in the zoom app link. After this, if you have the app installed, you will also need to select a Cancel button in the resulting dialog. After taking this step, you are given the option to join via the web.
  • You must log in to an account when joining via the web.
  • After you log in, the Zoom web app goes directly into your meeting. Zoom is an advanced web application and behaves similar to the desktop application, so that documentation above should be viewed for more details.
  • If you open the chat, it is possible to read both incoming and outgoing chat messages. The chat message you are typing can be read using the arrow keys when you are on the edit box. If your screen reader has an application or forms mode, this should be used. Incoming chat messages can be read by tabbing to the chat message list and reading by line. Some screen readers may require that forms mode is disabled or being placed in a browse mode to read incoming messages.