Our co-worker thought we were heartless monsters.
This is a slight exaggeration, but an important lesson about what gets lost in translation when apps aren’t entirely accessible. During an experimental Zoom call, we learned that screen readers and the reactions feature aren’t quite compatible. That means that every time during a call when someone mentioned something hard or heartfelt and the screen filled with supportive emojis using the reactions feature, those using screen readers experienced cold silence.
We reached out to Zoom and learned that a screen reader can pick up on reactions only if the user has the reacting person’s name selected in the participants panel. If several people are reacting, or if the screen reader user has no reason to wander over to the participant panel, the reactions don’t register. It’s a great example of something that is technically accessible, but not quite practical, which can lead to users having vastly different experiences. Since we’ve contacted Zoom, they have released updates to reactions which now make them animated but no more accessible then before.
Disabled folks advocated for remote work long before the COVID-19 shutdowns drove many of us to our home offices – and watching how quickly accommodations were rolled out was frustrating for many. Teen Vogue interviewed disabled folks about this particular moment. One interviewee Kat said:
“Having these accommodations offered now is genuinely relieving because I can take care of my health better and not force myself to work when I’m ill. But it’s overwhelmingly frustrating, because it feels like the technology is there, the ability, and even the willingness is there, but it’s only because it affects the able-bodied majority.”
Zoom is an integral part of remote and hybrid work that has helped make meetings and conferences more accessible, but there are still ways we can make the experience even more inclusive. At Bocoup we’ve developed our own best practices guide to make Zoom meetings more accessible to those using screen readers. Feel free to implement these changes in your meetings!
To Set Up Zoom
Create your free Zoom account
Install the Zoom for GSuite Add-on: This should allow you to schedule Zoom meetings straight from your Google Calendar.
Start using Zoom: Once you have the Add-on, you can schedule meetings directly from your calendar using Zoom and to convert meetings that are already scheduled, you should be able to edit the meeting, remove the Google Meet, and make it a Zoom meeting instead.
To create a more enjoyable and accessible experience for all, Bocoup recommends all staff follow the below practices when video conferencing:
- Make sure that you are using the latest version of Zoom.
- If new to the people you’re meeting with, please state your name when speaking for the first few times to build familiarity with your voice.
- If something shown on your screen is relevant to the discussion, please describe it verbally or in the chat.
- When reacting to something someone is saying, please do so in chat versus using Reactions as these are inaccessible.
- When using emojis, be aware of what the emoji text is, not only the image, as sometimes these may be interpreted differently. To view the text, click the Smile button in the chat and hover your mouse over the emoji to see the text associated with it.
- When planning to screen share materials during a meeting, share these with the team ahead of time if possible. If not, share them after the meeting.
- When sharing sound through Zoom, be conscientious of volume and offer to adjust if needed.
- For smaller group meetings, consider being unmuted if you are not in a sound disruptive environment. This creates a more natural conversational setting.
- Raising hands can be useful for people wanting to ask questions but be aware that screen readers do not alert the user if others have their hands raised (unless the screen reader user is the host.)
We cannot control your physical environment, but we can try to make virtual meetings accessible and inclusive to everybody. If we miss your access needs, please let us know. The above recommendations were developed through internal discussions around how we experience working together through Zoom.
There are two different types of Zoom settings. To access your Zoom profile settings, go to https://zoom.us/profile/setting. Make sure you are logged into the correct account. All settings below are recommendations based on creating an uninterrupted and smooth user experience. If you prefer an alternative to these recommendations, please feel free to set your account up as is most comfortable for you. Settings marked with an asterisk are ones that only apply to paid accounts so those with free accounts will not see them in these options. It is also recommended to review the Accessibility settings in your Zoom Desktop App to create the optimal experience for your Zoom account.
OFF: Host video
OFF: Participants video -Audio Type: Computer Audio *-Audio Type: Telephone and Computer Audio
ON: Allow participants to join before host (Note: they won’t be able to join if you are in another meeting on your account.)
ON: Enable Personal Meeting ID
OFF: Use Personal Meeting ID (PMI) when scheduling a meeting
OFF: Use Personal Meeting ID (PMI) when starting an instant meeting
OFF: Add watermark
OFF: Mute all participants when they join a meeting
OFF: Upcoming meeting reminder
In Meeting (Basic)
OFF: Require encryption for 3rd party endpoints (SIP/H.323)
ON: Chat By default, allow participants to chat with: Everyone and anyone directly Allow users to save chats from the meeting: Everyone
ON: Private chat
OFF: Auto saving chats
ON: Sound notification when someone joins or leaves Play sound for: Everyone
ON: Send files via meeting chat
OFF: Feedback to Zoom
OFF: Display end-of-meeting experience feedback survey
*ON: Meeting Polls/Quizzes
*ON: Meeting Survey
OFF: Always show meeting control toolbar
ON: Show Zoom windows during screen share
ON: Screen sharing Who can share? All Participants Who can start sharing when someone else is sharing? All Participants
OFF: Disable desktop screen sharing for meetings you host
OFF: Disable screen sharing when guests are in the meeting
ON: Allow saving of shared screens with annotations
OFF: Only the user who is sharing can annotate
ON: Allow saving of whiteboard content
ON: Auto save whiteboard content when sharing is stopped
ON: Remote control
ON: Allow remote controlling user to share clipboard
ON: Slide Control
ON: Non-verbal feedback
ON: Meeting reactions
OFF: Allow removed participants to rejoin
ON: Allow users to change their name when joining a meeting
ON: Allow participants to rename themselves
OFF: Hide participant profile pictures in a meeting