Zoom Makes ASR Captioning Free for People with Hearing Loss

Good News! Thanks to a campaign spearheaded by HLAA’a  Shari Eberts, Zoom has agreed to provide captions on free accounts.  [Below is from Shari’s blog, “Living With Hearing Loss” From https://livingwithhearingloss.com/ ]

Success! Zoom has heard our community’s voice!

Zoom just announced it will provide its high-quality ASR captions (Live Transcript) FREE for people with hearing loss, as well as other groups who require this feature for accessibility reasons. Click here to request access. This feature will be rolled out to all free accounts by Fall 2021.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been asking Zoom to do just this. We explained that captions are our ramps and that we should not be forced to pay for the accessibility feature that we need to communicate well on Zoom. They have heeded our call.

Advocacy works!

Thank you to NPR (NPR interview) and the Washington Post (op-ed) for helping to highlight this issue. Our petition Provide Free Captions for People with Hearing Loss on Video Conferencing Platforms garnered 80,000 signatures. I am so proud of the way our hearing loss community has come together to advocate for our needs.

Read Zoom’s Update on Live Transcription for Free Accounts for more details. The link for early access for people with hearing loss is here.

Thank you Zoom for recognizing the needs of people with hearing loss and for taking steps to make your platform more accessible at no additional cost.

What’s Next?

This update will provide captions for calls that we initiate, but an equally challenging problem for people with hearing loss is the lack of captions on Zoom calls and webinars that we do not host. Currently, it is a convoluted process. You must request that the host turn on Live Transcript. Often this requires that someone in the IT department of the company/school/non-profit enable the Live Transcript setting in the organization’s main Zoom account. In a large company or university, it can be difficult to determine who that might be, even for those within the organization. In my experience, the meeting host often gives up in frustration, leaving us without the captions we need.

I have made Zoom aware of this issue and they are considering enabling Live Transcript to default to ON for all video calls, so the captions are always available to us if we need them. All we would need to do is turn them on from our screen — empowering us to control our accessibility, rather than relying on someone else to provide it. The timing for this is unclear.

There is still much work to do on making all video communications across all platforms, formats and delivery methods more accessible for people with hearing loss. But here, we have taken an important first step. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who raised their voice to advocate for our needs.

Readers, will you sign up for free ASR captions on your Zoom account?

From https://livingwithhearingloss.com/