Last week I attended the Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI) webinar on Zoom Accessibility, which included staff from the University of Washington (UW) and Zoom, a video conferencing service.
From my past experiences, I knew the majority of video conference services/applications weren’t accessible.
So when I heard about the EASI Zoom Accessibility webinar, I knew I didn’t want to miss it.
Of all the webinar/video conference services I’ve used in the past few years, and I use a lot since I attend webinars weekly, Zoom has been the one I’ve liked most.
Because as an attendee, I don’t have to download or install anything.
All I need to do to join a Zoom webinar is select a link from my phone, desktop, Chromebook, or tablet.
Here are my notes.
Zoom Accessibility Webinar
The webinar’s four panelists included:
- Hadi Rangin, Accessibility Specialist at the University of Washington Accessible Technology Services (ATS) and Accessibility Technology Center (ATC)
- Jason Smith, Zoom Service Manager at the University of Washington
- Ken Ding, Lead Engineer at Zoom
- Andy de Artola, Product Manager from Zoom
The webinar lasted an hour, where each panelist spoke about their involvement with the University of Washington (UW) choosing Zoom as their video conferencing service.
If you’re interested, the webinar recording and transcript are available on the EASI website.
Working with Zoom
The UW team began working with Zoom over two years ago, when they were looking for an alternative video conferencing system. UW staff weren’t happy with the video conferencing they had used.
They began with a Zoom pilot project, which initially wasn’t promising in terms of accessibility.
However, Zoom staff responded to their concerns, making the effort to learn about accessibility and met several times with UW staff who showed them the barriers people encountered and the problems they had.
Zoom staff reported the issues to their engineering team, who began fixing the issues, one after another. Impressive!
UW made accessibility a part of their contract with Zoom.
They held accessibility conversations with Zoom to help their staff understand accessibility and resolve issues. The accessibility issues were attached to the contract.
In the short-term, Zoom worked on resolving low-hanging fruit.
Now they’re slowly transitioning to a long-term solution of incorporating accessibility into their design and development practices.
Zoom Accessibility Features
Zoom is committed to providing universal access to their services on all platforms and conference room systems, said Andy de Artola, project manager at Zoom.
General features of Zoom include:
- Audio/video conferencing
- Join by phone or web
- Two types of platforms: meeting room (everyone unmuted) or webinar (everyone muted except presenter)
- Screen sharing
- Break-out rooms
- Meeting chat
- Host can get a list of participants
- Recording, which you can save in MP4 format to your hard drive or save to the Zoom cloud
Accessibility features include:
- Compliant with Web Content Accessiblity Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Web Accessibility Initiation (WAI)- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) 1.1 and Section 508 accessibility standards
- Closed captioning
- Audible notifications, with plans for customization
- Shortcut key options
- Focus indicator
- Toolbar visibility – sticky toolbar – to manage meeting settings
- If you’re using a screen reader, audio can be piped through the meeting so all participants can hear it
I was glad to learn about the accessibility features in Zoom. I was not aware of all the changes Zoom had implemented in the past couple years.
Additionally, I’m impressed with Zoom’s commitment to providing an accessible experience for everyone, no matter what device is used for videoconferencing.
Thanks to EASI for hosting the webinar!