Accessible Technology

Adding captions in Zoom

UW-IT at the University of Washington (UW) offers Zoom Video Conferencing for hosting meetings and webinars.

Zoom supports live captioning during meetings and webinars. With this feature enabled, captions can be typed directly into Zoom or can be added to Zoom via an integration with a third party software or service. For details, see Getting Started with Closed Captioning in the Zoom Help Center. Third party captioning services can be arranged on behalf of faculty, staff, and students with disabilities by contacting either the UW Disability Services Office or Disability Resources for Students.

Also, if a Zoom meeting or webinar is recorded and saved to the cloud, Zoom can generate captions for the archived video using automatic speech recognition (ASR). These typically require editing before they’re suitable for publication, but the ASR process can save substantial time over captioning video from scratch. For specific instructions, see Automatically Transcribing Cloud Recordings in the Zoom Help Center.

In some cases, depending on the quality of the ASR captions, it may be more cost-effective to download the MP4 video recording of the Zoom meeting and send that to a third party captioning provider rather than fixing all the errors yourself in Zoom. See our Creating Accessible Videos page for options for outsourcing captioning.  The captioning provider will produce a caption file (a plain text file with timestamped caption text in a standard format such as WebVTT or SRT). Presently, Zoom does not support uploading caption files, so in order to make the recorded video available with updated captions, you would need to upload both the MP4 video and caption file elsewhere, such as YouTube.   For additional details, see our Adding Captions to YouTube page.

ASR captions can also be used in certain situations within Zoom. For example, if presenting using slides, both Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides have an automatic captioning feature. If you enable this feature during a Zoom meeting, all users would benefit from the automatic captions. For more information about these options see the relevant vendors’ help pages:

Important: ASR captions are not currently accurate enough to serve as an accommodation for people who depend on captions.  Also, beware of automated captioning solutions (such as those in PowerPoint and Google Slides) that cannot be turned off by students who find them distracting.

For additional information about accessibility in Zoom, see Hosting Accessible Online Meetings.