Accessibility and videoconferencing

Web accessibility has always been a requirement for UMaine websites, and has been a regular feature in our monthly newsletter. For 2020, Digital Communications will be sharing information about both accessibility and inclusion. The term “accessibility” refers to our efforts to remove barriers that prevent access to websites by people who have a disability. Inclusion broadens this concept, to remove barriers and ensure involvement from everyone in our diverse community. This month, we focus on the accessibility considerations of Zoom videoconferencing.

Using Zoom with Accessibility in mind

Zoom has several accessibility features, but is not a seamless experience if you have colleagues or students who need accommodations. Transcripts can be generated for your meeting automatically, and you can improve their quality greatly through some simple steps:

  • Conduct your meeting in a quiet space — reduce background noise. Zoom will be able to better transcribe your words if it can clearly distinguish your speech from the ambient room noise. If you are in a large space with air handlers for example, consider moving to a quiet secluded location for your meeting.
  • Encourage attendees to keep their own microphones muted. There is a “Meeting Options” setting available, “mute participants upon entry” and it should be checked. Begin your meeting with a request that everyone keep their microphones muted unless they are speaking, and this will reduce transcription problems.
  • Speak clearly and plainly. Pause between sentences. This will help the transcription system identify when sentences start and stop.
  • Record the meeting automatically. This is another meeting option available during set up. At the beginning of the meeting, mention that it will be recorded and a transcription made available after the fact for those who need such accommodation.
  • Allow audio through both computer and telephone. Some users may have better audio connectivity through their telephone system, while others may have accessibility tools for their computer that they prefer.

Using Zoom with a screen reader and/or keyboard navigation

While Zoom does offer keyboard navigation options for use with a screen reader, some features (such as chat) have known issues. If you plan to share document links using the chat feature, consider sending these to attendees ahead of the meeting as those links are difficult to access via keyboard alone in the chat interface. More information about Zoom’s keyboard shortcuts and hot keys is available on their support site.

Transcripts and captioning for Zoom recordings and storage in Kaltura

Kaltura is the University of Maine System’s video streaming and storage service. Students, staff and faculty can choose to have their Zoom meetings recorded and saved to the cloud and it will be “deposited” first to their Zoom account, and then to their Kaltura account. The Kaltura copy will be the permanent version of that recording, while the Zoom copy will eventually be deleted. What is important to note in terms of accessibility is that the Kaltura file will be automatically captioned (by Kaltura’s system). These captions will need to be edited in post-production to fix errors and misspellings.

If you have any questions about web accessibility, or want to see us cover an accessibility topic in a future newsletter, please get in touch with us at