audio version (opens in a new tab)
During these challenging times, connecting with people is crucial. One of the best ways to do that, from my perspective, is through
video-conferencing service Zoom.
I recommend Zoom for a specific reason. There are a variety of ways to conference remotely. As an individual who is blind, it is my experience that some web-conferencing platforms are not very accessible from a screen reader perspective. Zoom stands out because the company values accessibility for all. The commitment to accessibility is evident on
Zoom’s article documenting accessibility features.
It is clear to me as a Zoom user that accessibility is of high priority to Zoom. The remainder of this article will focus on installing, configuring and using Zoom.
Zoom software is available for a variety of platforms. In
software can be downloaded for Windows, IPhone and Android devices. There is also a section of the page focused on the Zoom browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. Browser extensions enable the user to run a web application without downloading a complete installation package. I myself prefer the complete software package for Windows because it is the solution most useful for me. After Zoom is installed, it is time to configure it.
Zoom is valuable because it provides high-quality audio without needing to change many settings. Before joining your first meeting, I recommend going into Zoom settings, audio and use the Test Microphone option to make sure you can be heard. For people who are visual learners, the Zoom web site contains
a variety of helpful Zoom videos.
People who learn best through audio can check out Jonathan Mosen’s audio tutorial
“Meet Me Accessibly – A Guide to Zoom Cloud Meetings from a Blindness Perspective”.
The author and narrator is blind. Normally there is a cost for this audio tutorial through the company which he founded, Mosen Consulting. In consideration of coronavirus, the company decided to make the tutorial available for free download. If readers of this article are interested in his tutorial, I suggest downloading it while the tutorial is being offered for free. Jonathan covers a wide variety of Zoom topics, including Zoom configuration with a screen reader on IPhone and Windows, scheduling a meeting and joining one. The above list only scratches the surface of Jonathan’s 3-hour tutorial. Although it was recorded a few years ago, I have listened to Jonathan’s audio tutorial and consider all of the explanations and demonstrations still relevant. I also have some tips for using Zoom.
I encourage readers to experiment with and learn more about Zoom. It may be helpful for participants to toggle Zoom alerts off or unload a screen reader while a Zoom meeting is occurring. As a blind person, I find pop-up alerts such as people entering meeting room or writing a chat message to everyone distracting. I understand and respect that some readers may value the alerts more than I do. For meeting hosts, I suggest scheduling meetings with a password whenever possible as a security measure. As
Zoom points out in a security article,
passwords help protect a meeting. Specifically, passwords can prevent meetings being unexpectedly disrupted by people with malicious intent. I hope this brief introduction has been of benefit.
I currently use Zoom to communicate with my supervisor on a regular basis. Zoom has also enabled me to participate in a happy hour and games with members of a Facebook group. Question for readers: How are you using Zoom? Feel free to leave a reply. I will return next week with another article.