Using live captioning for an inclusive Zoom experience

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have experienced a sharp increase in the number of events and interactions through video conferencing and collaboration platforms. In many ways, this has yielded several benefits; fewer logistical concerns and the ability to record an event for later viewing means that information can reach more people. However, this change in how we interact also exposed serious shortcomings, notably the lack of live captions and transcriptions in WUSTL HIPAA Zoom.

The Becker Medical Library is committed to accessibility. Out of concern that our virtual programming was not well-adapted for our hearing-impaired colleagues and patrons, several months ago, we began engaging with WashU IT to advocate for automatic captioning and live transcriptions to be enabled in Zoom for the medical campus community. Due to the unique privacy and security concerns the School of Medicine must consider, this initiative required much effort from the Office of Information Security, the Office of the General Counsel, and WashU IT to ensure this was implemented properly. We are grateful to these groups for their attention to this issue and are excited about this new enhancement.

Becker Medical Library will utilize live captions and transcriptions in our upcoming training sessions and events streamed on Zoom. Below are some brief instructions to help you do the same.

Using closed captioning and live transcripts

Upon starting a Zoom meeting, you should see a “CC Live Transcript” button at the bottom of the Zoom application window. Click this button and select “Enable” to turn on live transcriptions.

Enabling zoom captions

The audio, transcribed in real-time, appears as captions at the bottom of the screen. Attendees can move the caption box (outlined in blue) as desired.

The caption box, outlined in blue.

The full transcript can also be viewed, allowing the user to review earlier spoken content. To view the full transcript, click the small caret symbol (^) on the “CC Live Transcript” button and select “View Full Transcript.”

View Full Transcript button

The full transcript of the meeting will appear to the right.

The full transcript to the right.

The transcript area can also pop out into a window and be placed in a preferred location.

The transcript pop out button.

Finally, users can alter the size of on-screen captions under “Subtitle Settings…” These settings can be found by clicking the small caret symbol (^) in the “CC Live Transcript” button.

Subtitle settings button.

A settings screen will appear with a slider to adjust font size.

Caption settings window.

Notes and limitations

  • Enabling closed captioning and live transcriptions in a meeting is controlled by the host, but it is easy for an attendee to request the host enable it. When an attendee clicks to view the captions and live transcriptions in a meeting where the feature has not been enabled, they are presented with an option to notify the meeting host. The host will simply see a notice to approve or decline the request.
  • This feature is powered by a speech-to-text transcription application from that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our experience has been very positive, but occasional inaccurate transcriptions will occur.
  • Captions and live transcriptions do not work in Breakout Rooms.
  • The on-screen captions are not captured in recordings.
  • Native captioning DOES work in Zoom Webinars.

We hope this information has been helpful and you enable this feature in your next meeting to make for a more accessible and inclusive experience for your attendees.