(Note, this article was last updated in December 2020. Thanks go to members of the TAVIP discussion list including Steve Nutt, Jackie Brown, Yusuf Osman, and Ben Mustill-Rose.)
Since the beginning of the COVID19 crisis, video and audio conferencing has become an ever more vital part of life, both in business, and to support social engagement. The Zoom video conferencing platform is currently a widely used option, and support for accessibility is evolving rapidly. This document includes a summary of useful tips for the successful use of Zoom by a person with limited or no sight.
Zoom with NVDA
Most of the information in this article relates to the basic use of Zoom with the JAWS screen reader as this is the environment with which I am myself most familiar. However, enhanced support for Zoom is also provided by NVDA, and can be accessed at https://addons.nvda-project.org/addons/zoomEnhancements.en.html.
Zoom with Windows and JAWS
(Please Note: I do not claim to be an advanced Zoom user, and these notes reflect my own evolving experience with the product as well as the advice of other users.)
During the preparation of this document, I used JAWS2021 on Windows10, Zoom version 5.4.7 (59784.1220).
Further information relating to the use of JAWS with Zoom is available on the Freedom Scientific website at https://www.freedomscientific.com/webinars/jaws-and-zoom-a-lesson-on-learning/
And JAWS2021 now includes enhanced support for Zoom. You can list available keystrokes for this by pressing Insert+H. These keystrokes include features such as the ability to have JAWS identify the participant currently speaking.
There is also a list of short-cut keystrokes which can be found by clicking the Setting button on the opening Zoom screen (not available once you have entered a meeting), and locating the tab labelled “Keyboard Shortcuts”. Also see the accessibility tab for configuration of a number of accessibility options.
The following is a list of what I have found to be the most useful keystrokes for everyday participation in a Zoom session. For newcomers to Zoom, it is recommended that you request the host of the meeting to send you an invitation in advance, which should include a link. Clicking on this link should allow you to go directly to the Zoom meeting, and these notes assume that you have installed the Windows Zoom app.
- Raise (or lower) hand = ALT-Y.
- Mute/Unmute = ALT-A
- Mute/Unmute audio for everyone except host (only works for host) = ALT-M
- Video on/off = ALT-V
- Record (local) = ALT-R
- Record (Cloud) = ALT-C
- Leave meeting with ALT-F4
More Advanced Functionality
As well as participating in audio and video communication, attendees can send and receive text-based chat messages. To open the Chat window press ALT-H. It is then possible to tab between the various areas where you can read or type chat messages.
Join Meeting with ID and Password
To join a Zoom meeting to which you have been invited but for which the host has not provided a link, tab around the opening Zoom screen until you land on the ‘Join’ button. Pressing enter on this button will open a dialogue box where you can enter a meeting identification supplied by the host. Once this has been done, you may also be asked to provide a password.
Hosting a meeting
In the opening Zoom window, tab until you find a button labelled ‘Start a new meeting’. Hitting Enter on this button will initiate the meeting, and allow you to access a number of additional options including a button labelled Audio Settings which in turn provides the functionality to choose and test your microphone and speakers/headphones. Try testing the set-up first, as in many cases the correct configuration will be chosen automatically. My preferred (but not the only) way to invite attendees to a meeting, is to tab to and hit enter on the Meeting Information button, which includes a button labelled Copy Link. Clicking the ‘Copy Link’ button will copy the link to your clipboard. You can then use your favourite email program to manually create a mail message to your attendees, into which you can paste the link from your clipboard with Control-V and then send your invitation message.
Waiting for your guests to arrive
Back in the Zoom Meeting window, don’t forget to switch your video on if it isn’t already switched on using the keystroke ALT-V (assuming you are happy for other participants to comment unfavourably on your choice of jumper or décor).
Depending on the set-up of your account, and if you used the above method of creating the meeting and sending the invitations, your guests should be allowed to join the meeting directly rather than being placed in the waiting room. However, if you do receive a message to the effect that you have a guest in the waiting room, recent versions of Zoom should allow you to tab to a button labelled ‘Admit’.
More advanced use of the Zoom program is beyond the scope of this introductory document, but the above information should allow you to get started.
Zoom on iPhone with VoiceOver
I have little experience with the use of Zoom on an iPhone, as I find that the Windows app is easier to use. Particular problems I have encountered with even basic use of the Zoom app and VoiceOver include difficulties experienced by people attempting to mute their microphone.
I did however, turn up this article which may be useful, though it has not been checked for accuracy by TAVIP so can’t be specifically endorsed or recommended.
Zoom on Android?
I have so far failed to identify any information about the use of the Zoom app on an Android platform and would be grateful for any information or links that might throw light on this subject.