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Contributed by Stephen Polacek, IT Accessibility Evaluator, MDOD/AT Program

A friend at the National Federation of the Blind informed me of this: two weeks ago, Zoom provided an accessibility update that added new features for screen readers.  It allows users to select which alerts it reads aloud.  The options provided are:

  1. IM Chat Received
  2. Participant has left/joined the meeting (only Host hears)
  3. Participant has left/joined waiting room (only host hears)
  4. Audio muted by host
  5. Video stopped by host
  6. Screen sharing started/stopped by participant
  7. Recording permission granted/revoked
  8. Public in-meeting chat received
  9. Private in-meeting chat received
  10. In-meeting file upload completed
  11. Closed captioning is available
  12. Closed captioning typing privilege is granted/revoked
  13. Host privilege is granted/revoked
  14. Co-host privilege is granted/revoked
  15. Livestream has started/stopped
  16. Participant has raised/lowered hand (only host hears)
  17. Q&A question received
  18. Q&A Answer received
  19. Role changed to panelist
  20. Role changed to attendee

The new alerts can be turned on or off individually from the Accessibility Menu, located in the settings menu when in a meeting.  The picture below shows the start of the list.

Zoom Screen Reader Alerts List

Zoom Screen Reader Alert List Options

I gave it a quick test and they seem to work pretty well.  I would caution that it will likely become problematic in large webinars or classes though, as the messages being read may interfere with actually hearing the presenters.  Thankfully, since each individual option can be selected or not, this can be tailored to your experience. 

Zoom states they test their product using keyboard-only access and also use the latest screen readers.  Their products are “compliant, with exceptions, with the following standards,” which include WCAG 2.1 and Section 508.  See their accessibility page for more information: https://zoom.us/accessibility.

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