Zoom & Accessibility: Closed Captioning Best Practices

Captioning for accessibility in Zoom must be performed by a third-party captioning service and be requested through St. Thomas Disability Resources.

This page provides additional information for the St. Thomas Instructor/Host of a Zoom session as well the for the student (who requires closed captioning) and the rest of the team on the necessary steps for successful closed captioning using Zoom.

Preparing to Use Closed Captioning in Zoom

  1. Closed captioning support in Zoom virtual sessions starts in one of two ways:
    1. A student with a disability who requires closed captioning in virtual synchronous Zoom sessions contacts the Disability Resources Office about his/her need
    2. When a student who requires closed captioned virtual synchronous classes is in a fully online program, the Disability Resources Office will work with the student and the department to map out a plan.
  2. Successful captioning requires a team approach. In some cases the instructor will be notified by the student first and in other cases the instructor is first notified by the Disability Resources office. In either case it is a team’s responsibility to follow the steps required to ensure that the student has closed captioning. The team consists of the student, instructor, Disability Resources, captioner hired by St. THomas, and a Innovation & Technology Services (ITS) member of the Zoom support team. Whoever first learns of the need sets the steps into motion but it will frequently be the student and the Disability Resource office together letting others know of this need.
  3. Set up a short practice/test session. The instructor, student, closed captioner, Disability Resources representative and ITS representative attend a brief practice session set up by the St. Thomas Disability Resources office. The Disability Resources office sets up the third party closed captioner services for a given class. This office works with the instructor, student and at times the department to determine the dates and times required for the closed captioning services and then the ITS Zoom team is asked to send a team member to this practice. In cases where a student and instructor have worked together in previous courses with closed captioning in virtual sessions, there may not be a need for both the Disability Resources office and ITS representative to attend.
  4. Ensure all parties know the Zoom URL and date(s) and time(s) of sessions. The instructor emails the St. Thomas Disability Resources office and closed captioning provider at the beginning of the semester with all of the dates and the Zoom URL link. If you have more than one virtual session time for a given course, send a reminder note about the Zoom session date and time (central time), name of course, name of student and name of the instructor, along with the Zoom URL.
    The email should include:
    1. Closed Captioning Provider (caption@paradigmreporting.com)
    2. Courtesy copy (CC) the Disability Resources Office (disabilityresources@stthomas.edu)
    3. Courtesy copy (CC) the student


How to Assign Captioning Privileges to the Closed Captioner

As soon as the instructor/hosts starts up the Zoom session, and after the captioner arrives into Zoom, the instructor/host of the Zoom turns over captioning privileges to the captioner.

  1. The instructor logs into Zoom and goes to My Meetings.  

    Personal Meeting Room 
    When using your Personal Meeting Room, select "Start Meeting" in order to claim the host role necessary to assign captioning to the captioner.
    Personal Meeting Room in Zoom software


    Scheduled Meeting
    When you have pre-scheduled a one-time or recurring meeting, click on the Start button in order to claim the host role necessary to assign captioning to the captioner.

    View your scheduled meetings organized in a list within Zoom website.

     *Note: The instructor should NOT join the meeting using the “join” link, signified by the letter “j” in the URL. A join link is for participants only and will not give the instructor Host functionality in the meeting.

  2.  After the Captioner joins the Zoom meeting, the Host/Instructor completes either Option A or Option B to assign captioning ability to the captioner (depending on what box you click first):
    1. Option A is easier (fewer steps)
      1. Go to Manage Participants
      2. Hover cursor over the captioner’s name in the participant list to reveal options.
      3. Click More
      4. Click Assign to Type Closed Caption
    2. Option B (the host starts by clicking the Closed Caption box)
      1. Click the CC Closed Captioning Box.
      2. In the top left of the CC box where it states Assign someone to type, click Open Management Participants. (Do NOT click the third party captioner button.)
      3. The Manage Participants box pops up. Find the name of the captioner.
      4. Click More next to the captioner’s name. Click Assign to captioning.
  3. Check that captioning is running successfully. Once captioning is assigned to the captioner, the captioner sends the captioning link (Streamtext URL) to the student who requires captioning, and to the instructor. This link can be opened in another browser window by the student so that s/he can always access the live captioning, since only accessing the CC in Zoom may mean that the captioning disappears or is hard to find at times. Opening Streamtext in a separate window allows the student to arrange the Streamtext and Zoom windows however they want in relation to each other for easy viewing of both. Once the captioning starts, the captioner, student and instructor can check the private chat box to confirm “captioning is working” or any issues.
  4. Hit “record” after the the Zoom Closed Captioning button is turned on, so if a student somehow left the session, there will still be a Closed Captioned recording to watch any parts missed. A recorded session also covers in case the captioner gets ill or has technology issues that don’t allow them to continue captioning. In this rare emergency, the recording can be sent later for full closed captioning.

How a Participant Accesses the Captioning

There are two ways for a student/participant to access captioning: the Streamtext URL to open another browser window (step 1) and the Zoom CC box (step 2).

  1. The captioner provides a Streamtext link directly to the student and instructor in the Zoom chat panel as soon as the student and captioner are both in Zoom. This can happen even before the instructor gives captioning privileges to the captioner. In this way if something stopped working in the “in Zoom” captioning or when in Breakout rooms, a student still has continuous access. (This is additional information on what the Streamtext looks like and also a brief recording about how closed captioning works in Zoom.)
  2. In the main Zoom room, the student and other participants also access captioning within the Zoom session if the user clicks on the CC box and turns captioning on. However, the student/participant who requires closed captioning also needs to get the Streamtext link (can be sent in the chat box as a link, and/or also to an email to a student if there was any issue with chat) to ensure continuous access to the captioning.
Special considerations when using breakout rooms in Zoom:
The student requires ready access to the Streamtext URL in a separate browser window when the instructor goes into Breakout rooms. The direct Zoom CC box access will disappear in the Breakout rooms.

The instructor must assign the captioner to the same breakout room as the student who requires captioning. Ideally the captioner would send that streaming link to both the student in his/her email as well as the sending in the chat panel to the student in case there is something choppy in the transition from the main session room to the Breakout room and back again.


Additional Resources 

  • It is best if the instructor/host, student and captioner all also have email communication in case there is ever a break down with the Zoom connection for someone. When possible a phone/email/text from the ITS/STELAR/Accessibility support team will be available for the first session.
  • Contact Kim Schumann (651-962-6308) in Disability Resources to arrange any additional captioning times, changes in previously set session, or any concerns about accessibility needs. See the Rights, Responsibilities and Laws  on the Disability Resources webpage for overall information on the rights and responsibilities of the student, the responsibilities for St. Thomas and the law.
  • If you have a date/time or URL change, email the captioning service that St. Thomas works with Paradigm Reporting. Also courtesy copy (CC:) the Disability Resources on such communications and the student.
  • If you require additional technology support for your Zoom closed captioning beyond attending an initial practice time, contact ITS help techdesk@stthomas.edu, Cc to Tim Silverthorn tasilverthor@stthomas.edu
  • To fix links or suggest edits on this site, contact Kim Schumann in Disability Resources.

Tips for Instructors When Running Zoom Sessions

  1. At the beginning of class make sure that everyone has access to the content. For the student who uses closed captioning, type a private note in that student in the chat box “XXXX, are you able to see the closed captioning? Is everything working ok?”
  2. Encourage everyone to state their first name if verbally speaking. This will help the transcriber and also helps everyone to learn names.
  3. Reinforce the importance of muting microphones when not talking. Do this by at the beginning of class having a slide up that emphasizes key virtual session etiquette. Examples of what you may include on your slide include:
    1. Please mute your microphone when not speaking
    2. It helps if you state your name when you speak before sharing your idea.
  4. Having your camera on and good lighting helps everyone see your face which gives additional information to help us all learn well together.
  5. Be familiar with how to go into the Participant Box and mute someone who may be creating a lot of background noise. First time perhaps to the group: “I’d like everyone to please look at their microphone image on their zoom screen and make sure to click it on mute when not speaking-it’ll show a red line through it when muted”. Do not hesitate to directly mute someone if they either have repeatedly forgotten to turn off their mic/mute, or they seem totally unaware that they are not muted.
  6. It is helpful if you can check in with the student after the first session (quick email) to make sure that the experience went well. If there is any new learning to share back with the captioner, please also loop in the Disability Services office on this to ensure we all learn from this.
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Article ID: 97481
Thu 2/6/20 8:18 AM
Thu 10/13/22 3:42 PM

Related Services / Offerings (2)

Assistive technologies can help make resources more available to individuals on campus.
St. Thomas offers Zoom and Microsoft Teams that allow you to host virtual audio/video meetings.