Less than a week after the health journalist Julia Métraux, who is hard-of-hearing, tweeted about Zoom’s lack of free captions as an accessibility and human rights issue, the company has met the call. Until yesterday, Zoom hadn’t offered closed captions on free accounts, unlike Skype, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. The feature is vital for deaf and hard-of-hearing users and many second-language learners. In a statement to Métraux last night after her inquiry for a Gizmodo article that published moments ago, Zoom said it plans to release live captions for everyone this fall, and people can fill out transcript requests in the meantime.
“It should not have taken as long to get captions on Zoom as it does for people to get vaccines during a pandemic, but glad it happened,” Métraux tells me.
Zoom said it made the change to “provide a platform that is accessible to all of the diverse communities we serve,” though Métraux also credits a petition by hearing-loss advocate Shari Eberts—with more than 80,000 signatures—and a class-action suit against Zoom from people with hearing loss. The combined efforts “likely played a role in the announcement,” she says.