August 14, 2019

Zoom Meetings and Closed Captioning: Getting Connected


Among the three consecutive letters that get people energized, “IPO” is right up there. The enterprise cloud communications space has seen two in recent months–the Slack IPO and the Zoom IPO–which have both revisited the value of connecting people through collaboration.

Zoom Video Communications, Inc., in particular, has placed next-gen video conferencing at the forefront. Their successful stock market debut saw their share price more than double, central to a global enterprise collaboration market that could reach $3.2 billion by 2021, as noted recently by the Wall Street Journal.

With the rise of telecommuting, better access to high bandwidth connectivity, improving video capabilities, and other developments, remote collaboration is understandably on the rise.

Along the way, captioning is becoming an increasingly important part of this movement towards corporate connectivity via video. There is a growing awareness among organizations–publicly traded and privately-held–that they have a responsibility to make visual-based technologies, such as videoconferencing, accessible to all individuals.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, one of the requirements is to display captions during multimedia presentations.

With a focus on providing cloud-based and hardware closed captioning solutions, EEG has witnessed firsthand the rapid growth of captioning for corporate meetings. Our AV610 CaptionPort Live Captioning Display, for example, is regularly connected to our automatic captioning service, Lexi, or the iCap closed captioning and subtitle delivery network in smaller business meetings. And when a large Seattle-area software company laid out a vision of 100% accessibility at their semi-annual multi-day conference, held across 120 rooms over three days for thousands of employees, iCap, the HD492 iCap Caption Encoder, and the AV610 CaptionPort enabled onsite and global captioning coverage.

IT: Paying Attention

As virtual collaboration expands, IT managers are now taking captioning workflow into account early on. Following in the footsteps of providing a text relay for the hearing impaired on telephone conference calls, web-based videoconferencing represents the next frontier of virtual collaboration; to not provide closed captioning on a Zoom conference would be a step backwards.

Fortunately, the rapid progress of cloud solutions is making it much easier to answer the question, “How do we caption a meeting?” Between ADA accessibility and the advent of automatic translation captioning to serve multinational workplaces, the latest technology is pushing what’s possible in terms of ease of setup, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness.

Closed captioning won’t be used for every Zoom-style video conference. In small, informal meetings, closed captions will likely be used on an as-requested basis. But for larger organizations where accessibility is a must, IT managers will need to have a system in place for closed captioning.

As it turns out, Zoom has released an excellent API that makes closed captioning on their platform easy to deploy. Tools like this mirror EEG solutions such as Falcon, which is made for direct-to-web live streaming and can painlessly add live closed captions onto live streaming video products, including Facebook Live, YouTube Live Events, Wowza Streaming Engine, Twitch, LiveStream, VBrick, and IBM Cloud Video (UStream).

The result of this are ecosystems where captioning is easy to implement, whether for virtual collaboration or live streaming video. Despite there being many services to choose from, there are solutions from both streaming and captioning providers that allow closed captioning to be seamless and consistently included in the experience.

Flex Time

Implementing closed captioning into the Zoom world is not just a question of why or how, but also when. After all, one of the promises of virtual collaboration is speed built for convenience; participants can book a meeting at any moment, then loop in additional people at any time. IT managers often ask us how to incorporate closed captioning with a level of flexibility to match that spontaneity.

That’s where ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) solutions, like EEG’s Lexi, come in. While larger organizations may have a strong enough relationship with a captioning agency to get a human captioner at a moment’s notice, the same is not always feasible for smaller enterprise users. Automatic captioning solutions provide a hybrid workflow that guarantees captioning is available 24/7, whenever and wherever it’s needed.

Let’s Get It Started

Closed captioning for virtual collaboration in Zoom and other platforms starts with giving it a test run. Demoing EEG solutions like Lexi can be done with almost no advance setup.

From there, expanding your closed captioning coverage is a natural step. From town halls and CEO-led all-hands meetings to huddle rooms and spur-of-the-moment video calls, it’s clear that captions are beneficial from beyond an accessibility standpoint. Now more than ever, the added professionalism that closed captioning brings to virtual collaboration is core to corporate best practices.