Zoom Considerations for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Man sitting at a table talks to a woman in a zoom meeting on a laptop.

Zoom interviews. Zoom conferences. Zoom meetings. Zoom classes. Zoom assemblies. Zoom consultations. Zoom gatherings. Zoom appointments. The world is entering Zoomtopia, so it’s about time we address considerations for those who are blind or visually impaired. Because, though the meetings aren’t in-person, they’re still face-to-face, and should be prepared for and accommodated as such.

Here’s how you can take responsibility for an accessible, successful Zoom (which may or may not be a standalone verb, but I’m dubbing it as such):

Prior to the Day of Your Zoom:

  • Just like you’d request accessible presentation notes before an in-person engagement, you’ll want to do the same prior to a Zoom meeting. According to Zoom’s Accessibility Frequently Asked Questions, user content shared through Zoom’s screen sharing feature is presented to participants as an HD video stream. To access files prior to the meeting, ask the host/ presenters to share their notes via Dropbox or e-mail. Utilizing the file upload capability of the in-meeting chat is an option for last-minute sharing.
  • Discover additional accessibility features pertinent to you. Features include accessibility-related keyboard commands, utilizing high-contrast mode, supporting larger font, and using the remote-control feature to control another computer’s screen reader.
  • Rehearse navigating Zoom by hosting a meeting with a sighted friend before participating in a job interview or work meeting. Your friend can let you know if your lighting is adequate; if it isn’t, consider using additional lighting. They can also let you know if you have a satisfactory camera angle and if you are successfully utilizing Zoom features and tools.
  • If appropriate, offer to schedule and host the meeting. Learning how to host and offering the service gives you an opportunity to showcase your technology skills.

On the Day of Your Zoom:

  • Tidy your background space. If you are opting to utilize your camera, ensure your desktop and background is neat and orderly. Your environment will be a reflection of you—whether structured and clean, or disorganized and sloppy.
  • Ensure you’re in a quiet area. Unless you will be muted the entire meeting, be proactive in establishing a silent environment. Be mindful to mute nearby technology and plan to use a headset or earpiece when listening to a screen reader.
  • Take care of yourself as if you were attending an in-person meeting. Your clothing and hygiene will reflect your professionalism.
  • Plan to be hands-free. To avoid juggling too many tasks while on the call, prepare a setup that doesn’t include holding devices. Utilize a laptop or desktop, or a phone holder, instead of needing to clutch your phone or tablet, especially important if you’re using the camera/ video feature.
  • Prepare your setup in advance. Have your station, assistive technology, internet, and Zoom conference room (with code and password) ready for action well in advance of your meeting time.
  • Strike a power pose. (Click the link for more information).If you’re feeling uneasy or nervous, do what you can to de-stress and gain confidence.

At the Meeting:

  • Strongly consider utilizing the video feature. While you can opt to leave your camera off (even many sighted individuals do if attending Zoom conferences without breakout sessions), utilizing the video feature builds trust and rapport with sighted colleagues. It will help them feel like they know you. It also gives them to the opportunity to read your body language. Speaking of…
  • Be intentional with your body language. The same facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and posture that is important to use at in-person meetings are important for a Zoom meeting. Instead of orienting to whoever is speaking, you’ll orient to your computer or phone screen (assuming the camera is on or near your screen).
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. Background noise is distracting to meeting attendees.

Additional Resources

As you can imagine, preparing for a Zoom engagement has many similarities to preparing for a phone interview or meeting. I recommend reviewing the following blog posts:

How to Master the Phone Interview as an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

The Telephone Interview as Someone Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired 

And if you are a speaker using the Zoom platform, the following resource will be valuable:

Preparing for a Public Speaking Engagement as an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Many of you are Zoom pros and could have written the tips yourself. I hope, however, those of you who are less familiar with Zoom has the information you need to prepare for a successful, virtual engagement.