Graphic depicts two hands reaching for a computer. The background is different shades of blue and purple and the words "staying connected 2020" appear in block letters at the top.

Edition 21 | Summer 2020

How to make video conferencing tools work for you

By Shane Crowe

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced drastic changes to daily life for many people around the country. For non-essential workers, the biggest change was the transition from regular, in-person meetings to daily meetings in a digital space. With quarantine imminent, people had to rapidly learn to use video conferencing platforms like Zoom; however, without key accessibility features, services like Zoom can present obstacles and challenges for people with disabilities, especially those with hearing disabilities.

To address these challenges head-on, the Ability360 Advocacy department acquired an artificial intelligence (AI) live-captioning service offered by Rev in partnership with Zoom. Rev is a service that offers captions for videos and has been offering live captioning for Zoom meetings since June of this year. Vice President of Advocacy April Reed has been testing the service and getting feedback from consumers, volunteers and staff.

“It’s not perfect, it’s evolving. And that’s a good thing,” Reed said, “because I think all of us have a real opportunity to speak up right now.”

Rev’s service boasts up to 80% accuracy, but the transcription can still cause confusion. Other companies like Otter.ai and Ai-Media have partnered with Zoom to offer similar services that perform at about the same standard of accuracy as Rev.

Whether one contacts the company directly or provides feedback to Ability360, Reed said it is important for members of the disability community to “let them know what challenges you’re encountering or your ideas for accessibility, because I think that now is the time for us…to improve the accessibility features of these platforms for the better.”


Healthy Teens, Healthy Communities Program, Click here for more information

Despite the obstacles that new technology provides, the community response to the service has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Reed.

“I think, of course, with any new technology, there’s always a sense of nervousness using it the first few times,” said Reed, “but what’s been really great for us is it’s allowed us to continue the community that we normally have in this building, through events, through classes, through the groups we do. That’s been really important.”

The transition to a digital space has actually allowed this community to grow. Many people who have previously been unable to attend Ability360 events have had an opportunity to join and participate, often for the first time. “I really look at Zoom as an important tool for right now,” Reed said, “but I believe that it’s our intention to continue using it in the future, once we resume in-person classes, to still have this available so that we can continue to reach people in different communities or people that–maybe because of their disability–aren’t able to be here in person. That’s been a real gift.”

Subscribe to LivAbility

Shane Crowe

Shane Crowe | Writer

Shane Crowe is a senior at Arizona State University where he double majors in journalism and digital culture. Shane was born in Phoenix, Arizona and enjoys camping, making music and pursuing creative projects with his friends. He hopes to one day stick to a regular exercise schedule.

Read more by Shane Crowe.

Accessibility