Zoom Guide for the Blind

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In today’s world, virtual meetings are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. However, for the people who are visually impaired, such meetings present a real challenge.

With this article, we aim to provide a guide on how the blind can use Zoom, including not only practical advice, but also a way to familiarize yourself with this virtual communication platform’s structure.

What is Zoom?

Zoom is a popular video conference and online meetup platform. It enables people from all over the world to communicate with each other in real time over the Internet, providing a wide range of features such as video and audio conferencing, messaging, file sharing, as well as the ability to organize webinars and online presentations.

The platform has become especially popular in 2020, when many companies and educational institutions had to shift towards remote work and learning models due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom’s simple and easy-to-use workspace served to promote its widespread adoption for a variety of purposes.

Installation and Registration

You can install Zoom on current versions of Windows in one of two ways:

By downloading it from the official website:

  • Go to Zoom’s official website;
  • Download the installation file that corresponds to your Windows OS version;
  • Run the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions.

Installing Zoom from Microsoft Store:

  • Open the Microsoft Store on your device;
  • Type “Zoom” in the search bar;
  • Select “Zoom Meetings” from the search results and click “Install.”

Registering with Zoom is a step-by-step, intuitive, and hassle-free process. Follow these simple steps to sign up:

  • Go to the official website at https://zoom.us;
  • Once there, find the “Sign Up for Free” button and activate it;
  • Enter your birthdate, email, first and last name, plus a password into the appropriate fields, following the on-screen instructions;
  • Complete your registration by activating the “Create Account” button. A confirmation e-mail will then be delivered to the specified address. Open said e-mail and follow the instructions to complete the registration process.

You can also run Zoom right from your browser or mobile device. However, I have not been able to run Zoom via my browser, so I strongly recommend using the installed application on your PC.

Zoom’s Features for the Blind

Now, let us break down the intuitive and easy-to-grasp workspace elements, as well as the use of Zoom Rooms’ voice commands.

Navigating the User Interface

I want to draw your attention to Zoom workspace’s good accessibility. Analyze it carefully and with no rush, and you will quickly figure out how everything works and get used to it. For my part, I will go into detail regarding the options I personally use all the time.

Upon launching Zoom, the first thing that comes into the screen reader’s focus is the “Add calendar service, open in default browser” option. This feature allows you to connect your Google or Microsoft 365 (Exchange) accounts to view and manage your calendar entries directly within the Zoom app workspace.

The next useful option is “Search.” Activate it, and a pop-up window with a search field and the following tabs will appear: “Top Results,” “Contacts,” “Channels,” “Messages,” and “Files.” These will logically collect results of the corresponding type.

Next comes the panel that is designed to interact with the calendar, contacts, and conferences. The panel contains the following tabs:

  • Home;
  • E-mail;
  • Calendar;
  • Collaborative Chat;
  • Conferences;
  • Contacts.

Since I have not linked my account to a calendar, these tabs display links to Zoom services’ descriptions.

Another important option is the “Notification Center,” which is a pop-up window for keeping track of events while using Zoom. It contains filters for sorting and additional notification features.

“Zoom, Account Name, Status: Available, Free Account” is a drop-down menu button that allows you to set your activity status and message, manage redirects, check for updates, get help, and customize settings. You can also add multiple accounts and log out of your current one, as well as use other features.

A group of buttons follows:

  • Settings: duplicates the previous button’s item of the same name with a drop-down menu;
  • Start a New Conference Without Video: starts a conference with set parameters;
  • New Conference Settings: allows you to quickly manage conference settings;
  • Login: a button used to join an existing conference;
  • Schedule: allows you to schedule a conference by specifying the date, start and end times, as well as other parameters;
  • Screen Demo: broadcasts your screen or any other application’s window to the conference, as well as streaming your audio.

As I said before, Zoom workspace has a high degree of accessibility, if you study it carefully and thoughtfully, of course.

Almost everything is presented in the form of pop-up windows, and you rarely need to switch between them. All interface elements are clearly signed and work well with screen readers. Important notifications or requests are also voiced in a timely manner.

My impressions of Zoom are extremely positive: whenever I have to work with it, I rarely run into any difficulties or issues.

Zoom Rooms: Using Voice Commands

“Zoom Rooms” is a service designed for video conferencing and collaboration in large spaces such as conference and meeting rooms or training centers.

The use of voice commands provides a unique opportunity to control basic functions in Zoom Rooms, allowing users to minimize the need for keyboard or touch screen interaction.

To be honest, I have not tried installing Zoom Rooms on my PC, so I cannot judge how well they work there. Moreover, I believe that it does not make sense to use Zoom Rooms on a home PC just because of their voice commands, but I do think this functionality warrants mentioning.

More information about voice commands can be found on Zoom’s official support page.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, Zoom’s influence has been fundamental in shaping the remote work environment. The platform continues to play a key role in connectivity, productivity, and collaboration as remote work and virtual meetings become an integral part of our daily lives.

It is also very gratifying to see Zoom’s focus on the needs of a diverse group of users, including the blind and visually impaired individuals.

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