How to Enable Free Zoom Captions with Any Zoom Account
This is a tutorial for how to set up free captions on Zoom – any account on Zoom, including your personal free account.
Update: enabling this has been difficult/not possible for some people. I am not sure why, and Zoom itself is not forthcoming about why some people can enable this and others can’t.
I need closed captions. I don’t really care what you call it – “open captions” or “closed captions” or “subtitles” – I am simply talking about the text transcription that is the bottom of a screen that shows what people are saying. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to call them “captions” here.
With captions, I can participate in classes, meetings, hangouts. I can watch movies. Without them, I am stuck in trying to figure what is going on. I get hearing fatigue from the focus, then headaches and complete drains of energy. All that, and I didn’t even understand.
I’ve tried time and again to get them with Zoom. At best though, captions on Zoom required a third-party on board, which is really difficult to handle when you are not the host, not to mention when you don’t have money to pay for the captioning subscription or to hire a CART captionist.
All of that is of no concern anymore, as… (drumroll, please!)
FREE ZOOM HAS AUTOMATIC CAPTIONS
Zoom has finally integrated free, live captions with any plan.
The only thing that needs to be done is some enabling clicks from the back end. ANYONE CAN GET THIS. It’s free, and just by enabling it, you embed the captions directly onto the screen, below the presenter and participants.
It’s really a game changer and it’s easy!
Here’s how to enable live, free captions for Zoom:
If you are enabling captions for your own account, this first paragraph is all you need.
Enabling Captions On Your Own Personal Zoom Account:
Sign in to the Zoom web portal
In the navigation panel, click Profile
Click the Settings tab.
Scroll all the way down to Closed Captioning (under Remote Support and before Save Captions)
Toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, click Turn On to verify the change.
(Optional) If you want to make this setting mandatory for all users in your account, click the lock icon, and then click Lock to confirm the setting.
Immediately below the Closed Captioning option, there is a check box for “Enable live transcription service to show transcript on the side panel in-meeting”. Click it on.
Toggle the Save Captions option.
Note: Make sure your version fo Zoom is the most up to date!
Updated note: I’m not sure this works on phones, tablets, or older computer systems.
Automatic Captioning vs. CART Captioning vs 3rd Party Live Captioning
CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. This is when there is a real person on the other side who is typing out what people are saying. This is a profession, very similar to a court stenographer. While there are errors in what they capture, the errors are usually few as the CART captionist is correcting errors as they go along.
CART captioning is best.
Always, it’s the best. It’s also important to know this if you have a meeting in which you want to be sure you are going to capture what is being said as accurately as possible, no big-time verbiage jumbles.
Automatic Zoom captions or live captions through a 3rd party are improving and they are better than nothing, but they are still automatic, so they can get messed up pretty easily.
3rd party captions include Otter, Rev, Ava, web captions. You can integrate most all of them into Zoom, so that they display under the presenter.
Enabling the Their-Party Captioning Within Zoom:
To enable the third-party closed captioning (- when a third party types the captions in)
If the setting is disabled, click the toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, click Turn On to verify the change. Note: If the option is grayed out, it has been locked at either the group or account level. You need to contact your Zoom admin.
Starting closed captioning in a meeting
In a Zoom meeting or webinar that you are hosting, click Closed Caption.
Click one of these options:
Assign a participant to type: Opens the participants window. Hover over the participant’s name and click More then Assign to Type Closed Caption.
THIS IS WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE A CART CAPTIONIST
I will type: Opens the closed captioning window for you to manually type closed captions.
Once the host assigns you the ability to type closed captions, a notification will appear in your meeting controls.
Click Closed Caption.
This will open up the closed caption box.
Type the caption in the box and press Enter to submit it.
Using closed captioning in Zoom breakout rooms
Breakout rooms are where Zoom is still flopping. The breakout rooms do not have automatic captioning, and Zoom recommends that we subscribe to a third-party closed captioning service if we want closed captions in breakout rooms.
Even with a third-party, only one breakout room can actually utilize the captions. Also, the captionist needs to be assigned before starting the breakout room session:
After you start breakout room sessions, participants can click Closed Caption in the meeting controls to view closed captions.
Viewing closed captioning on Zoom
Sign in to the Zoom desktop client.
Join a meeting or webinar.
When closed captioning begins, you will see a notification above Closed Caption in the meeting controls.
Click Closed Caption to start viewing closed captioning. Tip: Click and drag the closed captioning to move its position in the meeting window.
(Optional) To adjust the caption size:
Click the upward arrow next to Start Video / Stop Video.
Click Video Settings then Accessibility.
Move the slider to adjust the caption size.
Sign in to the Zoom mobile app.
Tap the Settings icon.
Toggle Closed Captioning to on.
When you are in a meeting where closed captioning is available, they will automatically appear on the bottom of the screen.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.
Do you know if this works in breakout rooms as well?
Friday 19th of February 2021
No, I don't know, I'm sorry. I've only tested it one-on-one.
Carrie E Levin
Thursday 24th of December 2020
Meriah - this article is misleading. Zoom added an accessible built-in tool and decided to call it "Closed Caption" (CC). It's a tool, nothing more. So technically, Zoom doesn't offer any free closed captions. You failed to mentioned that CART captioners cost money - they're actually quite expensive charging as low as $80/hour. The 3rd party caption apps - AVA and Rev,com charge monthly fees, unlike Otter which is free. These apps use ASR, or automatic speech recognition, thanks to AI. Asking a participant to type is an alternative though most I bet cannot come close to the accuracy of a CART captioner, let alone 3rd party apps with ASR.
Zoom offers something called "Live Transcript" (ie - auto-caption) only on their paid tier accounts: PRO, BUSINESS, EDUCATION and ENTERPRISE. Unlike Google Meet, Zoom refuses to offer for free to the millions of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing folks "Live Transcript". Check out this petition urging Zoom to provide free captions for people with hearing loss.
@Meriah, I figured out what the confusion is! In your article, you indicate that automatic captioning (NOT done by a person) is now available, but you don't actually say how to invoke it (though you give lots of good info about assigning a person to type). In the section "Starting closed captioning in a meeting" there is now a THIRD option available (at least to me, as the host of a meeting with a "pro" account), after a captioning service or assigning someone to type: "Live Transcript"! I click that, and suddenly, there are captions at the bottom of the screen, and the speaker is identified if I open the chat window! And they seem to be quite accurate, if everyone is speaking clearly. Hooray!
Sunday 27th of December 2020
Have you actually tried it? Because I have. Many times. It IS closed captions, and they do work. I have no idea why Zoom isn't making a big deal out of the fact that they have them now (- perhaps they are in beta? I don't know), but they DO WORK - if they didn't, I would not have posted this.