- Do clients and participants have difficulty speaking English
- Are the forms filled out with errors in spelling, grammar,
or language, or are they filled out incorrectly?
- Is the client or participant inappropriately defensive, surly,
- Does the client or participant signal agreement inappropriately?
- Is the client or participant uncommunicative?
- Can the client or participant tell a coherent story?
- Does the client’s writing style match the speaking style?
- Does the handwriting on documents match the signature
- Talk to other administrative tribunals about literacy, share your
experiences, and learn about best practices.
Conducting the hearing
- Remember to speak plainly so you can be understood by all
people present. It is possible to simplify the level of your language
so the proceedings can be understood by those with low
- Explain the documents being used, the process, the implications
of each step, and the results. Use simple language.
- Explain as often as necessary, rewording anything complex.
- Reassure clients and ask them to repeat back what they understood
you to say.
- Repeat important information to increase understanding. Often
people with low literacy skills rely on memory.
- Have other tribunal officials explain the complexities of the
- Take the time at each step to rephrase and simplify.
- If necessary, recess the hearing. Then speak to counsel and
staff and have them assist the client.
- When the client is not present and low literacy is suspected,
rely on the markers to review the file for hints or ask counsel
or staff to provide more information.