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Literacy Requirements of Court Documents: An Unexplored Barrier to Access to Justice

This report explores using a “functional literacy” framework to evaluate whether court and tribunal forms used in Canada are overly complex. The functional literacy framework acknowledges that “adults do not read printed materials in a vacuum but read them within a context or for a particular purpose.”

The researchers used this framework and a rating tool used to assess literacy tasks to evaluate the complexity of four forms used in Ontario:

  • the Plaintiff’s Claim (Form 7A) used in Small Claims Court
  • the Form T2 – Application about Tenant Rights used at the Landlord and Tenant Board
  • the Application (General) (Form 8) used in family court
  • the Financial Statement (Property and Support Claims) (Form 13.1) used in family court

The researchers found that these forms and the guides designed to help people fill them out varied widely in complexity from “high complexity” to “very low complexity”.

After reviewing the methodology used in the report and addressing any limitations, the researchers discussed some possible solutions to help make sure forms are less complex, including:

  • redesigning the more complex forms
  • designing and using dynamic electronic forms
  • providing unbundled legal services to help more people access dedicated help filling in forms
Author: Burkell, Jacquelyn; Isaj, Lori; Piva, Brandon
Title of Work: Literacy Requirements of Court Documents: An Unexplored Barrier to Access to Justice
Date: 2017
Organization: Western University Faculty of Information and Media Studies
URL: Click here
Topic: PLE development and delivery & Self-help
Location of Authoring Organization by Country: Canada
Location of Authoring Organization by Province/ State (unless national entity): Ontario
Availability: Full report online
Language: English