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Access (Accommodation) Services and Academic Success Services - Students with Disabilities

Roles and Scopes of Access and Academic Success Services for Students with Disabilities


A scribe writes the answers exactly as the student dictates them. A scribe may be used by a student with specific writing deficits related to cognitive issues such as a learning disability or brain injury, or by a student who does not have the manual dexterity to physically write or type. Students, wherever possible, are encouraged to learn how to use assistive technology (i.e., voice-to-text software) that will record what the student verbalizes, thus increasing independence by eliminating the need for a person to write for them. There remain, however, circumstances where assistive technology is not suitable and a scribe must be used.

A scribe provides verbatim dictation of student responses. The student may organize information before involvement of a scribe is needed, or the student may dictate an oral outline. The scribe may also read work aloud back to the student. The scribe does not discuss course content with the student nor help the student organize their thoughts.

The scribe acts as the student's hand and/or eyes; they will not assist students with the content of the answer in any way. Students dictate their answer to the scribe and include all punctuation, not assuming the scribe knows how to spell technical words. The student must confirm spelling with the scribe.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Scribe services for quizzes, test and exams require a private testing space. For these, scribes are college employees who work for the Centre for Accessible Learning.
  • The scribe may type answers as dictated for efficiency and to better allow the testing student to review the responses. If the student does not receive the use of a computer with word processor as an accommodation, the scribe should use WordPad so as not to flag grammar or spelling errors.
  • The testing student should review scribed documents for accuracy before turning in exam or assignment.
  • Exams and assignments can be dictated independently by the student with voice-to-text software (Dragon Naturally Speaking).

Do's and Don'ts for Scribes


  • Do - ask the student if they have worked with a scribe previously. Find out their likes and dislikes and come to an agreement as to how you will work together. Explain to the student that you are there to facilitate the test or assignment and if they need you to speed up, slow down, skip or repeat questions, just let you know.
  • Do - take short breaks to talk about trivial things and allow the student to "talk out" their responses (remember not to comment).
  • Do - respect the student's personal space.

Do Not...

  • Don't - tell the student how this exam or assignment is going to go or how it is going. Avoid comments like "You are doing great."
  • Don't - use the time as a counselling session.
  • Don't - give the student advice on their test writing during the exam time. Avoid making statements, such as "You are answering the questions too quickly!"
  • Don't - take in a lot of personal supplies (for example, only take in a book, phone, drink and any test or exam or assignment instructions), in order to maintain a distraction reduced setting for the student.