Document Use

 The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has defined 9 skills needed for work, learning and everyday living. Document use is named as one of the skills required that provides the foundation for learning all other skills. 

 
According to the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, Document Use

  • Refers to tasks that involve a variety of information displays in which words, numbers, icons and other visual characteristics (e.g., line, colour, shape) are given meaning by their spatial arrangement. For example, graphs, lists, tables, maps, drawings, signs and labels are documents used in the educational setting.
  • Includes: 1. Print and non-print media (for example, computer screen or microfiche documents, equipment gauges, clocks and flags) and 2. Reading/interpreting and writing/completing/producing of documents – these two uses of documents often occur simultaneously as part of the same task, e.g., completing a form, checking off items on a list of tasks, plotting information on a graph, and entering information on an activity schedule

Assistive technology can be used as a tool that supports document use. Students who have difficulty with reading and writing that may interfere with document use, can benefit from the various high and low technology discussed in this section.


High Technology to Support Document Use

 


Scanning and Reading Software

Scanning and reading software begins with using a scanner to scan paper documents into a computer. Software will then translate it into digital format so it can be read and edited. While not all scanning and reading software are built the same, the following features of scanning and reading software support the skill of document use:

  • Tracking/highlighting text – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides visual reinforcement.
  • Text-to-speech capabilities - helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides aural reinforcement.
  • Adjusting the speech rate – slowing down the speech rate can help you focus on understanding the content.  Increasing the speech rate will help with skimming the text to get a general idea of what it is about.
  • Highlighter – use the highlighter to highlight the main points in a text can help you focus on key information
  • Extract – using a specific colour to highlight new words and utilizing the extracting feature can allow you to create an instant list of words that you want to look up using the dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Sticky Notes, Voice Notes or Footnotes – these features allow you create a summary of the text, make notes on key information and write down or record questions or thoughts you may have.
  • Browsing – this feature will read the first and last sentence from every paragraph to in order to quickly preview the content.
  • Bookmarks – an electronic bookmark can be added to key words, ideas, headings, subheadings for sections to be reviewed later
  • Summarize – this feature allow you to create an overview of the text based on keywords and or bookmarks created.
  • Forms filling mode to assist with filling out worksheets, tests and quizzes.
  • Word prediction (Link to section on this page below) to predict the word you are typing and the next word
  • Provide you auditory feedback as you type. This can assist with proofreading your work, so there are no spelling or grammar errors. You can listen for anything that sounds awkward or unclear in your writing.
  • Dictionary and spell checker to verify correct usage and spelling of words

 

Screen Readers 

Screen readers produce synthesized speech output for text displayed on the computer screen. Screen readers offer the following features to assist with working with a document:

  • Displaying the list of headings on the document. The headings can be listed in order they appear. By listening to this list the user can get an overview of what the page is about. The user can also sort headings alphabetically and filter all headings on a specific level.
  • Displaying the list of links on the document. Similar to the list of headings, this list presents all the links in the document. By listening to the links the user may get a different view of what the page is about and more specifically to where he/she can navigate. Shortcut keys specified for links are also presented in the list.

 

Speech to Text Software 

Speech to text software allows an individual to use their voice instead of typing on a keyboard.

Text-to-Speech software

Text-to-Speech software allows you to have written text read out loud. The following features of text-to-speech software will help you when working with a document:

  • Text-to-speech capabilities - helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides aural reinforcement. The auditory feedback also assists with proofreading work so there are no spelling or grammar errors. You can listen for anything that sounds awkward or unclear in your writing.
  • Tracking/highlighting text – helps you focus on the part of text you are reading as it provides visual reinforcement.

 

Word Prediction software

Word prediction technology is used to assist with text entry. Word prediction software will predict the word you are typing and the next word based on word frequency and context. It may also include the following features to help you with writing:

  • Dictionary and spell checker to verify correct usage and spelling of words 
  • Provide you auditory feedback as you type. This can assist with proofreading your work, so there are no spelling or grammar errors. You can listen for anything that sounds awkward or unclear in your writing.


Low Technology to Support Document Use

 

Difficulty focusing on the right line of text

Barriers to document Use Low Technology Solution
Unable to read due to visual limitation
  • Use large print or braille textbooks and novels
  • Use low vision optical devices such as magnifiers and telescopes.
  • Magnifiers assist students with near-distance vision tasks like reading books and handouts but telescopes assist with far-distance vision tasks such as reading the chalkboard.
  • Use textbooks and novels in audio format
  • Bookholders to bring the reading material closer so the content is more visible and accessible.
  • Place a coloured transparency over text
  • Copy the text onto coloured copy paper
Difficulty focusing on the right line of text
  • Use textbooks and novels in audio format
  • Use reading windows/templates and line markers (rulers) to help student keep his/her place on the page when reading
  • Line by line coloured filter strips
  • Reading helper – covers only one line of text at a time
  • Use word processing programs to increase line/word spacing

Unable to physically access the document

  • Electronic Page turners to assist students who are unable to turn the page of a book
  • Magnetic tape turner added to each page. Students use a magnetic wand to turn the page. 
  • Bookholders to bring the reading material closer so the content is more visible and accessible.
  • PowerPoint Books
 
Difficulty focusing on key information
  • Post-it notes to help mark pages of a book, make notes, etc. 
  • Hi-Liter pens to highlight text passages
  • Highlighter tape, tabs to accentuate text in books or places that can’t be permanently altered
  • Dictionary/thesaurus supports including picture based dictionaries and thesaurus
Unable to hold the pencil correctly
  • Pencil grips or thicker pencils. Pencil grips come in variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are slipped onto pens and pencils to provide a stable holding surface for right or left handed kids. Some pens have grips built-in.
Unable to stay on the lines while writing
  • Speciality paper: Raised line paper: raised line assists children by providing a physical bump to help “feel” where to stop.
  • Specialty paper: Darker lines on paper
  • Specialty paper: Bright line paper
Unable to start writing from left side of the paper
  • Draw a line in a bright colour on the left margin
Difficulty accessing a notebook
  • Use a slant board
Has writing difficulties
  • Weighted pen or pencil
  • Writing bird
  • Slant board. A slant board provides a smooth, angled, "drafting table"work surface that helps position the wrist for writing.It can be made of plastic, wood, or even cardboard
  • A 3D binder can be used as a makeshift slant board. 
  • Portable keyboards / Stand alone word processors allow for easy and portable access to writing
 
Difficulties with holding down the paper
  • Tape it to the desk
  • Use magnets on a magnetic cookie sheet
 
  • Use templates
 Difficulties with spelling
  • Handheld electronic reference tools: speaking dictionary and thesaurus


Resources
 


Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is a Canadian organization focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. OLES provide expertise, project funding, and a wide range of learning tools and other resources.

Ontario Ministry of Education – provides information and resources for parents and teachers that will support students’ reading, writing and math skills.

Tech Matrix – provides information and resources on assistive technology and software used by students and teachers

Ottawa Network for Education created videos for students who are interested in learning about or starting to use technologies for reading, writing and other school work. To learn more about technology to support document use for reading and writing, visit Ottawa Network for Education to watch videos titled ‘Hearing is Believing! AT to Support Reading,’‘AT Tools for Writing’ and ‘Pre-writing: That was easy! Using AT to Organize Your Ideas.’