Form Filling, a Dyslexic Perspective


Ok, I don’t think that anyone particularly likes filling in forms. There may be some people who enjoy it but for me and I’m sure many of my fellow dyslexics, filling in forms evokes a fear worse than that moment when you have reached the top of a roller coaster. You know that it’s inevitable – you have to go down the other side, but you would do anything to put it off just for one more second. We seem to be a nation of form fillers. There is a form for everything and in most cases they are long, taking a lot of reading, processing, writing and often (as with some applications) seem like a waste of time. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time painstakingly reading and understanding the questions being asked, then constructing and writing the answer, only to get no response. Now, some organisations are getting better at forms. They provide a word or online version, meaning I can use my technology to read it to me and type my responses. Better still, with some official forms such as tax credits, there is the option to call and answer the questions. Yet, there are still many that provide PDF files that don’t support PDFAloud or paper applications. PDF forms mean that I can print it multiple times. This is a good thing because when I mess it up, which is inevitable, I can reprint the page and start again. Nevertheless, I will still have to fill out the form by hand and that can be a minefield. Practise what you are going to write might be your first response. But I do, over and over until I have honed exactly what I am going to say. Yet, even when I have it down, I begin to write in my ‘best handwriting’ which looks like a child has done it or I will get a letter wrong or miss a letter and in the end it will just look like a bit of a dog’s dinner. While some places would I’m sure provide a different format if you requested it, this in some cases can open up a whole different can of worms and single you out or draw unwanted attention to you. So, while I can offer no solution to this dilemma per se, I can only say that, in a nation where everything requires a form, those that produce them should think about how their audience is going to receive them. Making sure they always provide the most user friendly option as the default – not an additional request.