Blind people may need help in examination halls for writing.

I want to know the single word which may be used for the person who helps them with that.

  • 2
    Sounds like a pretty strange type of exam to me. Blind people can learn to touch type, or they could just sit oral exams. Why would anyone think it was meaningful to test them with an intermediary doing the writing? Presumably they'd have to sit your kind of exam in isolation, since talking to their "scribe" would be distracting to other candidates. Commented May 16, 2017 at 15:44
  • Somewhat related: What is a person called who is writing exams in the name of another person?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 16:37
  • 31
    @FumbleFingers Blind people have existed for a somewhat longer time than keyboards. Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:53
  • 16
    @FumbleFingers Scribes are very common - students with motor difficulties or other disabilities can still take exams. Read here: westminster.ac.uk/study/current-students/support-and-facilities/… ... and yes, exam facilities usually have isolation areas ("spare rooms") to cater for this. Isolation is also required if a student has to do an exam at a different time (eg due to a schedule clash) - my son will spend tomorrow lunchtime in isolation for this precise reason!
    – SusanW
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 19:11
  • My blind friend took her recent degree exams assisted only by her own laptop. Voice-over to hear the questions; typing the responses (essay) herself.
    – WGroleau
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 21:54

8 Answers 8


The term most often used for this kind of academic accommodation is scribe.

A scribe is someone who writes down a student's answers to test questions. If it is a writing test, the scribe might write a person's essay as the test taker dictates it through speech, sign language, or by using some type of assistive communication device. . . . A scribe may also be used on multiple choice tests to fill in the "bubbles" on an answer sheet or to write short answers.

(From "Response Assessment Accommodations" at Special Connections, the University of Kansas's site "for general and special education teachers, related service personnel, para educators, parents and other professionals engaged in the meaningful inclusion of students with special needs in the general education curriculum")

It is also used in the UK:

A scribe is a writing assistant who writes out answers dictated by the pupil.

(From GOV.UK's "Key stage 2 tests: how to use access arrangements"; see also this example, with thanks to SusanW)

and Australia:

A scribe may be used for the NAPLAN writing test to assist a student with disability, provided that the student meets the criteria set out in the National protocols for test administration (the protocols). . . . Scribe rules explain requirements such as writing as the student dictates, and not suggesting or prompting the student for ideas or words.

(From "Adjustments for students with disability" in the National Assessment Program's "school support" section. Thanks to Scott for pointing me toward this example.)

Note that this accommodation is not limited to (or possibly even most often employed by) individuals with visual impairment:

The scribe accommodation is appropriate for students with a physical disability that severely limits or prevents the student’s motor process of writing, typing, or recording responses during testing.

(From the PARCC consortium's "Protocol for the use of the scribe accommodation and for transcribing student responses", Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual Appendix C.)

The term scribe can also be used as a verb to describe the actions of the person taking dictation.

Examples: [sic] When Angela took the State Educational Assessment, Ms. Anderson, the teacher's aide, scribed her responses to the written Math section.

(Jerry Webster, "Scribing -- an Accommodation for Children with Writing Problems", ThoughtCo., October 25, 2015)

  • Interesting, an Argument from Common Usage. The only definitions I could find were: "historical a person who copies out documents, especially one employed to do this before printing was invented."-OLD;"a person who made written copies of documents, before the invention of printing"-Cambridge;"a copier of manuscripts" - M-W. I always understood a scribe to be someone that copies documents, not writes from dictation.
    – Gary
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 16:59
  • 4
    Yes, it's a good example of the way language stretches and evolves. Of course, the original Latin verb just meant "write", so it's consistent with that meaning. In this case, I suspect the technical usage arose from the word's similarity to the word transcribe, which has meant b : to make a copy of (dictated or recorded matter) in longhand or on a machine (such as a typewriter) (M-W) for quite some time.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:02
  • 1
    It's common in the UK too, see: aqa.org.uk/exams-administration/access-arrangements/…, eg "Assessing SPaG when students use a scribe or word processor"
    – SusanW
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 19:02
  • This also is correct for Australia, news.bostes.nsw.edu.au/blog/2016/3/17/…
    – Scott
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 23:08
  • 1
    more accurately, Scribe of the Unseeing One in the Hall of Tests Commented May 18, 2017 at 8:13


A person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another, and also refers to a person who signs a document on behalf of another under the latter's authority

The entry goes on to describe, the very usage you have described:

It is also used in a specific sense in some academic contexts, for instance when an injured or disabled person is helped by an amanuensis at a written examination.

-- Wikipedia

Here are a couple of additional examples of the word being used in context of the question:

Amanuensis/scribe will be provided to the Blind & Physically Handicapped ...

-- Education and recruitment board

Candidates who require an amanuensis must contact the Theory office ... it is assumed that blind candidates will attempt the exam in this way.

-- Associated Board Of The Royal Schools Of Music - special needs for the partially sighted

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 28, 2017 at 22:32

That's funny. One word seems totally obvious to me, an ordinary prosy word without the exotic flavor of Scribe, Amanuensis and Aide.

Transcriptionist: one that transcribes; especially: a typist who transcribes dictated medical reports

On the other hand the software I'm using to type these words has indicated that my answer is not a word, and suggests Transcriptional, Transcription and Transcript instead. I guess that's another sign of how arbitrary these judgments are.

  • That's a much more unusual word
    – Marcin
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 2:05
  • 1
    @Marcin From the ngrams for 1980-2000, it seems that Transcriptionist has overtaken Amanuensis, while both remain much rarer than the other two words. A large part of my adult life falls in the period 1980-2000, much of it around doctors and lawyers who routinely dictate reports or refer to court transcription. My sense is that Transcriptionist is the most common of the four (in spoken reference to contemporary transcriptionists), and that a graph of live speakers (rather than the ngram of published writers) would bear this out. But as I first commented, such judgments are pretty arbitrary.
    – Chaim
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 11:37

This makes me think of the word proxy, which Merriam Webster defines as:

Definition of proxy

1 : the agency, function, or office of a deputy who acts as a substitute for another

2 a : authority or power to act for another

2 b : a document giving such authority; specifically : a power of attorney authorizing a specified person to vote corporate stock

3 : a person authorized to act for another : procurator

Specifically, definition 3.

As an example:

At the examination, there were no facilities for my vision impairment, so I brought along my cousin who acted as my proxy.


aide From the Oxford English Dictionary:

  1. Chiefly U.S. A person employed as an assistant or ancillary worker, esp. at a hospital, or in the home of an elderly or disabled person.

The work of an aide is not necessarily confined to a medical facility or the home. A quadriplegic, for example, needs an aide not only at home, but when he goes out to work or to a social function. A person with severe Down's Syndrome needs a family member or a friend or an aide when venturing outside the house. I know two such people, and their families refer to these professional helpers as aides. If a blind person needed assistance at an exam, in the US, she would likely make the case that she needed an aide at the exam.

Aide is widely understood in the US as a professional, trained person who performs whatever tasks are needed for the disabled person to live some approximation of a normal home, work and social life outside a medical facility. The aide has less medical training than a nurse or therapist.

I agree that nowadays, technology should be able to do the work of an aide in the particular case the OP mentions.


I'm not sure if it's current any more, but about fifteen years ago I would have referred to such a person as an enabler, which is a more generic word for people who assist disabled people with tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do or have difficulty doing. If the question is strictly about those who write for blind people, this might be too vague and/or broad though - it's also possible that terminology has changed since I was last in acadaemia.

Checking the OED this might have negative connotations though, so it's probably best to use this carefully.

  • 3
    "Enabler" is often used to refer to a person who helps perpetuate an addict's unhealthy habits. I would avoid this word. Commented May 18, 2017 at 21:40

@Gary suggested the word, amanuensis, pl. amanuenses and provided a definition. I wanted to add sources that show that Ved Mehta, a world-famous blind author, used amanuenses in his work.

‘It's quite an unusual job, you know—not everybody can do it,’ I said, but then I checked myself. She may think I'm trying to put her off, when, for all I know, she's an ideal amanuensis, I thought. ‘I need to feel comfortable with the person I'm working with, ’ I told her, stalling.

The Essential Ved Mehta

From an article in The New York Times Magazine, by Maureen Dowd, first printed in 1984

Mehta writes by the clock, arriving every morning precisely at 10 A.M. Because of his special needs, he is the only writer at The New Yorker who has an editorial assistant. The current one, Alice Phillips, quickly goes over the newspapers with him and then they begin to work. Mehta dictates several pages that he has written in his head about his latest segment of the autobiography. The assistant sits opposite, taking it down in longhand. Mehta never learned to write in longhand, except to sign his name, and stopped using a Braille typewriter when he started using amanuenses. Alice Phillips reads the sentences back, and he spends the rest of the day rewriting aloud, seeking the perfect combination of words.

  • 2
    Duplicate answers on EL&U are usually deleted. Amanuensis was already suggested by @gary almost two days ago. Please check the submitted answers before suggesting an identical one, especially so late in the day.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 5:57
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou A: I edited my answer, based on your feedback. Commented May 18, 2017 at 19:46
  • 2
    Hi, I tidied up the post a bit. Hope you don't mind. The links are actually good.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 20:22

Stenographer or Steno

A person employed chiefly to take and transcribe dictation


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