CLEO awarded grants for technology and access to justice research

CLEO is pleased to announce that three new partnership-based research projects are being supported by The Law Foundation of Ontario.

The three grants, totalling close to $129K from the Foundation’s Strategic granting program, support efforts to develop online interactive tools that people with legal problems can use to take steps in the legal process, such as completing forms. The research will advance the work of CLEO, its partners and others who look at technology as a tool to advance access to justice.

“Technology is too often developed in a “lab” that fails to take into account people’s needs and capabilities, leaving behind those who are most in need of effective support,” said Julie Mathews, Executive Director, CLEO. “These research projects allow us to assess, learn, and improve – to use technology to expand meaningful access to justice rather than reinforce barriers.”

Measuring outcomes and impact of interactive tools
Building on its experience, CLEO will develop an evaluation framework for interactive tools that support people who are going online to complete court forms and other law-related forms. CLEO will be working closely with the Montreal Cyberjustice Laboratory, a joint initiative of Université de Montréal and McGill University, to develop the framework, which will include an assessment of the relative effectiveness of interactive tools against other types of resources. The project team includes Julie Mathews, Erik Bornmann and Elizabeth Robinson from CLEO, and Professor Fabien Gélinas and PhD student Alexandra Pasca from the McGill University Faculty of Law.

Regulating technologies to advance access to justice
CLEO will lead a project to explore the regulation of smart legal forms designed for use by the public. Working closely with staff and students at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, CLEO will be looking at what we can learn from the literature and experience in other jurisdictions in response to a very timely question: what regulatory treatment would best advance access to justice? The project team includes Julie Mathews and Erik Bornmann from CLEO, and Professors David Wiseman, Amy Salyzyn, and Marina Pavlovic from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

Making “smart” forms work for people
CLEO is working with professors at two Ontario universities to investigate whether people in Ontario who are accessing “smart” legal forms – for example, to apply for a divorce – are able to not only read the words, but also to understand what they need to do in response. This research will use a functional literacy, user-based approach to assess how CLEO’s recently-produced smart forms are used and completed, and identify obstacles users face when using the forms with a view towards continual improvement. Team members include Professor Amy Salyzyn from the University of Ottawa, Professor Jacquelyn Burkell from the University of Western Ontario, and Julie Mathews and Erik Bornmann from CLEO.

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