Without practice, most people are not naturally good at taking notes for someone else. It takes a unique personality to be able to sit in a lecture and pay attention as if it were your own class. It’s one thing to copy down information and words as you hear them. It’s another matter entirely to track with the flow of the lecture and organize notes accordingly. A good access assistant notices which points the lecturer emphasizes and elaborates upon these points. They listen with the goal of comprehension, and their notes reflect it. This equips them to take the kind of cohesive and logical notes that I would take for myself.
Unfortunately, there are many cases in which disabled students are assigned unsatisfactory note takers. I have heard stories, in addition to my personal experiences, of note takers who do next to nothing during lectures and expect to be paid all the same. I find this totally unacceptable. It is important for the disabilities offices to realize such things happen, and to stand on the side of the disabled student.
Note taking almost always happens in settings where the student and access assistant cannot talk to each other out loud. Therefore, the student and access assistant ought to establish forms of silent communication to give instructions and feedback. For example, my access assistants and I have an agreement that one tap on the shoulder means, “This is important. Make sure you write this down,” and two taps mean, “I don’t understand this. Make a note to return to it later.”
In the realm of notetaking, it's important to also be sure that you have a very clear organizational scheme. I think this is one of the things that is the key to being a successful blind student and researcher. What works for me is naming files by the date (Year/Month/Day) followed by a description. I use this scheme for all my notes, as it helps me to locate items more easily.
I use Dropbox to store my files. It's great because you can access it from multiple locations and different devices. What works best for me is having separate folders for different types of documents. On the highest-level, I have a Notes folder, which is broken down into sub-folders such as Workshops, Seminars, etc., to more easily locate what I'm looking for.
I think it's important to discuss the different types of notetaking and the process of taking notes. The process could be different depending on whether you are taking notes in a seminar, lecture, or a meeting as opposed to listening to a paper or in a classroom. In a class setting, having notes ahead of time is better and allows me to be more guided in questions and participate more. I also think it's important to develop your own way of taking your own notes. Depending on your level of vision, you may be able to take your own notes with low-vision markers, use a braille notetaker, or possibly even take audio recordings.