Digital literacy for people with low literacy

Access Easy English
5 min readDec 14, 2023

Literacy is your ability to read, understand and use the written information in a meaningful way.

Digital literacy is being able to do the same with websites, apps and electronic devices that now surround us, including being able to navigate them. There are so many (incorrect) assumptions about the skills and knowledge of people in our communities of their digital literacy skills and abilities.

For many people there are many barriers to overcome, including

· no access to the digital tools — computer, ipad, laptop or latest iphone

· lack of internet access due to

  • poverty and/or
  • geography and/or
  • opportunity or by restricted access

· inadequate supports to begin to learn to navigate websites or other e-tools

· low literacy or numerical literacy skills or digital literacy skills

· complex navigation of the website or App

· no opportunity to learn or practice in simple websites or Apps

· language barrier

· unaware of or poor access to basic accessibility features

· lack of knowledge of the words of the digital world — modem, Apps

· poor design making digital tools inaccessible to older people and people with disability.

The current Australian Digital Inclusion Index, 2023 informs us 1 in 4 people are completely digitally excluded. Another 10% only use a mobile to access the internet.

The Government Digital Performance and Inclusion Indicator, 2023 from Adobe looks at different aspects of our government websites. They identify

· 50% of Australians need to visit 5 pages before finding the right one

· 44% of adults have low levels of literacy. They read at level 1 and 2.

· the average reading level on government sites requires the reading skills of a 14 year old. (This is well above Easy English readability which is an average of grade 1 level of readability)

· 850 000 Australians speak little or no English at home.

. some citizens are identified as disproportionately impacted. This includes those who do not speak English at home, people with disabilities, those who have low levels of literacy, people in regional areas, people with limited access to high speed internet and those over 65 years of age. 29% of this group said they find it hard to read information on government sites

2 images. Left image. 2 men sitting on chairs. 1 man is holding a paper. The 2nd man is pointing to something on the paper and talking to the 1st man about it. Right image. A woman holding a walking stick, looking at a desktop computer. She has a large mouse pad. A 2nd woman is supporting her. Images from
Left image. A man is pointing to a paper and talking to a second man. Right image. A woman supporting a person at a computer. Images from

We need to do better.

We know consumers with low literacy want information in Easy English. We help many organisations develop their Easy English. It is placed on their website.

Frustratingly we know that a large proportion of the target audience for Easy English have low digital literacy and may not find the Easy English. This may be because it is buried multi levels of navigation from the website Home page, in addition to many other website barriers. We want each person to be able to find and access the Easy English information.

For universal design, Easy English must be planned to be printed for the many more people who may never have access to the internet also.

The digital environment is here . Websites need to better plan for and develop their webpages so they are easy-to-use for people to begin to have success at accessing and using digital tools.

We set out to explore what would make a website easy to use. We reviewed

· the principles of universal design, and how that applies to web design

· other organisations’ websites who are planning for access for people with low literacy

· research and articles about digital accessibility.

We consulted a range of people who use Easy English and are continuing to do so. Our reviewers included people who have a range of sensory, physical and cognitive challenges. The reviewers used a variety of devices and had varied skills and success for using digital technology. Some reviewers independently use some form of digital media. Others required support to access technology to start.

A comment from those who had tried to access websites, and had some skills to search on a browser was ‘… can search on the internet but if the site is hard to navigate….just close them.’

The current version of our website is based on our years of experience in developing Easy English, and exploration of how we see what is working and not working for consumers when you have low literacy an/or low digital literacy. We were particularly interested in all aspects of the navigation and functionality of the website which was informed by the various stages of feedback from the reviewers.

We have developed a new website. It is called Read Easy English. The website is days away from going live.

Home page of new website on a desktop computer. It is called Read Easy English. There are 6 distinctly coloured boxes to choose from. Above it in large text is the access function of ‘Read me this page.’
Home page of

ReadEE will be updated regularly to have information in Easy English on a wide range of topics. We will include

· current opportunities to do Easy English surveys and highlight other opportunities to contribute ideas like to consultation groups when the invitation is in Easy English.

· recently completed Easy English documents, reports plans, fact sheets

· more information about things you can do so that readers can find topics that interest them rather than merely information they need to know.

Please share our website. We welcome feedback.

Preferences for topics

Our website reviewers would like to see Easy English versions of

· the menu at the local cafe

· information about trains, music shows, TV shows, etc.

· car sale websites

· stories about people

· how to play different sports.

One reviewer was so excited to see the Easy English information they wanted to read every document.

4 digital tools. Large desktop screen, laptop screen, iPad and iPhone
Desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone. Images from TheNounProject

Have you thought about your organisations’ website? How accessible is it?

How do readers with low literacy and/or low digital literacy or low digital inclusion

· find your site

· find the accessible documents on your site

· navigate to the information they need?

Is your site set up to be viewed on all devices? We are here to assist you on that journey.

Rachel Tozer, Cathy Basterfield, Damien Basterfield.

Access Easy English

Office phone: 0466 579 855

Email: or

LinkedIn: Cathy Basterfield and Access Easy English
Twitter: @accesseasyengli



Access Easy English

Award winning creators of Easy English. Based in Australia, working across all states & territories. International partnerships