Saturday, 21 November 2015

Computer Literacy and Easy English

Have you ever thought about how much reading is involved in accessing a computer, or the internet?

If you can read well, you probably have not.

An article in this week’s Age newspaper (Melbourne) summarised the findings from recent Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority research on Australian student’s use of computers and the internet. This is in-line with other research in the domain of computer literacy from ABS # 4228, 2013 and also ehealth literacy, both for Australian students and international students. This weeks research states 48% of Year 10 students have non functional computer skills to manage and process information. The ABS data identified non functional use of technology, that is, adults unable to use the computer based testing, and instead used paper based testing was 24%A significantly higher proportion of people were recognised as having non functional computer based problem solving skills. (Over 70%) This is consistent with many other OECD countries.

It would surprise many to hear the computer literacy for accessing meaningful information is extremely low, and in fact is non functional for a high proportion of the population. This is not about use of social media, and Instagram and such, it is about meaningful searches, access and use the breadth of information on the internet.

Then, consider the older population. Do you have older relatives or friends who do not own a computer, laptop or iPad? I do.  Do some own a computer, but are not connected to the internet? Yes, I can think of some people here too.

Often clients in group homes (called CRU's) or people in SRU's, do not have access to the internet, or wi-fi in their facilities. How do they access information?  Nursing Homes, hospitals and such. What is the access like here for patients?

On your website. What now?
That is great. But once someone with poor literacy has got past getting your web address right, can they find what they need on your website?
Look at your website. How much of your website is text?  What level of literacy does it requite to read, understand and use that text?

Ok, you could use a screen reader to read everything aloud, but often the language is too complex, too dense and does not relate enough to the person's experience. Once again another means to reduce their interaction with your website.

Where is your phone number and contact us section?
MMM. No phone number. Companies, and many government departments have recently done away with contact phone numbers, easily displayed. They want you to complete an email. Once again, great if you have the skills to type, spell and compose this information. In this current climate, when access to mobile phones is so much a part of our society, why do large organisations insist on an email? Every organisation should provide a multitude of ways the public can access them.

Now, I really need you to think about who is your audience. 
How do you make your website accessible to the 44 % of the adult Australian population with non functional literacy, over 70% of the adult Australian population with non functional technology based problem solving skills.  ABS # 4228, 2013 And these numbers will not reduce. Based on the data of the functional use of the computer by current school students, it is an ongoing issue which needs to be addressed.

Ask me how we can work together to begin to address this enormous issue by using the techniques of Easy English on your website.


Cathy Basterfield
Speech Pathologist
Access Easy English
0466 579 855
Twitter @accesseasyengli  

Australian Bureau of Statistics.2013.  Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Accessed 21/11/2015

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2015. Use of digital media and communications by senior Australians Accessed 21/11/2015.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority  2014. National Assessment Program –ICT Literacy Years 6 & 10 Report 2014
Cameron D Norman and Harvey A Skinner 2006 E-Health Literacy: Essential Skills
for Consumer Health in a Networked World. J Med Internet Res 2006;8(2):e9


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