Print: Section 6.1

Test Your Site with Users with Limited Literacy Skills

6.1 Recruit users with limited literacy skills—and limited health literacy skills.

Most screening tools designed to measure health literacy skills (like the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults and the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine) have to be used in person and are meant for patients in a clinical setting.97

These options may not be practical or very useful for web and health content developers, especially if you’re using a private company’s recruitment database. Instead, you can use a proxy for health literacy based on commonly collected demographic data.97 For example, the criteria below could be used as a proxy for identifying web users with limited health literacy skills:

  • High school education or below
  • Low income—defined as 200% of the federal poverty level or below (or less than $48,500 for a family of 4 in 2015)98
  • Have not searched for health information online in the past year

You can also try a simple 1-question health literacy measure. As part of screening, ask your participants: “How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?”99

Keep in mind that some kind of personal connection can make a big difference during recruitment—when you can say that a mutual acquaintance suggested the connection, people are more likely to consider participating in your study.100

Use trusted community recruiters to help you recruit from community contexts—like adult learning centers, federally qualified community health centers, and senior centers. This can also help you get participants from your target populations.