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The Application Builder has several different settings that can make CommCare more accessible to users that have low levels of literacy or are illiterate. Below you will find a description of the main setting, "sense mode," as well as design and implementation advice.


  • Picking a name from a list of names can be a particular challenge for low-literate users. Consider having a very short case list, where possible, and use a number as an identifier where possible, if the user is numerate.
  • Use Icons in Module and Form lists to help the user navigate. See Application Icons in CommCare
  • Note: The CommCare team is working on improvements to CommCare that should make navigation of case lists easier by including audio and images. See Adding Icons in Case List and Case Detail screen.


  • Training: If there is a portion of your app that requires text entry, you could include a family member, such as a spouse or child, in a portion of your CommCare training  Often these family members already help with documentation so it may be useful to include them more explicitly in your project.
  • Worker Monitoring: CommCare reports are focused on worker activity and monitoring. Illiterate users sometimes use CommCare differently in counseling sessions and incorporate it into their workflow differently. It is worth investigating how all types of workers are using CommCare before acting on confusing reports.
  • Field Testing: If your users have variable literacy levels, it is important to include users of different capabilities in any piloting of field testing.

CommCare Sense ("Simple CommCare")

CommCare Sense Mode, when turned on, activates a number of settings that make CommCare more user-friendly to low-literate users. It causes different changes in the Java/J2ME/Nokia style phones and Android Smartphones, so these are described in detail below.

Note that it is always worth testing different configurations with your mobile users, to find out what works best for them.

CommCare Sense is activated by checking the box in General Settings on the Settings page of your application. When you change the setting, you must make a new build and deploy it to the phone in order for the changes to take effect.

CommCare Sense for Android Smartphones/ODK

The only significant change on Android devices is that Form Management is disabled- this means it no longer is possible to save incomplete forms or view submitted forms. Dimagi field staff have found that the ability so save partially completed forms caused confusion and resulted in work being lost. Here are screenshots showing how the different configurations look:

Normal:                                                                       Sense Mode:

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CommCare Sense for Java Phones

Activating Sense mode causes the following changes in Java/J2ME/Nokia-style feature phones:

  • Extra Key Action: Sets, by default, the hash key to play audio messages (as opposed to cycle)
  • Item Selection Mode: Changes default from "Normal Scrolling" to "Numeric Selection."  This means if you have a question with multiple possible answers, you cannot scroll up and down- you have to push the corresponding number (i.e. push "2" to choose the second option)
  • Send Forms Mode: Sets, by default, the form sending activity to automatic (as opposed to manual push)

There are additional changes to settings you may want to consider:


Form Management

Having additional options on the home screen for saved forms and incomplete forms can be confusing, especially if those functionalities are not needed for your users. To simplify what's on the screen, you can disable both of these options on your Advanced Settings page of the application: 

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If saved and incomplete forms are disabled, the start page on mobile will look like this: 

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