Usability and accessibility » Language
Choosing appropriate language can play an important role in an inclusive design. Using language that is easy to understand, avoiding ableism, addressing disability and being gender-inclusive are complex topics and there is not always a straightforward cover-all solution.
The big picture
Addressing diversity in language is not limited to gender or disability – there are cultural factors at play in general. While looking at specific details is often needed, there are some good efforts to conceptualize the need for inclusiveness in general:
The most established discipline when it comes to inclusive language is the field of “simple language” (“Einfache Sprache” in German); it is even currently being standardized as an EN norm.
Chosing gender-inclusive language has a two-fold accessibility/usability impact to be considered: the readability of the text itself (on a content level) and the technical accessibility (ensuring the chosen style does not interfere with assistive technologies).
There is not a whole lot of empirical studies on this topic, which makes these even more valuable – these are currently all on German language specifically (where this is a more challenging task due to the grammar being based on genus):
As soon as diversification of language is achieved by adding non-standard elements to texts (such as adding additional colons, asterisks, underscores etc.), their proper representation in digital markup is of crucial importance for accessibility. Some solutions are easier to deal with than others.
Some publications help to grasp and evaluate how certain styles of gender-inclusive language affect users of assistive technology:
Guides and tools
Some resources aim to assist with writing more inclusively:
Last but not least, “gendered language” – its necessity, reasoning, as well as its forms – is often subject of heated debate. Some interesting positions:
Non-ableist language and addressing disability
Even when trying to do it right, it is not always easy to choose the appropriate words to speak about disability without offense.