Words Matter: Inclusive Experiences Start With Inclusive Language
Are you creating inclusive experiences for your customers? Many companies aren’t. For example, here’s a sampling of what we heard when we evaluated typical approaches to collecting personal information from consumers:
“There is no open box to identify yourself. Ticking ‘other’ is alienating; therefore, if I didn’t identify as male or female, I wouldn’t feel comfortable.” (Consumer’s response to the question “What is your gender?”)
“The question provides fewer options, and I don’t fit into the [given] categories. This makes me feel excluded.” (Consumer’s response to the question “What is your race/ethnicity?”)
We speak with companies daily that express commitments to creating inclusive products, services, and experiences. And many of them apply best practices such as conducting accessibility testing, building accessibility into their design systems, and teaching employees best practices for inclusive design. But there’s an element they’re almost always missing: a focus on inclusive language.
What Is Inclusive Language?
Inclusive language acknowledges the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, gender identity, language, race, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics. Yet, many organizations — including many who say they are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — fail to recognize its importance and don’t know where to begin.
Using inclusive language is important within forms, product marketing pages, and any other interactions that make up the customer experience. Getting it right means asking questions like:
- Do you use words that your customers can easily understand?
- Have you checked that the words you use are not exclusionary or offensive to anyone?
- Did you consider the needs and feelings of your customers when writing this content?
Why Does Inclusive Language Matter?
Inclusive language is a key component of inclusive design because while many things impact the quality of a digital experience — from the design of interactions to how innovative the underlying technology is — words are essential and impact how an experience is perceived by customers. You can’t create inclusive experiences without inclusive language. The consumer quotes shown above are just a few examples illustrating how your customers feel when the language used in digital experiences is not inclusive. They feel confused, uncomfortable, and excluded.
If you’re just getting started and need guidance on inclusive language, check out our new report, Words Matter: Inclusive Experiences Start With Inclusive Language, for best practices, or feel free to set up an inquiry.
Register now for my upcoming complimentary webinar How To Scale Digital Accessibility on Thursday, October 7.