Inclusive Language for Devs

Language is important. How we say things on a UI (user interface) of an application can be just as important as what we say. It’s important to make applications that are inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Be Gender Inclusive

“Guys” is not gender neutral. Using the “universal male” (aka referring to guys to mean ‘people’) assumes that the default human is male. Refer to a theoretical person as “they” instead of “he” or “she.” If you are collecting user data on gender, make sure a user can select a non-binary or ‘other’ option. Survey Monkey provides a great article that discusses why and how to ask questions on a user’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

You can also utilize the Gender Decoder, which is a web tool where you can copy/paste text in to check whether it has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has a discouraging effect.

Use Good Web Accessibility Practices

Applications should be accessible to everyone, including those who have visual impairments, or limited mobility, etc. Have you examined how people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and/or cognitive ability may access your app? It’s important to familiarize yourself with basic web accessibility principles.

Put People First

People first language emphasizes a person, rather than a disability. Use people first language to tell what a person HAS, not what a person IS. Emphasize abilities, not limitations. For example, you may say “a person who is deaf” instead of “deaf person.” This article gives a list ableist phrases and alternatives to use instead.

Use Plain Language

Acronyms and jargon can be confusing to those not familiar. Cultural expression and idioms don’t always translate. Try to ensure the language you are using includes, rather than excludes.

Use Inclusive Images

The majority of photos we see in the media are of typically young, white, straight, abled-bodied people. But people, and our users, are more diverse that that. If your application includes images, make sure the images reflect a diverse group of people of different race/ethnicities, genders, and experiences.

Resources

Full Stack Developer. Prior Project Manager. Lover of cinnamon rolls and the great outdoors.