Word Choice for Accessibility

When talking about accessibility, we often talk about inclusive design--but rarely do people talk about inclusive language.

Often, at meetups, at conferences, and elsewhere, I'll hear people use terms that are just...not okay. Social media, of course, is full of them: Calling something you disagree with "insane", someone who is being foolish "blind", etc.

In conversation, everyone is somewhat expecting these. In social media, even, it's so common place that avoiding it would be hard. On a business website? In your app?

There is no reason for something you should have proofread to include such language.

You're overlooking a possible customer base, you're actively doing harm to people who could be users, all because you don't want to use professional language--there's nothing "cool" or "daring" about that. It's just lazy.

Here's a really easy standard to follow for the bare minimum of inclusive language: Don't use any words that

  • have been used as slurs, especially within the last century, or
  • are medical terms when you're not talking about medical topics.

There's other words and terms to avoid, of course, but it's surprising how many companies don't follow even these most basic of standards.