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Making digital services more inclusive
The NHS digital service manual helps teams make their services more respectful and inclusive. But it’s not always easy to get it right as Sara Wilcox, the content designer on the team, explains.
7 January 2020
NHS services are for everyone, whatever their physical or mental health, social, cultural or learning needs. It’s important that we make digital services as inclusive as we can. People who can’t access our services, who don't understand that a service is for them, or who don’t feel respected and included are less likely to get the health information, care and treatment they need.
Our research showed us that digital teams working in health need guidance on asking sensitive questions.
We’ve looked at user research, including the work of colleagues at the Office for National Statistics. We decided to use the phrase “sex assigned at birth” when we’re talking about trans health and gender dysphoria, as this is the language our audience uses.
In other cases, we use “the sex someone was registered with at birth” because user research shows that most people understand this better as it refers to an actual event.
We also had a lot of feedback about the terms “intersex” and “differences of sex development” (DSD). Some people prefer one term, some the other. We’ve made this clear in our guidance and we recommend, as always, that teams test their language with the people who’ll be using their content or service.
We’ve just published another update to our page on inclusive language. The guidance there should help you get started but, when you do your user research, you may find that something else works better. There is no one right answer. Please let us know what you find.
The NHS digital service manual team has published new forms guidance that will help digital health teams design better forms and transactional services.
How do we decide which words to use on the NHS website? Sara Wilcox, content designer with NHS.UK’s standards team, explains.