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Accessibility and Assumption

A quote from a client got me thinking:

“[In a web form on our site] we have noticed that the Gender box gives people the option of ‘Other’. Would it be possible to remove this, and leave people with the option of selecting only Male or Female? I assume that most people are either one or the other!”

Yes, that’s a fair assumption, but it’s incorrect. If you want everyone to be able to use your website, you need to be smarter than that. But what I’m talking about is fundamentally alien to many people that I have contact with. Here’s what I mean:


Accessibility is important. I can assume that most people can see, but we still make all our websites accessible to the vision impaired. You can assume that most people have credit cards, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have alternate means of transaction in your online commerce site.

Getting back to the gender issue, the Gender Center Inc. (Sydney, Australlia) points out:

“Gender is a fundamental part of who we are: we perceive ourselves and others through the lens of gender much of the time. Because gender is assumed to be fixed and fundamental, it can be very challenging to people when a person explores different ways of expressing or experiencing gender, or changes gender altogether. Many people experience emotional distress as a result of their own gender issues.”

And even the Australian Bureau of Statistics is (kind of) starting to open its eyes:

27. A person’s sex may change during their lifetime as a result of procedures known alternatively as Sex change, Gender reassignment, Transsexual surgery, Transgender reassignment or Sexual reassignment. Throughout this process, which may be over a considerable period of time, sex could be recorded as either Male or Female. In clinical settings, diagnosis codes should include the appropriate ICD 10 AM code(s) that clearly identify that the person is undergoing or has completed such a process.”

In Other Words

In other words, sometimes it’s completely appropriate to include an “other” box.

4 Responses

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  1. interesting some sites I have seen have (not many mind you):

    *Not Given

    Allowing for the – “Not your business to know” group.

  2. kag said

    Hmm, sex and gender and the confusion between the two. Like so many things human, ideology and religion and power games enter into it.

    Gender is used in language to distinguish between masculine and feminine and there are degrees of each although we tend to assume that a person expresses only either masculinity or femininity.

    Sex is generally thought to be binary, female or male, but in fact there are many people in the world who are born with one or more intersex conditions, 1 in 75 according to many researchers.

    Another way of considering gender is as a binary of man or woman, but some intersex people also consider themselves to be intergender, neither man nor woman.

    A better set of choices might be the following.

    Sex: male or female or intersex.

    Gender: man or woman or intergender.

  3. Adam said

    I think forms should have:

    [ ] Male
    [ ] Female
    [ ] Intersex
    [ ] Yes Please

  4. f15h said

    thailand the country with the highest number of sexual reassignment has the same word for both; transsexuals, transvestites and many other assigned identifiers we use(ga-teui). interesting, this sounds quite like ‘my go!'(pra-cheui).
    what are ‘gender issues’? a man could be confused and want to be a woman, a woman who was a man could want to be a man again. is gender then not identified by the individual. are there then many genders, perhaps a gender for every individual. i dont think gender is necessarily relevant on a website.

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