On Names

This is the problem

Your systems call your patients, clients, and customers by a name they no longer use, but is difficult for them to change or they are in the process of changing.

and this is how it affects people

Calling someone by the incorrect name can inadvertently expose their gender status. Exposing someone’s trans status without permission can get them fired from their job, renounced by their family, or threatened by strangers.

Calling someone by the incorrect name is an insult and belittling, even when done by accident or mis-design. You are delegitimizing that person.

and you can solve it

By making sure your systems provide an affordance such that your clients, patients, or customers can be called by the name they wish to be called, even if it doesn’t match what’s on their state-issued ID. And not just on the web and native apps, but on the phone, in correspondence, texts, and in person.

and if you don’t, these are the consequences

People will be reluctant to use your service, contact your staff, or come in for care. If it’s about a delinquent account, it will go into collections. If they are a patient, they will stop following up on care. The federal government is scrutinizing this area, so you could find yourself in violation of EEOC and Title IX.


The format of this statement was inspired by Matt May’s template for Web Accessiblity activism.

For more on this problem, please see: