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FemTech is bringing women’s healthcare to centre stage with exciting health product and service innovations. But how can we ensure these products and services aren’t reinforcing inequalities? In this blog, we highlight the importance of building an accessible service in FemTech, not just during design - but from the very beginning of the research process.
Accessibility benefits everyone.
FemTech has the potential to bridge the gender health gap. But these solutions must be available and beneficial to everyone - across different ages, abilities, backgrounds and incomes. Accessible design doesn’t just benefit people with disabilities, it creates a more inclusive and equitable experience of health for everyone.
One size doesn’t fit all.
Different individuals have unique needs and preferences when it comes to managing their health. Customisable services allow people to tailor their healthcare and prioritise features most relevant to them. For example, the Natural Cycles app allows users to decide whether to use their product for pregnancy prevention or planning, creating a tailored experience for each user.
Designing with disability in mind.
FemTech often focuses on sexual and reproductive health support as this was a historically neglected area of women’s healthcare. Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental aspect of well-being that disabled people have an equal right to.
Features that can help support disabled people to actively engage with FemTech products and services include:
FemTech has to be intersectional.
Disability considerations aren’t enough alone, FemTech has to be intersectional. This means recognising all the complex ways in which people’s identities intersect and impact their experiences of health - including gender, race, ethnicity, culture, income, education and more.
FemTech has been criticised for reproducing and reinforcing inequalities in healthcare. According to an article from UNWomen, ‘most of the femtech applications that exist right now benefit women who are from socially and economically privileged groups’. For example, without being digitally literate or having disposable income to pay for subscriptions, many FemTech products may be out of reach for marginalised groups.
Accessibility is also about language.
There’s a strong recognition throughout the FemTech sector that inclusive language is important. For example, we know that not all women have periods and not all people with periods identify as women - and the language we use should reflect that.
Using gender-neutral language isn’t always easy when discussing sex-specific health issues. However, trying to remain inclusive where possible helps brands to create safe spaces for people who don’t identify as women but still need support. Women’s health in particular can be confusing - so using clear, direct language is another great way to remain accessible.
User research is a fundamental first step to building accessible services.
User research helps you to deeply understand the needs of your users and should be done in the early stages of building your FemTech service. This is because accessibility means different things to different people: what one person may consider easy to use may not be the same for others.
First, you need to identify your users: who are they? Where can you find them? How is best to engage with them?
Next, discovery interviews and workshops will allow you to understand individual experiences in more detail, pinpointing their wants, needs and barriers in healthcare.
Then, applying the findings from these discussions will help you make user-centred, insight-led decisions on how to make your product or service more accessible.
User testing is also key.
Part of good user research is not only talking about health and product experiences - but ensuring services are tried and tested on real users. This means testing even the earliest prototypes on a diverse group of users to help pinpoint exact barriers or challenges to the product’s success. User testing allows you to gather real-life examples of how people engage with your product or service, often highlighting important questions or changes that you may not have anticipated.
Top tips for building an accessible service in FemTech:
Different people will have different reasons for using an app or product. Allowing users to customise interfaces creates a tailored and more accessible experience.
To remain inclusive of all potential users, FemTech products and services should prioritise gender-neutral themes and avoid heteronormative design.
Not just during your user research but throughout your entire journey building your business - your user's thoughts, experiences and suggestions are what will help your service become the best, most accessible version of itself.
Unsure where to start?
Building accessible services in FemTech not only serves your users but creates a more inclusive and equitable healthcare environment globally. If you’re unsure where to start, you can contact Workie Ticket for support with user research - to build a solid foundation for accessibility in your FemTech product or service.