INCLUSION TIPs address all aspects of diversity, including disability. Including individuals with all abilities need not always be costly, complex or difficult. Most of our INCLUSION TIPs can be implemented quickly, with little to no expense, and integrated within your existing operations, policies and practices.
We hope you find these helpful, and invite you to share INCLUSION TIPs. We welcome any feedback you may have for us. Also, if you have a successful practice or tip you'd like to share please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reassess your workplace to ensure greater accessibility to information and materials for all participants.
In previous posts, we have discussed the importance of checking your organization’s layout to ensure maximal accessibility for participants and guests who use wheelchairs, service animals, and other assistive devices (see our Facebook post from August 2013 https://www.facebook.com/serviceandinclusion/posts/10151596340268004. Not only is physical space key to inclusion as it relates to movement within the office but also your organization’s ways of storing and providing access to information and resources for its users to emphasize equal participation.
The University of Washington has created “A checklist for designing spaces that are welcoming, accessible, and usable” http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/equal_access_spaces.html, a helpful list of considerations when updating your organization’s use and understanding of physical space and layout by discussing universal design approaches to entryways and routes of travel through the office, furniture and fixtures, and information resources. For more information about universal design in the workplace, read this fact sheet from the AskEARN website: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/equal_access_spaces.html
Create a strong, multifaceted response to bullying in your organization through clear inclusion goals, policies, and culture.
The subject of bullying has entered American discourse in recent years as a topic not restricted to schools. Workplace bullying requires a decisive and consistent response by leadership committed to an inclusive organizational culture where such destructive and anti-diversity behavior is not tolerated.
DiversityInc. discusses ways of safeguarding against bullying in the workplace in its article “Diversity & Inclusion Means Zero Tolerance for Bullying” http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-management/diversity-inclusion-means-zero-tolerance-for-bullying/, including clearly articulated organizational values in the form of an inclusive mission statement, mentoring, employee resource groups, and HR actions if bullying persists. These approaches support “an atmosphere where people can bring their whole selves to work and foster innovation,” according to the article, reinforcing diversity and inclusion goals for all participants.
Keep a sense of curiosity and openness to new ways of assessing practices around diversity and inclusion.
If we think we know all the answers, we haven’t been asking the right questions; this is especially true when it comes to making assumptions about a diverse and constantly changing workplace. Find new tools to evaluate and explore your organization’s inclusive practices and invite employees to give feedback on their success, limitations, or potential for better applicability.
Such updates and fresh concepts can come from very far away, or from right next door. Singapore’s government offers a free Inclusiveness Pulse Check online http://www.mom.gov.sg/Documents/employment-practices/WDM/Pulse_Check.pdf, along with several other inclusion assessment tools offered in its Workplace Diversity Management Toolkit http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/Pages/WDM.aspx. This guide provides suggestions on recruitment and exit questions, posters for sharing your organization’s mission around inclusion, and guides for managers. Review such tools and invite feedback from your team to ensure that they are meaningful and helpful.
In an inclusive environment, not only is a diversity of identities represented, but a variety of voices and perspectives find opportunities to contribute meaningfully. Create a cultural and organizational space in which different participants are invited to discover solutions, determine new directions, and build a community that celebrates differences as strengths in concrete and easily accessible ways.
Find new ways to invite participants to offer solicited and unsolicited feedback in various formats. Employee surveys, community boards, brown bag sessions, and other ways to “actively solicit input from a wide variety of people and functions” from The Diversity Toolkit, found at http://www.thediversitytoolkit.com/contentpages/sampletool2.htm offer various entry points and ways of communicating. Invite employees from diverse backgrounds to comment on how they might feel most comfortable contributing to your organization’s goals and work with your management team to strategize. Welcoming feedback in all forms can ensure that accommodations are provided when needed, that inclusive practices remain fresh and relevant, and that your organization’s commitment to diversity stays strong.
As a follow-up to our TIP from last week, onboarding – the process of helping a new employee become acclimated to an organization by providing trainings, information, resources, opportunities for mentoring, and other supports – is an important next step in ensuring the long-term success of new hires to your organization. As staff members join your team, tailor your onboarding process to fit the needs and unique background of each new employee to create a truly inclusive welcome that will last. The Diversity Executive website offers an informative guide with suggestions on how to be more inclusive in onboarding diverse staff members in a post entitled “On-Boarding: One Size Does Not Fit All” http://diversity-executive.com/articles/view/on-boarding-one-size-does-not-fit-all/print:1. Some of the helpful ideas include providing new hires with a mentor to help them navigate your organization’s culture, creating new access points for your organization by making a web portal available to younger hires who may prefer online communication formats, and connecting new hires with employee resource groups (ERGs), a topic which we posted about last October https://www.facebook.com/serviceandinclusion/posts/10151742989803004)..
If this post looks familiar, it is a refresher course from a post we put on Facebook back in 2011! Please read on and enjoy
Inclusive practices can create a feeling of welcome for diverse participants at every stage of the game in your organization. Look over your interview process and see where you and your team may be able to improve upon your existing approach to reflect the importance you place on accessibility and inclusion in the workplace.
The National Service Inclusion Project features a number of helpful and easy-to-use guidelines around inclusive interviewing http://www.serviceandinclusion.org/handbook/index.php?page=sectionv; add to this guidance for culturally competent and inclusive interviews by following the guide from Diversity Office Magazine http://diversityofficermagazine.com/cultural-competence/the-top-ten-culturally-competent-interviewing-strategies/. Also feel free to check out our original post on Facebook at http://mbasic.facebook.com/notes/national-service-inclusion-project/nsip-inclusion-weekly-inclusive-interviewing/200957329937735/.
For years we’ve seen the great success of service animals in assisting people with disabilities in leading lives. The ADA http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm (defines services animals as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” Update your knowledge around how service animals can be an important part of the accommodations your organizations provide to people with disabilities in creating a more inclusive environment.
Explore your physical environment to ensure that it is welcoming to people with a service animal, and have a conversation with your staff about participants with service animals. Service animals are considered “at work” while they are with their owner in public and should not be treated as a pet. Ensure that hallways are wide enough for both a person using a wheelchair and a service animal to traverse. Read other tips about inclusion of people who have service animals on the Office of Personnel Management’s FAQ page here: http://www.opm.gov/faqs/QA.aspx?fid=de14aff4-4f77-4e17-afaa-fa109430fc7b&pid=78a37c1f-6955-4576-afb6-943aa22a36a8.
Inclusion starts from the first interaction a visitor has with an organization. When new participants call or come to your office for a visit, they experience your organization’s vision of diversity and inclusion through the small but very important interactions they have with the reception desk, the person they’re meeting with, or even just people in the hallway.
Create opportunities to express core values around inclusion by including every visitor through a warm and genuine welcome, and invite your team to do the same. Allbusiness.com offers a starting list of “Ten Tips on Greeting Office Visitors”; add to this list other important elements of inclusive welcome of new guests, such as putting up signs to provide directions to different areas in accessible and well-lit locations, and emphasizing to your team the importance of pausing to welcome and assist visitors even if they are in a rush. Review the helpful list of points to keep in mind from the California Department of Rehabilitation http://www.rehab.cahwnet.gov/DisabilityAccessInfo/Making-Reception-Areas-Accessible.html when making a reception area more accessible to visitors with disabilities, and discuss with your team additional ways to provide an inclusive welcome to all participants.
As the old adage says, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” This could not be more resonant in customer service. While many of us consider working to ensure the greatest amount of inclusion of people from diverse identities a major priority within our organizations, it is also important to express our organization’s diversity and inclusion goals through our communication with customers, which often takes place via telephone or other “real-time” formats.
The Job Access Network (JAN) refers to communication that is not face-to-face, such as telephoning, texting, and instant messaging, as “real-time communication.” In its insightful document entitled “Real-Time Communication Etiquette for Communicating with Customers with Disabilities”, JAN provides a set of etiquette guidelines that may be helpful when your team members work with customers with disabilities. Such guidelines may be expanded to include customers from a variety of backgrounds, including speakers of other languages besides English, people with different forms/levels of literacy, and people with different cultural understandings, as they incorporate helpful, inclusion-minded tips such as breaking explanations up into clear steps, voice clarity, and technological supports such as screen reading software and video relay service.
Encouraging diverse contributions from your team can support the building of a positive culture centered around purposeful work. ”How to Build a Culture of Purpose” is an insightful article on LinkedIn that reveals the importance that CEO Erika Karp, founder of Cornerstone Capital, places on helping her employees derive a stronger and more consistent sense of purpose. By asking team members to share a “purpose moment” from the day that made their work positive and meaningful to them, Karp has promoted a “culture of purpose” in her organization.
Invite employees to share their own positive moments in their work, and invite individual reflections on current and potential opportunities to derive purpose in every role. Consider reviewing job descriptions with each team member to ensure that s/he maximizes the opportunity for “purpose moments” over the long-term, thus contributing to inclusion of diverse ways of being in dialogue while supporting a common mission.
Etiquette is, according to Linda G. Broady-Myers’ online resource, ”The Etiquette of Inclusion: Inclusion of Diversity,” a central component for any organization that strives “to effectively communicate, interact and support the inclusion of diversity.” While we might think of etiquette in general as being polite, in an organization, etiquette can also reflect proactive and respectful ways of embracing the diversity within a group of people in order to value different cultural views and identities of all types.
Review Broady-Myers’ document for starting thoughts on diversity-minded etiquette in the workplace and share this document with your team. Other online resources may also be helpful, such as eHow’s article on ”Business Etiquette in a Diversified Cultural Background.” Most important is getting the conversation started and supporting active participation by all members.
Assumptions make up our daily lives; in fact, without assumptions, we couldn’t get out of our front door! That being said, it is important to consider that while we espouse inclusion in our work environments, our assumptions may work against this goal through hidden exclusionary beliefs without our knowing it.
Invite your team members to become more aware of assumptions they may make by reflecting on the subtle biases and assumptions we all develop as human beings. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, from internal trainings to the simple sharing of websites. Simma Lieberman suggests considering Ten Simple Steps to ‘Destruct’ Bias http://simmaliebermansinclusionblog.blogspot.com/; in addition, remembering person-first language http://askearn.org/refdesk/Inclusive_Workplaces/Etiquette/People_First_Language and considering inclusionary vs. exclusionary behaviors http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/diversity/articles/pages/awareness-of-privilege-improves-inclusion.aspx can add to this process in important ways.
Performance reviews provide an excellent opportunity for an organization’s team members to reflect on their experiences over the past year regarding diversity and inclusion. Expectations around an organization’s diversity and inclusion goals can be included in performance review processes; as a result, employees can be empowered to fulfill and reflect your organization’s broader diversity mission on an individual level.
Add diversity and inclusion capacity-building activities, such as workshop participation or taking a language class, and accountability goals to your performance review, making sure to express these expectations to your team. Supervisors also may reflect such goals and values in their own performance reviews. For an example of a performance review focused on diversity and inclusion, see the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences’ example of suggestions for a performance review that incorporates diversity and inclusion goals at http://www.cfans.umn.edu/diversity/web%20text/performance%20review/Diversity%20and%20Inclusion%20in%20the%20Performance%20Review.pdf.
If you have interns in your organization, you know that they contribute greatly to your workplace goals and add energy and new perspective to team efforts. Take a few moments to explore your internship program to ensure that those who have joined your team to lend their talents are valued both for their ideas and hard work as well as their cultural differences; doing so can provide a unique opportunity to bring in and mentor diverse candidates who may continue on with your organization as team members after their internships are completed.
Explore how your organization can leverage its internship program to promote diversity as a core value of its mission on Forbes.com at http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2013/04/01/how-to-promote-diversity-with-your-internship-program/. Learn more about diversity-minded organizations such as Minority Access Incorporated that run internship programs and connect students of all backgrounds to organizations like yours, and explore options such as recruiting from HBCUs and community colleges that are known for inclusion and prioritization of the needs and goals of diverse populations.
As we all know, brainstorms and inspirations can occur at the least expected moments of our day. Create the opportunity for employees to give anonymous feedback while they’re getting a cup of coffee or warming up their lunch.
Drawing upon TIP 3 (below) from Simma Lieberman’s “Ten Diversity Tips” (found at http://www.simmalieberman.com/tentips.html), it’s important to “[i]ncorporate ideas from other cultures to solve problems and be more innovative.” Invite such ideas by putting up large-format paper or posterboard (and don’t forget plenty of markers or pens) that can provide space for employee comments, questions, ideas and drawings to express their experience around diversity and inclusion in your organization. Find ways to incorporate this valuable feedback in meetings and presentations.
Just as trainings and group work around inclusion and diversity have important value for organizations seeking to improve their practices, providing the opportunity for individual self-education can offer additional space for participants in your organization to reflect on their experiences and continue the learning process in their own way.
Send an all-staff email (or include information in your monthly newsletter) that contains links to helpful resources related to diversity and inclusion (see our suggested list below). Invite team members to send additional resources so that their contributions can add to the knowledge base. Consider incentivizing staff to self-educate by creating an opportunity for interactions relating to their reading or perhaps even a friendly trivia game at a company retreat as a follow-up.
Here is a short list of suggested resources on diversity and inclusion best practices in the workplace:
Diversity Inc: http://www.diversityinc.com/
Diversity Executive: http://www.diversity-executive.com/
Diversity Central: http://www.diversitycentral.com/
Diversity Best Practices: http://www.diversitybestpractices.com/news-publications/diversity-inclusion-industry-news
Similar to the topic of inclusive meetings which we posted about back in September 2013, inclusive presentations emphasize the value your organization places on the diverse identities of its members.
Review visual materials to be used in presentations and supplement with audio description. Make adjustments to the language used in the presentation to make sure it is simple and jargon-free. Review the helpful and concise list offered on the Society for Disability Studies website when planning an accessible and inclusive presentation.
Brown bag lunches are a great way to create opportunities for open conversation around a variety of topics in the workplace. Create a brown bag lunch focused on diversity issues in your organization and invite participation by all members to promote cross-cultural exchange that de-emphasizes hierarchy and encourages honest and creative dialogue.
Choosing the topic of your brown bag lunches can be exciting, especially if you decide to invite the input of your team and thus make it relevant to their cultural and personal experiences as participants. Make suggestions of topics such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, sexual harassment, or others such as those listed on the T.A.H. Performance Consultants, LLC blog to get the ball rolling. Also ensure that participation itself is maximally inclusive by sending topics and starting questions ahead of time, ensuring that members have extra time to contribute. Record and/or take notes on each brown bag to share with members who cannot participate or who would like to review the session after the fact.
As one of the most subtle yet impactful experiences a participant has with an organization, office signage reflects its values around the inclusion of people from diverse identities and abilities. Assess the signs used in your workplace and make modifications to ensure that participants experience inclusion even at this seemingly simple level.
In general, inclusive signs use clear color contrast, large font size with a sans serif typeface, and photographs, pictures and/or engraved tactile information for users with a variety of abilities and literacies. Signs should be printed with a matte finish and positioned in well-lit locations that can be seen or touched at a variety of levels to accommodate all users. Ensure that way-finding signs clearly delineate emergency exits and restrooms as well as general navigation around your office environment; consider color-coding to identify different spaces. Install a sign that welcomes users with service animals. For more information on signs that need to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act rules, Which Interior Office Signs Need To Follow ADA Rules?http://signcollection.com/blog/Which-Interior-Office-Signs-Need-To-Follow-ADA-Rules/; modifications for all types of users can be made with this great starting point.
In the New Year, we make resolutions to improve our lives, workplaces, and communities. Create an opportunity for your staff, members and volunteers to celebrate their common ground as they work side by side in an organization-wide day of service.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches on January 20th, explore ways that your organization can participate in continuing Dr. King’s legacy of commitment to diversity and equality in America. There are many service projects across the country and many ways to bring your team members together as community members and citizens pursuing greater inclusion both within and outside their places of work. See the website for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of ServiceJanuary 20, 2014 to get more information about service opportunities in your area. An example of a service day toolkit can be found on our website at Global Youth Service Day 2009, as well as an in-depth look at planning an inclusive service day at Effective Practices Guide to Inclusive and Accessible Days of Service.
By Katie Entigar
Now that winter is upon us, Boston, the city where I live, has shifted into a snowy slumber of slow moving cars and pedestrians, people shoveling out their walks at 5 a.m., and reports of more winter weather to come. On my way into work this week, after several inches of snow hit Beantown the night before, I was struck by how easily a city’s accessibility can be compromised under such conditions. Waiting for the bus to Forest Hills, the station at the end of the T line that I take into downtown Boston, I saw a man in an electric wheelchair cross the street and find no access to the curb cuts that lay beneath the ice that had been left by the snowplows. Traffic began to move behind him after the light turned green and he faced oncoming cars to move along the ice barrier in search of a place to get off the street and back on his way.
Committing to inclusive practices and diversity in our workplaces is a great place to start, yet we must also seek to build it in our communities, between ourselves and strangers as well as loved ones and colleagues. There are hundreds of TIPs that we each can create and share with each other in striving to be more inclusive in our daily lives, and these can start with sharing our experiences as members of diverse communities that intersect and impact each other in many powerful and unseen ways.
What stories can you share about triumphs in inclusion and diversity, places where improvements can still be made, questions or comments, thoughts left unsaid? As we reflect on the past year, we know we can do better in all of our circles of reality. What would you like to add to the list?
Nowadays, there are various Internet-based options for alternative ways of participating in meetings with colleagues, which permits flexibility and greater accessibility for team members. Telecommuting and telework are preferred as options for many employees with disabilities according to a survey done by Think Beyond the Label, and employees of all types can benefit through increased productivity and efficiency from such an offering.
Use Google Hangout, VSee or other free online resources to invite team members to join meetings at a distance, and set up the onsite location so that participants can chat with those online. Support this process by putting together a telecommuting agreement (see http://www.ie511.org/downloads/Telecommuteagreement.pdf)to clarify how telework will take place.
As the holiday season for many cultures approaches, this is a great opportunity to make this time even more special by valuing your organization’s participants for the unique identities they bring in a diversity-centered celebration of community.
Create a holiday celebration that welcomes and embraces all groups within your organization by inviting team member input on food offerings, decorations, and music. Allow employees to invite family members if capacity permits, and be flexible if some employees prefer to opt out. A list of helpful tips can be found on Monster.com: http://career-advice.monster.com/in-the-office/workplace-issues/holiday-party-planning-diverse-workplace/article.aspx.
Disciplinary and grievance procedures exist to protect all individuals from inequitable, discriminatory, and inappropriate treatment. These procedures may be reviewed to ensure that they guarantee equal access and inclusion to all participants and employees.
Review your organization’s existing grievance and disciplinary procedures to ensure that materials are offered in various formats (visual and aural, high-contrast printouts, different languages, etc.) and are accessible to all participants. Be prepared to provide assistance to employees in writing grievances or participating in disciplinary procedures without judgment. An example of an accessible, inclusion-minded grievance policy (called a “complaints policy” in the UK) can be found here: https://www.oxfam.org.uk/~/media/Files/OGB/What%20we%20do/About%20us/Plans%20reports%20and%20policies/documents/oxfamgb_complaints_policy.ashx.
Recognition and reward are excellent motivators that give team members a sense of satisfaction in a job well done. Identify inclusion goals that your team has accomplished to identify “interpersonal and intercultural strengths and challenges” (see http://www.asaecenter.org/files/FileDownloads/HandOuts/asae2009diAuditResults.pdf for an example summary). Collecting success stories and promote good practice can increase employee morale and satisfaction, showing real commitment from your organization’s leadership to inclusion as an ongoing process.
Resources to establish benchmarks include “Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the World” from QED Consulting http://qedconsulting.com/files/GDIB_2011.pdf; such resources can be modified to reflect your organization’s industry, size, and unique inclusion and diversity goals. After setting up inclusion benchmarks related to different operational categories such as members, leadership, policies, and so on, clarify indicators of both strengths and places for improvement in your organization. Once you’ve reached the indicators for successful inclusion in your organization, it’s time to celebrate!
Back in September, we shared a TIP on creating an emergency plan https://www.facebook.com/serviceandinclusion/posts/10151648174928004 with your team as a means of preparing for difficult situations to help manage the different needs of your team members. While the usual decision made in an emergency is evacuation, some critical situations may warrant a “sheltering in place” response for hours or even days. See the Just In Case Arizona Emergency Preparedness website for more information: http://www.justincasearizona.com/prepare-plan/stay-or-go.asp.
Prepare your team to shelter in place by securing a separate reserve of supplies including water, batteries, and nonperishable food items. Instruct members to have a reserve of medication (if possible) for up to one week. Establish a buddy system for such an event. Explore this process in more detail on the Public Health Emergency website http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/shelterinplace.aspx and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website http://www.hhs.gov/od/disabilitytoolkit/shelter/independence.html. Florida Atlantic University offers a guide for sheltering in place which includes information regarding people with physical disabilities and/or mobility limitations: http://www.fau.edu/admin/cag2013/SHELTER%20IN%20PLACE%202013.pdf.
Exit interviews can provide unique insight into the effectiveness of your organization’s efforts around inclusion and diversity. Conducted either face-to-face or via online survey, exit interviews are a great opportunity for a departing employee to express his or her perspective candidly about his or her experiences during employment.
Appalachian State University offers a helpful example of an exit interview http://edc.appstate.edu/epa-hiring/exit-interview that incorporates questions and opportunities to discuss the diversity and inclusion efforts of its professional and educational environment. Create an exit interview that reflects the unique characteristics of your current workplace as well as its future goals for inclusion.
The dress code an organization chooses to implement may reflect its core values, yet it is particularly important to review dress code policies on a regular basis to ensure consistent support of employee diversity. In doing so, an organization’s dress code encourages cultural and personal identity, as self-expression through dress mirrors changes in the American workplace (see http://02e1137.netsolhost.com/Villages/Asian/careers_workplace_employment/prasad_ethnic_style_in_workplace.asp for more discussion).
Review dress codes to avoid stereotyping around gender identity, ethnicity, and religious background, and encourage employees to define themselves individually. Apply standards equally to all employees while keeping dialogue open around exceptions and modifications. Read more about this topic in HR Hero’s article entitled “Dress Code Considerations for a Diverse Workforce” http://blogs.hrhero.com/diversity/2011/07/17/dress-code-considerations-for-a-diverse-workforce/.
One of the most direct ways to communicate the value your organization places on inclusivity is through training. Inclusion training will support your organization’s continued investment in diversity as an overall goal and inclusivity as the process by which all individuals are valued and welcomed.
Inclusion training can be short (20 minutes or less) and may be offered quarterly or as is appropriate to your staff or participant needs. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers examples of diversity and inclusion training presentations as well as examples related to EEOC compliance, harassment in the workplace, and cultural competence here: http://www.diversity.va.gov/training/. Remember, diversity can mean much more than cultural differences we can see, such as race and ethnicity, disability, or gender identity; in reality, a diverse organization values diversity of ideas and perspectives as well. See Diversity Inc.’s “6 Secrets for Highly Effective Diversity Training” at http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-events/6-secrets-for-highly-effective-diversity-training/ for videos and more discussion.
An increasingly common way for managers to support diversity and inclusion is through the development of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, which can aid in improving recruitment and retention of diverse employees, provide the opportunity for these employees to network, and help further the business goals of the entire organization. An ERG (also known as a business or employee network or Affinity Group) is employee-run and supports the professional goals of its members while connecting them with others of similar backgrounds, cultural identities, and ways of being in and out of the workplace. See DiversityInc.’s March 2010 video presentation clips here: http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-events/employee-resource-groups-101-video/.
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) offers a free toolkit http://askearn.org/docs/ERG_Toolkit.pdf as an example of how to launch a successful Disability Employee Resource Group; other groups that ERGs may represent include members of the LGBTQ community, African-American women, or veterans.
October 16th, 2013, is Disability Mentoring Day, an event that facilitates the building of new relationships between managers and thousands of job seekers, service members and students with disabilities across the country http://www.aapd.com/what-we-do/employment/disability-mentoring-day/. Expand this concept to encompass the diversity of identities and abilities of all team members in your organization by creating your own diversity mentoring program (see the McGraw-Hill Companies’ success story here: http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/jobmarket/diversity/mentoring.html).
To start a diversity mentoring program, start small by choosing a single Diversity Mentoring Day and then expand from there. A simple list of steps can be found at Diversity Inc’s website: http://www.diversityinc.com/mentoring/starting-a-mentoring-program/. With time, a bi-directional, cross-cultural set of conversations will bring new voices out to strengthen the dialogue of your organization.
Assess website layout and content and other parts of your organization’s IT infrastructure for accessibility and inclusivity.
The concept of accessibility in website design is key to creating inclusive environments for people with disabilities. Access and inclusion in the IT-related areas of your organization can be expanded to account for team members with a diversity of abilities related to age, language and literacy, and other ways of identifying and participating, as discussed in this informative online article: http://docs.webplatform.org/wiki/concepts/accessibility.
First, assess your website’s accessibility putting its URL into WebAIM’s WAVE Web Accessibility Website Tool http://wave.webaim.org/. Doing so will flag unseen issues that come up on your website for those using screen readers or other assistive devices to read content. Second, review the accessibility of the website for all employees by considering font size, language use, color choices, and alt tags; see the University of Vermont’s Self-Help Web Guide for a helpful list http://www.uvm.edu/webguide/?Page=accessibility.html. While making the changes may take time, taking this first step can clarify what you’re doing well and where improvements for greater inclusivity can be made.
Make sure that off-site events you are planning are accessible to all members and/or employees.
An easily overlooked aspect of the workplace is the accessibility of team-building activities or social events being held off-site. While we typically pay attention to the accessibility of our main site in the day-to-day, we can also expand this focus to include in-advance planning of accessibility in locations such as restaurants, conference halls, and other spaces.
Approach the preparation of events with inclusion in mind, taking into consideration the diversity of your team as well as those from the outside joining you. Use accessibility checklists for events such as the ADA guide which includes restaurants and service counters (see http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm#food) or NSIP’s resources for inclusive events http://www.serviceandinclusion.org/index.php?page=access). Consider expanding your checklist to include sending printed information and resources ahead of time to those of different linguistic and cognitive backgrounds, gender-neutral bathrooms that will provide universal access to participants of different gender identities, and private spaces where participants can meet medical or personal needs in their own way.
Make meetings more inclusive by providing varied access to information and meeting flow.
While a necessity in any organization for supporting group objectives, meetings can sometimes be less-than-accessible for participants whose contributions would otherwise have great value. The accessibility of meetings can be modified to account for a broader range of abilities and ways of doing things among diverse team members. Inspired by advice from Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, in a page entitled “A Simple Rule to Eliminate Useless Meetings” (http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130701022638-22330283-a-simple-rule-to-eliminate-useless-meetings, managers can update the classic meeting format by considering the accessibility of information, participation, and objectives for all participants. Send information such as important terminology and principles that will be discussed ahead of time, so that all attendants may review at their own pace. Be sure to define the objective(s) of the meeting clearly, and summarize next steps at the end with clearly stated expectations. Create visuals to support verbally expressed content. Finally, as Weiner recommends as a general meeting approach, invite attendees to give feedback and implement improvements for greater inclusivity in future meetings.
Utilize a Workplace Diversity Inclusion Assessment Tool to review organizational practices periodically.
Every organization can benefit from a periodical review of its recruitment and employment practices, cultural climate, policies, technology use, public image and marketing, and other organizational aspects in order to clarify its messaging and core values and ensure that it is following its expressed mission of diversity and inclusion as consistently and thoughtfully as possible.
Use a workplace diversity inclusion assessment tool such as the one created by the Charities Review Council (http://www.smartgivers.org/uploads/diversity_assessment_tool.pdf) and/or one that focuses more specifically on disability, like NSIP’s “Planning for Inclusion” tool (http://serviceandinclusion.org/institute2012/files/NSIP%20Inclusion%20Indicators.pdf), whose indicators are applicable to a wide range of nonprofit organizations. Consider adding to these tools in order to reflect diversity of gender identity, race/ethnicity, language use, or (dis)ability topics specific to your organization.
Review the language used in print materials, emails, presentations, and other communications for inclusivity.
In the disability world, the concept of “people first” language is not new (see http://tcdd.texas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/People1st.pdf). Emphasizing the individual, not the disability, is key to creating an inclusive environment. The same is true for all individuals within a diversity-minded organization, according to the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector in Canada, which states that “descriptors that refer to personal attributes such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age, for example, tend to over-emphasize and draw undue attention to the distinguishing attribute” (http://hrcouncil.ca/hr-toolkit/diversity-language-guidelines.cfm).
Review all forms of communication in your organization – written, electronic, verbal, and others – and consider ways in which gender, ancestry, national origin, race and ethnicity, and other cultural identifiers may be better expressed (or not expressed at all) in order to respect all individuals’ memberships and ways of identifying themselves. Visit the HR Council’s page at the link included above or the University at Newcastle at http://www.newcastle.edu.au/policy/000797.html for more information on inclusive language guidelines.
Work with the members of your team to build an emergency plan that accounts for all of their needs.
September is National Preparedness Month and reminds us to make preparedness a daily priority. Work with your team to create an emergency plan that prioritizes everyone’s diverse needs. In addition to the basics of becoming informed, making a plan, building a kit, and getting involved, take steps to ensure that every team member’s individual needs are accounted for.
Suggestions might include: conducting an assessment of the smoke alarms and other security systems in your building and making special considerations for Deaf or hard-of-hearing team members (seehttp://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2013/08/13/making-fire-safety-a-priority-in-your-home/ for more information); writing signs indicating exit routes and emergency plans in clear, easy-to-read formats, international symbols and language (and in more than one language if your team includes non-native speakers of English); and designating point people on each team to take on specific roles in the event of an emergency and meeting with them bi-monthly to discuss updates. For more suggestions, check out the National Preparedness Month 2013 Toolkit for a list of checklists and information:http://community.fema.gov/connect.ti/readynpm/view?objectId=3200688
Dialogue with your team members about how to improve the inclusive practices of your organization.
Invite your team to dialogue with you about diversity and inclusivity from their own perspective and experiences to improve your organizational environment, mission statements, and other forms of messaging. This dialogue may take place in an open forum, on an internal messaging board, or by using a questionnaire to protect anonymity; be sure to follow up with decisions made through the collective feedback of members of your team. Creating a genuinely welcoming environment means engaging the diversity of voices within it. Inviting feedback in a non-judgmental format will value your members’ voices as they contribute to an inclusive vision for all as they are heard individually.
Find an example of a diversity and inclusion survey given by the United Way to its team members at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDcQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalassembly.org%2FCollaborations%2FPeerNetworks%2Fdocuments%2F2008DiversityInclusionSurveyDRAFT4-11-08.doc&ei=Kz8WUrP8MpT84AOd5IDQBA&usg=AFQjCNGVuFed-_plckUFvJf-5DeseDxOrg&sig2=hecLTf6BdtuwX5XSjov5Ew.
Reduce or provide advance notice of any environmental triggers such as loud noises, stress-producing imagery, or flash photography to decrease flashbacks or stress reaction.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop in response to a traumatic event that has caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror (National Association of Mental Illness). Among military veterans, combat-related PTSD is quite common. Some may experience feelings of watchfulness, being “on edge,” exaggerated jumpiness, and/or being easily as a result of PTSD (Anxiety Disorder Association of America). Create an inclusive environment by giving advance warning to all team members about possible noisy construction, videos or pictures that include images of war or combat, or other sources of loud sounds or light that may cause flashbacks or other challenges in your organizational environment.
To learn more, please visit Accommodating Service Members and Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) http://askjan.org/media/downloads/PTSDVetsA%26CSeries.doc, as well as Engaging Veterans with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors in National and Community Service http://serviceandinclusion.org/veterans.
Create an opportunity for the diverse members of your team to share their culinary culture.
The expression “American as apple pie” is a common way to identify something that authentically reflects our national history and identity. Yet the reality is that with the vast number of immigrants and other diverse voices that have contributed to the contours of modern American culture, the use of any one food as a symbol of true Americanism begs the question, “Yes, but what about all the rest?”
Following up on our TIP on June 31st of putting up a Diversity Calendar https://www.nationalserviceresources.org/forum/28661/31986/weekly-inclusion-tip-4-diversity-calendar, we suggest encouraging your team members to bring in a dish to contribute to a Diversity Potluck of the various celebrations from the Diversity Calendar you put together. This may include religious, ethnic, or national celebrations and their traditional foods, or it might create an opportunity for more creative culinary observations of social and cultural landmarks. Maintain an inclusive approach by asking for religious or health-related food and eating requests ahead of time so that all team members can participate. Creating this opportunity for sharing will promote dialogue as well as a culture of inclusion, a celebration of history, and an emphasis on the importance of diversity among your team.
Do a physical layout assessment to ensure accessibility.
Nowadays, much more consideration is being given to making office spaces physically accessible for people with a diverse set of physical abilities and preferences. However, many small issues can be overlooked, a fact which can be remedied with a minimum of cost, effort, and time.
Conduct a walk-through in your office and assess the physical accessibility of your location. Walking spaces should have a minimum width of 36 inches; often clutter and shelving can block this. Work stations and storage closets at varying heights can provide the option for individuals using wheelchairs or scooters and differently sized employees to define their own space. Consider providing desk lamps for those with a visual disability. Even checking sign location and formatting (font use, contrast, etc.) can reinforce your organizational focus on diversity and prioritization of diverse abilities and perspectives. Use the City of College Station’s checklist [http://www.cstx.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=15034] http://www.cstx.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=15034 or the link for the South Carolina State Library’s requirements for physical accessibility [http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/docs/Facility/accessible_requirements.pdf] http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/docs/Facility/accessible_requirements.pdf for starting points.
Make your print materials accessible and inclusive.
It is easy to make assumptions about the cultural, physical, linguistic, and psychological ways of being of those around us. As a member of an organization that strives to be more inclusive, you can help support your organization’s diversity by reviewing the visual materials you use and adapting them to Universal Design standards (for an example, see http://www.healthliteracy.com/article.asp?PageID=3812).
Make your print materials easier to read for those with low vision, non-native speakers of English, and other team members who may benefit from visually presented information, using 14-point sans serif fonts (like Verdana and Arial) for documents and larger sizes for signs and presentations and high contrast (black type on white backgrounds) whenever possible. These small changes will make visual information accessible to a greater number of members of your organization whose distinct abilities, identities, and preferences are accounted for. For more information and ready-to-use checklists for reviewing print materials, visit http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/inclusive-communications/channels/publishing.php.
Institute a scent-free policy in your organization or agency.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) describes fragrance sensitivity as “an irritation or an allergic reaction to some chemical, or combination of chemicals, in a product” http://askjan.org/media/fragrance.html. Scented products we use on a daily basis (cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners, etc.) may contain scents that impact others’ health and comfort level. Creating a policy that explicitly outlines your organization’s goals for an allergy- and irritation-free zone can promote a more inclusive environment by making scent-free the standard. Anticipating the needs of those with allergies, respiratory illness, and other sensitivities to scents helps move your organization from the need of an individual to request an accommodation to true inclusion of all ways of being.
Here is an example of a scent-free policy from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/scent_free.html#_1_9. You may also find specific examples of language used around scent-free policies for staff communications, memos, and other forms of policy language on the JAN website (see the link to the JAN website above).
Becoming a more inclusive organization that puts diversity and equal participation for all its members at the core of its culture can be reflected in its participation in community-based activities. Look for opportunities in your area to contribute to fundraising and other efforts to support socially-minded missions that benefits individuals from different identity groups and life experiences, such as low-income and homeless community members, people with disabilities, and people struggling with diseases such as AIDS. Encouraging your team to give back to the local community and its diverse members reflects a similar mission within your organization while representing this mission as you benefit from free self-promotion in your local area.
Information for local opportunities to participate in fundraising and other efforts can be found on community websites in your area; examples include MassEquality, Special Olympics Chicago, and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
To ensure your organization is truly inclusive, start at the top with your advisory or governing board, commission or council. Does your leadership represent diversity? Identify individual board members’ skills, professional expertise, and life experiences so that you can analyze what strengths you have today and what you will need in the future. A qualified board member with personal and/or professional experience with disability can assist an organization in being welcoming, accessible and accommodating to individuals with disabilities.
See more at: http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/
Diversity is not only a representation of different cultural categories and values in an organization; it also represents a dialog between those belonging to different groups as they contribute to a community that values each voice and perspective as well as the whole. One way to invite these contributions is to create a diversity calendar to be posted in common areas of your organization. Such a calendar may include religious, secular, local, non-American and international holidays, as well as landmark legal decisions and markers of social and political change (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, effective July 26, 1990). Creating a diversity calendar can provide both the opportunity for members of your team to recognize cultural celebrations of all types, as well as the means to learn more about each other by sharing these celebrations.
Here is a good example of a diversity calendar, which you can use as a model or a starting point for your organization: http://diversiton.com/2013/Calendars/documents/LancasterUniversityDiversityCalendar2013.pdf
Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is a debilitating condition that can occur after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Many people with PTS may re-experience the incident in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects that recall the trauma. Providing a secure, private room or quiet, enclosed space can allow the individual to reduce stress or comfortably practice relaxation exercises. Offering a private office space might also benefit others including nursing mothers or individuals who need make a call to their doctors or counselors. Identifying this space before anyone has to ask for this accommodation and advertising openly to all staff and members is a positive inclusive practice!
To learn more about those who are affected by PTS, here are some websites to gather more information or resources:
JAN Accommodation Resources http://askjan.org/media/ptsd.html
National Center for PTSD- June is PTSD awareness month http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/ptsd_awareness_month.asp
Implement strategies and processes to make all people feel welcome and included in your organization. Diversity can be defined in terms of race, gender, religion, culture, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical and mental abilities, age, parental status, and socio-economics. To ensure people with disabilities feel welcomed, include a statement that offers the availability of reasonable accommodation. Use the social media to alert potential applicants, staff and members that you are a welcoming inclusive organization. To get started, here are several samples of organizational statements that welcome all aspects of diversity:
To inform everyone who is using a specific office or cubicle, affix nameplates with a photograph as well as Braille and text name of the individual. People who do not read, have issues with memory or speak another language will benefit from viewing an individual’s photograph.