Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity - What is it and how do we do it?
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Let's talk about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion - abbreviated to EDI. Together, these three concepts are used to build a framework for ensuring that all persons are equally able to participate in a given aspect of society. When we talk about EDI, we are talking about practices and initiatives that help make events, buildings, systems, and laws more fair and accessible to all those involved taking special consideration of identities that may have greater barriers to participation.
Put simply, EDI is the practice of ensuring that all peoples can fully participate – easily, independently, and to the fullest extent.
(For a refresher on the meanings of Identity, Intersectionality, and Privilege and why it is important we take care in building EDI click here!)
As a refresher, equity means being fair and ensuring that minority or marginalized groups are able to equally able to participate by providing additional or different resources or accommodations. Equity is often understood contrasted in contrast to equality - where equality might see everyone being treated the same; equity recognizes that treating everyone the same will inevitably leave vulnerable people behind. Consider our comparison of bicycles: while giving everyone the same bike is equal, because of their height, age, or ability, the same bike might not work for everyone, meaning some people will struggle more or be left behind. Creating systems and resources that account for and support these differences, such as different sized or specialty bikes, means we can all succeed together!
Diversity is about recognizing that each person is unique and acknowledging our differences and how our identities and experiences impact our opportunities and perspectives. Oftentimes, when we think about diversity, we ask, "who is in the room?" noting whether people of varying races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexualities, and abilities, among other identities, are present. However, while representation is an important first step, we also need to ask ourselves if everyone is being respected for their differences and if these differences are being barred from meaningful participation in any way.
Inclusion is the active practice of changing our systems, policies, or attitudes to ensure that everyone has access and can be included. Inclusivity considers what diverse identities are present and asks if workplaces, events, buildings, communities or other spaces have taken the necessary steps to provide resources or accommodations to ensure vulnerable or marginalized populations have fair and equitable access.
Making your spaces Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive is always your responsibility. If your spaces aren't diverse, it is never because "insert identity here" is not interested in participating. It is because you have not made it safe or possible for them to do so.
All of the situations, cultures, and dynamics that we work in are different, so our individual approaches to EDI will also need to be different to suit those specific contexts. The advice included in the lists below is largely general and suitable to most needs. But, there are two key practices you will need to exercise on your own to be as meaningful in your inclusivity as possible.
The first is, you have to care. Our systems and our institutions can encourage individualism, or the idea that once we have secured our own position we stop asking questions about how we make things fairer or more accessible to others. This is sometimes referred to as a swinging door, a phenomenon where we make sure that the door to opportunities stays open long enough for us to make it through and then we let the door swing shut behind us and stop working to help others achieve the same milestones. If you want to successfully implement EDI in your workplaces, clubs, and events, you personally need to care about whether people are being included and who is being left behind.
Part of that caring includes actively and consistently asking why certain people might not be showing up or, if they are, what might be stopping them from participating. It also means being willing to listen to people when they identify barriers and then to act on them. If someone identifies a barrier that your institution is ignorant to, you can make the choice to be that person who says “I don’t care. The majority can participate, you can deal with it." You can choose to be that person. But I am asking and challenging you today to be better than that person. Be the person who cares enough to find a creative solution to fix the problem.
The second thing you need to be willing to do is to own up to your mistakes and rectify them. You don’t have the perspective of every person on this planet and no one is expecting you to. But that means you are going to have blindspots, things you won’t understand and things you won’t connect to the offence or harm they might cause. You will make mistakes. But you can choose to learn and do better for the next person. To quote Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
One of the most important steps in practicing EDI is educating and challenging yourself. This is a life-long process of learning, unlearning, and relearning how to be a better ally and a better support. With that in mind, I know that once you identify a desire to build EDI, it can be hard to know where to start, especially for those of us who host community events, book clubs, blogs, etc. in our free time and not as our full-time job. To help you out, I want to share some of the things I have learned to make your spaces more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
Below is a practical list of ways to build and practice EDI:
If you would like to add to my list, amend misinformation, or have questions about how you can implement any of these points, please feel free to contact me!
Ensuring People of All Abilities Can Fully Participate
Most people have some form of accessibility need that will help them be better able to fully participate in all aspects of daily life. Some of these abilities include vision, hearing, and mobility.
1. Make Social Media posts “Screen-Reader Friendly.”
Screen-Readers are an assistive technology that will analyze text and images and translate them to either speech or braille. This allows persons with visual impairments to interact with your online content. However, especially in the case of pictures, the translation may only say "Text on White Background" or "Blue Truck Next to Tree" when you meant to share a meme or a picture of your new car. To help, you can type out text present in a screenshot or graphic either in your caption or in an ALT TEXT feature. For pictures, describe them using the “Who, What, When, Where, Why” method.
c. If you link to another page, include the code [VIDEO], [PIC], or [AUDIO] ahead of hyperlinks to aid screen readers in anticipating what links contain.
d. On Twitter, enable “Image Descriptions.” Every time you tweet a photo, click the “Add Description” box to type in a description of the image.
e. Facebook automatically generates alternative text using object recognition technology. To improve usability for visually impaired demographics, you can “Override Generated Alt Text” by selecting the photo, navigating to “Edit Photo” or “Options,” and then navigating to “Change Alt Text.” This can be done before or after a photo is posted.
f. Instagram has a capability for Alternative Text. On existing photos, select the photo, navigate to “Edit,” and then select “Edit Alt Text” in the bottom right corner of the photo. On new posts, navigate to “Advanced Settings” and select “Write Alt Text.”
2. Ensure print text, such as pamphlets or worksheets, has both a high colour and high brightness contrast to aid those who are colour-blind or visually impaired.
a. Avoid using a yellow text altogether.
b. Avoid using a green text on a red background or vice-versa.
c. In print media, including signage, use a sans serif font, such as Ariel, in size 14 font or larger. Avoid small or italic fonts.
3. When giving slide presentations, make personal, large print screens available for persons with visual impairments.
For example, have tablets with the presentation download or printed versions of the presentation with extra-large font available in case anyone is having difficulty seeing the screen. (As a bonus, printed versions of slides can also help those who like to take notes!)
4. If hosting a class or event with handouts, offer program materials in a variety of formats:
Whether your participants need the help of a language translation or screen-reader, or just have preferences for how they interact with materials, having printed or digitally downloadable options can make things easier. For my writer friends, consider asking your typesetter to make you a second version in Large Print, so those who prefer to read in a larger print typesetting can still enjoy your work!
a. Electronic text
b. Print handout
d. Large font
5. When hosting events or making advertisements, use large fonts on all signage and offer braille signage where possible.
6. Include captions in all videos to aid those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
a. Ensure all captions are readable by making text large enough and giving text enough screen time
b. Use a high-contrast colour such a white to ensure text stands out from the background
c. Include not only spoken words but background noises such as [Music], [Explosion], or [Dog barking] in your captions
d. You can enable automatic captions on Facebook by publishing your video, selecting “Generate” and then editing the captions and selecting “Save to Video.”
e. On YouTube, you can improve the quality of automatic subtitles on your videos by selecting “Add new subtitles or CC” and then entering a transcript of your video and setting the timings for text to appear on the screen.
f. Ahmed Khalifa's youtube channel Hear Me Out has an entire playlist of tips on captioning you can find here!
7. Wherever possible, caption live PowerPoints, presentations, and speakers.
Of all the tips on this page, this is one of the coolest to me that I love to share with people! Live captioning makes understanding speakers easier for everyone in your audiences, and yes, it will accurately pick up on your words even if you are rapping fast or mumbling.
a. If you are using Google Slides for your presentation, select “Present” and then select “Captions” on the toolbar on the bottom left corner of the screen. When a microphone is connected (including the microphone preinstalled in a laptop), closed captions will appear on the slides in real-time. You must be using a Chrome browser for the feature to work.
b. There are ways to add captions to your Instagram videos, stories, and live! This is a great option for viewers like me who are hard-of-hearing or those that just prefer to use Instagram on mute! As of right now, all the options I know of are external plugins - if anyone sees IG release this feature, please let me know!
c. Google Meetings can automatically host real-time captions during video calls. Zoom will allow you to sign a participant to type closed captions throughout the meeting using the settings explained here
8. Have a sign-language interpreter at all presentations.
This is one of the pricier strategies on this list, but if you can afford it, it makes a world of difference to those in the Deaf community.
9. Be prepared to accommodate any Assistive Listening Devices or Assisted Listening Systems, a participant may bring with them.
a. For example, many users of hearing aids also have microphones or sound-amplifying devices that aid the participant in separating speech sounds from background noises. Be open to using a special microphone supplied by the participant or providing the participant with the frequency of your sound technology when requested.
10. Request participants avoid the use of perfumes and scented lotions to keep the space scent-free.
11. Consider the layout of your space
When designing a room, auditorium, or office layout, consider how people with mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, scooters, strollers, assistance dogs, canes, or crutches, will be able to get to and interact in the space.
a. Are people with mobility devices able to sit with the rest of the group without being segregated?
b. Will people with mobility devices be able to fit through all hallways and entranceways?
c. Are ramps or lifts easy and convenient to access?
d. When sitting in program rooms, where can mobility devices be stored?
e. Aisles should be at least 1.8 meters wide and kept free of obstructions to allow persons with mobility or visual challenges to easily pass through.
12. Parking lots, pathways, and entrances to buildings need to be wheelchair accessible and clearly identified with signage or other indicators.
13. If your programming is outside, ensure there are enough hard, even surfaces for a person with mobility challenges to access all aspects of the program.
14. If your programming is outside during the winter in a snowy place, shovel all pathways and lay down salt, gravel, or an ice melt product.
15. Set tables at various heights so they may be accessed from a standing or seated position.
If you have a help desk or receptionist, a food service counter, or other tables, ensure similar materials are available at redundant heights. While access height for a wheelchair user is recommended to be set at 71cm and 86cm (28 inches-34 inches) tall when measured from the floor to the top of the table, someone who uses a cane, for example, may not be able to bend or reach that low for something to be accessible.
16. Cable Covers should be used over electrical cables or cords that must cross over aisles or pathways.
Cable covers should be no more than 2cm (.75 inches) thick for wheelchairs to travel over them with ease.
17. Have plastic straws available at your event for persons with limited mobility.
For some people with mobility issues or those without full control of the movement of their jaw or hands, straws are an essential tool. While there are lots of alternatives available now, like paper straws, these can easily be bitten through, can disintegrate too quickly, and can be too stiff to be tactile for those with disabilities.
18. Have water available for comfort, guide, and assistance animals.
19. Use appropriate language when discussing participants’ abilities.
a. By and large, the best word to use is the word disabled or disability
b. For a while, person-first language was being taught to everyone, and so it was included on this list. Some people in impacted communities have since expressed a strong dislike for person-first language. Person-first language means valuing each participant as a whole individual outside of any labels that might apply to them. This is accomplished by using their name ahead of any label in a sentence.
Ensuring People of All Neurologies Can Fully Participate
Various conditions can have an impact on the ways our brains think and function. Creating programs that promote neurodiversity means ensuring all participants are included by providing support systems that allow each participant to participate as they are, regardless of whether they are allistic or experience conditions including Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, dyspraxia, learning disabilities, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome (TS), to name a few.
1. Use appropriate language
Avoid using slang terms such as “crazy,” "retarded," or “psycho,” which make light of and spread negative stereotypes regarding intellectual abilities and mental health.
2. If there is a cost, or limited seating to your club, workshop, or event, provide free or discounted registration fees for accompanying support persons
3. Take care to communicate directly with individuals rather than through their accompanying support persons
4. Consider offering quiet-times or quiet-spaces
If you are hosting activities that may become rowdy, consider designating a space or group for people who would rather not deal with loud, busy, or distracting settings.
Ensuring People of All Diets Can Fully Participate
Food is the universal element that can make or break any program. Hunger decreases focus and productivity and has been linked to creating negative emotions in humans. A lack of nutrition can make it difficult for participants to keep focus, build positive experiences, or participate fully in a program. When food is offered, consideration needs to be given to dietary restrictions as many people have some form of dietary restriction, including allergies, as well as diets based on religious and moral choices. Offering options that all participants can eat will ensure everyone stays happy, healthy, and fed.
1. If your space offers food to your team, members, or participants, on applications and registration forms, ask for dietary restrictions.
Follow-up with any you are unsure of to better understand how you can support their needs.
2. Label foods with ingredients so participants can confirm options fall within their diets
3. Be prepared to offer enough snacks and substantial meals based on the length of your program:
a. For programs lasting less than 3 hours in duration offer at least one snack.
b. For programs lasting 3 to 5 hours in duration, offer at least one complete meal and one snack.
c. For programs lasting 5 to 8 hours in duration, offer at least one complete meal and two snacks.
d. For programs lasting longer than 8 hours, or spanning multiple days, offer at least three complete meals and two snacks per full day of programming.
e. Should your program last the duration of a typical mealtime, for example, 11:00AM-1:00PM or 4:00PM-7:00PM, prepare to offer a meal or snack as participants will likely be hungry at these times.
4. Ensure food options for those with dietary restrictions are well-rounded, filling, and offered at a comparable variety to non-restricted options.
5. Use separate serving dishes for foods adhering to various diets. Where allergies or contamination is a concern, have these options located on a separate table.
6. Ask your caterer to ensure there is no cross-contamination between fryers and pans used for different dietary-restrictions between washings.
This can help ensure allergens, gluten, and restricted ingredients do not mistakenly end up on someone’s plate.
7. Provide options for those following Vegetarian Diets.
People following a vegetarian diet can typically consume egg or dairy products but no meat or meat byproducts.
a. Vegetarian options still need to include a protein as part of a balanced diet. This can be accomplished by replacing meat with alternatives such as soy-based replacements, tofu, beans, protein-rich grains such as quinoa or couscous, or large servings of hearty vegetables such as mushrooms, cauliflower, or eggplant.
b. If your menu includes fried foods, such as fries, onion rings, or donuts, ask if the food has been fried in vegetable oil or animal fat. Animal fats are not friendly to vegetarian diets.
c. Pie crusts, pastries, and some baked goods may also use animal lard as a replacement for butter, preventing them from being vegetarian friendly.
d. Many broths or stocks, found in ingredients such as gravy, rues, or soups are made from chicken or beef and are not friendly to a vegetarian diet.
e. Any foods containing gelatin, such a gummy bears, are not friendly to a vegetarian diet.
f. Hard cheeses that contain Rennet, such a parmesan, are not friendly to a vegetarian diet.
g. Many salad dressings contain anchovies and are not friendly to a vegetarian diet.
h. Many foods that have been dyed red include the ingredient “Carmine,” which extends from beetles and is not vegetarian friendly.
9. Provide options for those following Vegan Diets.
People following a vegan diet cannot consume any animal product or byproduct, including eggs and dairy. All restrictions listed for vegetarians apply to vegans as well.
a. Many vegans may not eat honey as part of their diet.
10. Provide options for those following Halal Diets.
Halal foods are free from any ingredient that those of Muslim faith are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic or Shariah law and must be processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic or Shariah law.
a. The following cannot be consumed while following a halal diet: pork, bacon, ham or any meat product derived from pigs; alcohol; carnivorous animals; any lard, fat, shortening, stock or broth, gelatin, rennet, enzymes, L-cystine, lipase, or tallow when derived from a non-Halal animal source; and any foods contaminated with any of the above through processing, cooking, storage, or service.
b. Meat and poultry must be prepared according to Islamic law, which dictates specific humane slaughter practices. These meats will be marked as Halal by caterers, stores, and butchers.
11. Provide options for those following a Kosher Diet.
The Kosher Diet describes what foods are suitable for certain practicing members of the Jewish faith to consume. Within the Kosher diet, foods are divided into three categories, dairy, meat, and pareve or neutral.
a. In keeping with a Kosher diet, dairy and meat cannot be combined or eaten together during the same meal. Meat and dairy must be prepared with separate sets of dishes and serving utensils. Once a pot or pan has had meat in it, it can only ever be used to cook meat and vice versa to remain Kosher. This may also pertain to cheeses that include animal fat or Rennet as an ingredient.
b. Meat and poultry must be prepared according to Jewish law, which dictates specific humane slaughter practices. These meats will be marked as Kosher by caterers, stores, and butchers.
c. No shellfish or insect is considered Kosher.
d. Many people practicing a Kosher diet may only eat foods that have reliable Orthodox certification.
12. Provide options for those following a Paleo Diet.
The Paleo Diet is a health-conscious choice based on paleolithic, or hunter-gatherer, lifestyles.
a. People following a paleo diet can eat lean cuts of preferably grass-fed, free-range, or organic meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, fruits, non-starchy nuts and seeds, olive oil, flaxseed oil, or walnut oil. The less fat included in the meal, the better it will align with their diet.
b. People following a paleo diet will avoid all dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, anything containing processed sugar, cured meats such as bacon, hotdogs, or deli meat, or any processed food.
13. Provide options for those following Gluten-free Diets.
a. Strong replacements for gluten include corn products, including corn flour, cornmeal, and grits; plain rice; flours made of gluten-free grains including nuts, beans, coconut, buckwheat, millet, almond, chickpea, quinoa, and amaranth.
b. Any ingredient that contains “Wheat,” “Barley,” “Malt,” or “Rye” are not safe for those following a gluten-free diet to consume. This includes gummy candies such as licorice, which contain wheat, any breaded meats, and many alcohols.
c. Most gluten-free products will be labelled as “gluten-free” and may be located in a special aisle of the store. Be sure to ask your caterer if they can sanitize cooking surfaces and utensils before preparing gluten-free offerings to avoid cross-contamination. If breaded products have been cooked in a deep-fryer, gluten-free offerings cannot be cooked in the same fryer.
14. Provide options for those with Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is a diagnosed autoimmune disorder that causes the small intestine to become hyper-sensitive to gluten, leading to difficulties with digestion. All guidelines for those following a gluten-free diet still apply to those with Celiac Disease, with the added imperative that there must be no cross-contamination with gluten, meaning an entirely separate set of utensils and cooking surfaces are required to prepare these foods.
15. Provide options for those with allergies:
a. Ensure all snacks are nut-free.
b. Ensure all foods are prepared in a nut-free kitchen.
c. Ensure all menus are labelled with ingredients so those with allergies can double-check to ensure foods are safe to consume.
d. Follow-up with participants with allergies to see if they carry epinephrine and have staff or volunteers on site who trained to recognize signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and can aid in activating medical attention.
Ensuring People of All Family Types Can Participate
All families are different, and people can become parents at different ages, in different circumstances, or not at all. Some may also have obligations to care for parents, siblings, or other family members. It is important to ensure that everyone can provide care for their families without sacrificing their ability to participate in our workplaces, clubs, and events.
1. Offer changing tables in all washrooms - including men's, women's, and all-gender washrooms.
2. Offer quiet and private spaces for chestfeeding or pumping.
3. Whenever possible, offer childcare or allow individuals to bring their children and families.
4. Avoid scheduling meetings at times when people are likely to have family obligations, such as dinner times, holidays, or at school drop-off and pick-up times.
Ensuring People of All Financial Needs Can Fully Participate
Many people have different financial statuses influenced by many factors. Financial barriers to programs can exclude potential participants who are unable to afford additional expenses in their budgets.
1. Be mindful of making tickets as affordable as possible, considering your program's goals and costs.
2. Where possible, offer levels of price discrimination to increase access to your program
a. Offer a student or an undergraduate price.
b. If the program runs for multiple days or sessions, offer opportunities for participants to pay a lower fee to attend a portion of the program, such as a specific day or session.
c. Offer an early bird price.
d. Offer a “pay-what-you-can” or “by-donation” price.
e. Set aside a budget to offer bursaries or scholarships to the program.
3. If the activity has an online element, iPad or laptop stations can allow persons without personal devices to participate.
4. Should your program require travel between multiple venues, provide transportation for all participants.
Ensuring People of All Genders Can Fully Participate
Gender is a socially constructed identity referring to a person’s internal sense of self. In our current society, gender is often misunderstood as a binary, where there are two genders that are “opposites” from one another: female/girl/woman and male/boy/man. However, there are an infinite number of genders that do not align with this gender binary, and many people’s genders are not the same as the one assigned to them at birth.
Some of the adjectives people use to identify their gender may include non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and agender; these words reference experiences of gender that include having multiple genders, having no gender, having a gender that is variable, and/or having a gender that falls outside the descriptive capacities of the gender binary. All of these words mean different things to the people who use them and deserve to be fully respected in all settings.
1. Adopt gender-inclusive language in speech, online, in written materials and in waivers, application, and other forms.
a. Replacing gendered terms such as “Hey Guys!” or “Ladies and Gentlemen” with gender-neutral terms such as “folks,” “everyone,” or “y’all.”
b. Replace gendered proper titles with gender-neutral terms such as replacing “boy/girlfriend” with "partner" or “mother/father” with "parent/guardian."
2. On applications or registration forms, remove questions that ask for the participant’s “sex” or “gender” when there is no productive need present for the data.
a. If you cannot determine a genuine productive use for this data, remove the question from the form.
b. If the data is necessary, allow participants to type in their own pronouns rather than using a multiple-choice question.
3. On name tags and during verbal introductions, encourage participants to provide their pronouns.
4. Highlight, both verbally at the start of presentations and any maps or signage, where gendered and all-gender washrooms are located in the space.
5. Where possible, remove gendered activities from programming.
a. For example, avoid icebreakers that require “girls” to be on one team and “boys” on another.
Ensuring People of All Mental Health Considerations Can Fully Participate
Mental Health is part of wellness that refers to any stressors to psychological wellbeing, such as our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Mental health can encompass anything from stress and burnout to clinical illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety.
1. Have volunteers or staff trained in peer support, mental health first aid, suicide intervention, and/or clinical and counselling strategies available to support
In a long-term work setting, this could mean having professional services included and advertised in healthcare plans or actively on-call or on the payroll. In short term settings like events, this means having volunteers or staff with these skills in the building and on duty.
2. Offer quiet, comfortable spaces for participants who may become overwhelmed and need to remove themselves from the situation.
3. Implement the “thumbs-up” check for participants who may need to excuse themselves during programming.
a. Instruct participants that if they need to excuse themselves to take a call, use the washroom, etc. they need to give the facilitators a thumbs-up as they exit. Otherwise, facilitators will assume something has gone wrong and will follow them out to check in on them
4. Issue trigger-warnings before potentially triggering content.
The purpose of verbal and written “trigger-warnings” are to provide participants who may have post-traumatic stress disorder or similar mental health concerns with an advanced notice that content may touch on topics that are commonly known to inspire anxiety, panic, or intense negative feelings in those who have negative experiences linked to that topic. Trigger-warnings allow participants who know they have negative reactions to such content to exit the room or mentally prepare themselves for the discussion to preserve their mental wellbeing.
a. Topics that should have trigger warnings include sexual assault, pornographic content, graphic violence, discussions of war or conflict zones, gunshot sounds, suicide or self-harm, abuse, including domestic and child abuse, pedophilia, animal cruelty or death, miscarriages, abortion, and/or images of blood.
b. These warnings can be offered as a blanket statement pertaining to an entire day, book/movie or post and/or directly before a specific slide, story, or example.
c. An example of a verbal trigger warning may be, “We’re going to take a five-minute break, and when we come back, we will be discussing an example that includes discussions of sexual assault. The slides will include some graphic and disturbing photos, including violence and blood. I expect our discussion to last for about ten minutes. Because this can be a difficult subject to talk about for many people, we also encourage you to do anything you need to do to take care of yourself, including zoning out or leaving the room; you’re welcome to step out to use the washroom or grab a drink as well.”
Ensuring People of All Languages Can Fully Participate
1. Offer materials in a variety of languages
a. Check the official languages for your country. The official languages in Canada are French and English. Canadians should also consider the more than 60 different Aboriginal languages are spoken in Canada. Of these, the most common are Cree-Montagnais languages, Inuktitut, and Ojibway.
b. Beyond official languages, check census data to see what languages are most used by your target demographic. For example, someone writing for students in Alberta would want to consider offering translations in Tagalog, German, Persian, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Punjabi, and Mandarin in addition to English and French.
2. Have language interpreters available at all presentations
3. When sending program details, such as locations or directions, do not rely on others' assumed knowledge. Rather, be clear and descriptive on how one would access a building, website, or activity.
a. When directing people to a building, use specific streets and directions as well as visible maps, rather than relying on landmarks they might not be familier. For example, in Edmonton Alberta, it would be more appropriate to direct someone to "The Intersection of 82nd Avenue and 104 Street" than to "The blue building beside the Remedy on Whyte."
b. Similarly, on online space, provide clear links and instructions. For example, if I were to direct someone to this blog from my Instagram, instead of using the hashtag #linkinbio, which assumes you are familiar with Instagram and the convention of including links to personal websites on the main page of an Instagram feed, you will get more engagement from clear instructions that let people know to "Click my name to check out my profile and follow the link to my blog listed in my bio if you want to know more!"
c. Spell out acronyms fully when you first introduce them. For example, if I were teaching someone how to play Dungeons and Dragons, I would want to use the words Hit Points and Armour Class rather than HP and AC when I explain the rules. Similarly, organization or building names should be spelled out in full.
d. This also goes for examples that may be used when delivering content. Few experiences are universal, so relying on examples based on your culture will exclude those without those experiences. For example, if I reference a specific meme or trend without showing an example, the point or meaning may be lost to those who have not seen it before.
Ensuring People of All Race and Ethnicities Can Fully Participate
1. Include people of colour in your marketing, art, movies, and stories
When creating marketing, publications, presentations, or other visual media, include people of colour as models, characters, and in images.
a. For my writer friends, please check out "Writing in Colour" for a great resource on writing people of colour.
2. Actively practice Anti-Racism
a. Read books written by and about diverse authors
When we surround ourselves with media written by and about people who look and think like us, we can create what is called an "echo-chamber." An echo-chamber is a metaphoric term referring to a phenomenon in which our beliefs and perspectives become cemented in our minds as verifiably true because we only take in information that supports our preconceptions and reject all ideas that may challenge them. To start breaking down our own internal prejudices, we need to be able to understand and empathize with voices and perspectives that are different than our own. Numerous studies have shown that reading increases empathetic ability and the ability to understand situations from multiple perspectives. This growth is stymied, however, when we only read accounts from people who think and look like us. Instead, we need to actively seek out #OwnVoices stories, or stories written by and about people holding diverse identities, in this case, people of whose race is different than our own.
b. Trace your thoughts to their source - think critically about your thoughts to question why we are making certain assumptions or judgements and whether these are founded on the present context or on expectation or prejudice.
c. Listen when people of colour speak.
When someone tells you they have been harmed, especially when they tell you they have been harmed by your actions, you don’t get to tell them that they are not hurt or that they are overreacting. Instead, it is your responsibility to listen to what happened to cause the harm, how they feel, and what you can reasonably do to make reparations or to change your behaviours so that the action has no repeat. This strategy is undoubtedly one we need to practice with our friends, family, and coworkers. But it is also one we should practice with the news and with activism. When you see people protesting or see the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter your first response should not be to try and derail or dismiss the movement or to point to someone who has it worse. Your first reaction should be to listen and to understand what hurt has been caused and what you can do to try and make reparations and to change the world so it doesn’t happen again. Listening can also mean passing the microphone. When people are used to positions of power and privilege, they can be used to being able to always speak and have their voices always heard. Passing the microphone means making spaces for other people to tell their stories and be heard and being silent and listening while they do. This also means that we cannot police people’s hurt for tone. People can be angry, people can be hurting and grieving, people can be numb. Telling anyone that their movement cannot be validated because of the tone or specific wording of the message does nothing to heal the underlying problem. Instead of policing how people speak, we need to make an effort to listen to what is being said.
d. Educate your family and friends on what it means to be anti-racist
It is not the job of people of colour to handle the emotional burden of teaching all white people how not to be racist. Instead, it is the job of each and every one of us to recognize the inappropriate language or behaviour our family and friends may use and correct them. When we support our friends despite their racism or remain silent, we condone the behaviour and teach others that thinking, speaking, and acting in racist ways are right and are okay. It is not. I like to believe that more people are misinformed or are lazy about combatting racism than they are maliciously hateful. Confronting family and friends about their racism can lead to difficult conversations and change won’t happen overnight. But it is an essential part of anti-racism. To remain silent is to be complicit.
e. Be active, be vocal, be an ally
At the end of the day, anti-racism isn't something you are, it is something you practice. It requires you to call out racism every time you see it. It means protesting, voting, or changing spending habits to dismantle racist systems, programs, structures, companies, and governments, knowing that black lives are more important than white comfort as changes are made. It means always trying to learn and be better and to consistently challenge your own unconscious bias and beliefs. It means using your power and your platforms to be vocal. Being anti-racist means believing that black lives, along with the lives and rights of all people of colour matter and are worth fighting for. And then fighting for them.
Ensuring People of All Religions Can Fully Participate
1. Have quiet, private spaces available for prayer
2. Be respectful of religious attire and be mindful of participants’ ability to include these articles in any uniform or themed attire.
3. Be aware of any religious holidays that may fall during your event and take measures to be adaptable to the needs of participants practicing these holidays.
Ensuring People of All Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities Can Fully Participate
Sexuality refers to a person’s experiences of aesthetic, romantic, and physical attraction to others, their behaviour based on this attraction, and their internal sense of self in these experiences and behaviours. There are many adjectives people use to identify their sexuality outside of heterosexual, sexual, romantic, and monogamous relationships, including those orientations included in the acronym LGBTTQQPIANU+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer, Questioning, Pansexual, Intersex, Asexual, Non-Binary, Unlabelled, and more). This can also include varying ways people engage with their sexuality, such as polyamory.
1. Use Non-gender terms
If your content discusses intimate relationships, best practices will use non-gendered terms such as “they,” “them,” "parent," or “partner” in examples. Where examples must be used, use diverse examples that show female-female, male-male, female-male, and non-binary relationships.
2. Use the right language to discuss the LGBTQ+ Community
a. Stonewall maintains a complete glossary of terms relating to gender and sexuality here.
b. GLAAD maintains a complete glossary and guide to reporting on issues in the LGBTQ+ community here.
c. Avoid the term "preference" when discussing pronouns, gender, or sexuality. The word preference implies something people choose to be rather than who they are. The word preference and the notion of choice also implies someone could be "cured," fueling harmful "conversion therapies"
d. Avoid and condemn the use of slurs and outdated language like fag, faggot, dyke, homo, sodomite, or tranny. Similarly, do not use the words "deviant" or "diseased" in relation to the LGBTQ+ community or associate the community with pedophilia, bestiality, abuse, incest, or other defamatory behaviours.
e. Do not refer to anyone's gender as being "biological" or "genetic." The correct terminology for anyone pre or post-transition is to say "assigned male/female at birth" or "designated male/female at birth."
f. Use the term transgender as an adjective and not a verb or noun. For example, someone is transgender, they are not transgendered or a transgender.
g. Never use someone's birth name or dead name unless absolutely necessary for clarifying legal documents. The name someone calls themself is their real name.
3. Be inclusive when discussing contraception
If contraceptive items, such as condoms or lubricants, are offered as swag for your event, be sure to also offer internal condoms, dental dams, and latex/nitrile gloves.
a. Stonewall has a comprehensive guide for including LGBTQ+ content in Relationships, Sex, and Health Education. Find the guide here.
4. On applications, registration forms, and on nametags allow participants to write in their preferred name in replacement of their legal name (or in addition to, for forms requiring legal identification).
5. Establish an LGBTQ+ Network Group in your organization
6. Use Inclusive Visuals
When creating marketing, publications, presentations, or other visual media, where relevant include images of same-sex couples
a. You may also choose to include recognized LGBTQ+ icons in your visuals, such as the Pride flag or logos of partner organizations to signify that you are committed to LGBTQ+ equality
7. Explicitly state that Bi, Ace, and Trans individuals are welcome
Even within the LGBTQ+ community, certain members may experience less acceptance and more violence or harassment. Be vocal about your support and welcoming of bisexual, asexual, and transgender individuals.
a. Especially for LGBTQ+ events, make explicit that these individuals and where relevant, their partners, regardless of their gender, will be welcome.
b. Maintain a no-tolerance policy for harassment or intolerant language.
8. Do not medicalize or pathologize the LGBTQ+ community
a. It is always inappropriate to ask people you are not close with or people in a public context about their genitals or their sexual behaviours.
b. Neither homosexuality nor being transgender are presently classified as mental disorders.
Ensuring All People Can Fully Participate
1. Directly state in promotions that your organization and program are “committed to creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive universal access for all.”
2. Ensure all your volunteers, staff members, team members, or presenters are trained in the importance of EDI and how to implement these strategies.
a. Ensure your staff and volunteers understand and are trained in your EDI practices and policies. They will be the frontline in enacting these values in interactions with participants.
b. Include conflict de-escalation training for your Team Members to ensure they are .equipped to handle situations of harassment or exclusion as they may arrive. Be sure your staff and volunteers are empowered and confident in addressing and recording derogatory or harmful language. This training could include scripting and practicing specific responses to possible issues.
b.Communicate clearly that your organization has a no-tolerance policy for harassment or prejudice. Specifically state what behaviours are unacceptable, being sure to include derogatory language. Then follow-up on this commitment by removing or meaningfully disciplining those who violate those policies every time it happens. The key here is that the follow-up needs to be regimented, clearly defined in your policy, meaningful, and consistent.
4. Include a space for participants to indicate what resources they need to fully participate on applications and registration forms
5. Offer Resources and Support
If your content deals with controversial or delicate subject matter or addresses factors of individual identity such as gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, age, or ability, be sure to offer reference information and resources should participants want to explore the subject further or seek personal, ongoing support.
6. Use a variety of strategies for promotions to tap into many different audiences
a. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc.)
b. Online Publications (Websites, emails, etc.)
c. Print Publications (Posters, flyers, articles, etc.)
d. Sound Publications (Radio, etc.)
e. Face-to-face marketing (Tabling, classroom presentations, personal invitations, word-of-mouth, etc.)
7. Provide information on how to access your program's venue, including the cost of parking, the distance of parking to the venue, and transit options.
a. You should also note what level of the building the room or theatre is on and where ramps or elevators can be located.
b. For best practices, include a map with a text description.
c. Avoid using acronyms or common names for buildings and locations.
d. On Google Maps, when viewing the “Directions” tab, under “Transit,” select “Options” and activate “Wheelchair accessible.” With this function activated, Google will only provide travel options that are accessible to participants with limited mobility.
8. During your program, use plenty of print or digital directional signage.
a. Signage can include print posters or digital platforms such as TV screens.
b. Give participants maps of the venue with their registration package.
c. Ensure facilitators or volunteers are prepared and available to answer directional questions.
d. Mark where gendered and gender-neutral washrooms are located.
e. Mark where accessibility features such as ramps and elevators can be found.
f. Mark where prayer rooms or private spaces can be found.
9. If names written on an application will need to be read aloud, for example, in a presentation, ask for the phonetic spelling of their name.
a. For example, “Katie MacLean” might be written “Kay-tee Mahk-layn”
10. Have volunteers or staff available to help locate and travel between rooms and sessions.
11. Scheduled enough travel time between sessions.
12. Give participants a variety of ways to engage with your content.
a. Use a mix of pictures, infographics, videos, and written words in Slide presentations.
b. Give opportunities for participants to discuss ideas with others and verbally ask questions.
c. Give opportunities for participants to interact without requiring verbal processing by using digital activities and Q&A tools
ii. Use a Google Form for participants to submit questions and ideas
iii. On Google Slides, enter “Presenter View” and enable “Audience Tools” for a link to be displayed on the top of all slides that will allow participants to send questions to the presenter’s device in real-time.
13. If the activity requires the use of specific technologies, having volunteers trained in the use of those systems on hand can aid those persons who may be unfamiliar with them.
a. Ex. If using a specific program such as “Kahoot” during an activity, trained volunteers can help participants understand how to access the WiFi, connect to the website, and participate in the quiz.
14. Avoid activities that require physical contact between participants.
15. Offer materials that are suited to both left and right-handed participants.
16. Ensure all participants have a safe way to get home at the end of the program.
17. Use diverse media and examples.
a. When offering examples, recommendations, and reviews, refer to various media, including media written by and about diverse creators.
b. Have a diverse slate of speakers at events and on your panels.
c. For book clubs, film clubs, or similar resource lists, ensure the media you suggest includes work by and about minority and marginalized communities.
18. Assign a Moderator for group meetings or discussions.
a. A moderator can direct attention to someone whose voice is being ignored or interrupted. b. A moderator can shut down jokes, discussion points, or lines of questioning that are offensive or intolerant.
c. A moderator can correct misinformation, clarify points that rely on assumed knowledge, or direct participants to additional resources or information.
d. A moderator can act as a central point to monitor a session or meeting and direct assistive volunteers to those who need help.
19. Consider offering various modes of attendance.
a. Record meetings and lectures and/or take detailed meeting minutes for later viewing and reference.
b. Offer ways for participants to connect digitally or in-person, such as hosting live-streams or online meetings.
c. If you have a large group or club, you could consider offering multiple redundant meeting times, so participants have options that work within their schedules.
20. Consider the information available on your website
If a search for specific keywords like "gay" or "black lives matter" on your website or in conjunction with your organization returns no results or returns results that signify patterns of violence and exclusion, people for whom their identities can present safety concerns may be discouraged from participating.
21. Moderate your online presence
a. Don't allow trolls or online bullies to overtake your content on social media. Monitor comments and block accounts that cause trouble or harass the followers that actually engage with your content.
22. Make a commitment to confidentiality
If someone discloses to you that they have a disability, are part of a certain marginalized community, or require a certain accommodation, it is your responsibility to keep that information private and confidential.
a. Store personal information in a secure location. Don't let anyone outside of your organization access it, and limit access within your organization to need-to-know personnel only.
b. Get permission from the individual before sharing private information for any reason
23. Don't Make Assumptions
You cannot tell by sight what communities a person identifies with, what struggles they may have, what language they might prefer, or what accommodations they may need. Take the time to ask if you are unsure (assuming the information is vital for you to know - otherwise respect their privacy!) and believe people when they disclose information to you.
24. Include information about your equity, diversity, and inclusivity practices in your regular publications
It is not enough for your EDI measures to constitute lip-service or to be discussed only during events like Black History Month or Pride. You need to be committed to practicing EDI every day at every level of your organization. Including information about the steps you have taken and the successes you have had in your newsletters or email campaigns will not only reaffirm your practices but will communicate your values to your stakeholders as well.
25. Ask for feedback on how your spaces can be improved to help everyone fully participate. Listen to what people have to say.
a. Offer anonymous feedback forms or have a system for anonymous comments.
b. For team members, have designated, regular, private meetings where individuals can safely discuss their experience, any accommodations needed, and any issues they've been having.
c. Believe people when they disclose that they have been facing harassment or require an accommodation. Then take immediate and meaningful steps to solve the issue.
d. When soliciting feedback, seeking information on an individual's experience with your organization is okay. But do not approach members of minority or marginalized groups to ask questions you can research and learn for yourself. There are plenty of resources out there to aid you in learning about EDI, antiracism, accessibility, and similar topics. It is unjust to expect a member of a given community to speak for all members of that community or to be an expert in the long and nuanced histories of oppression they may face. Nor is it fair to expect someone to have the time or energy to educate you on information freely available.
26. Consistently treat people with kindness, dignity, and respect.
As I noted before, I am not an expert on this, and I am not perfect, but I care enough to do my research and to try my best to make the things I host and create as equitable, diverse, and inclusive as possible. I am sharing what I have learned in hopes that it can give you a place to start your own research!
I also want to reiterate that this is a living document! Please contact me if you have an amendment or more ideas to build EDI!
Until next time: think critically, reflect, and keep reading!