We’ve all heard the terms Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA). They’re used across corporate-speak, activism, legal and policy, and society in general.
But do these terms mean the same thing to everyone? Do they fully capture what we want them to mean? This discussion examines both the power and limitations of these words, and explores how diversity, equity, and inclusion can and should work together to create accessibility.
Let’s break it down.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Diversity is, “the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people”.
Equity is, “the situation in which everyone is treated fairly according to their needs and no group of people is given special treatment”.
Inclusion is, “the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage”.
Accessibility is, “the quality or characteristic of something that makes it possible to approach, enter, or use it…by everyone, including people who have a disability”.
But some of these definitions are problematic.
Firstly, diversity is actually defined by inclusion, which makes it difficult to identify what diversity means in and of itself. That said, using inclusion to define diversity implies that they are so entwined, you can’t have one without the other.
Secondly, inclusion is theoretical rather than factual. Inclusion needs to be more than just an idea. More than potential. Inclusion needs to be that everyone “can” use, take part, and enjoy the same experiences, not merely that they “should”.
Finally, accessibility feels very usage-focused. It would be great to also add how people experience something since accessibility affects us emotionally and socially too.
Putting it all together.
In the same way that the acronym “LGBT” progressed to “LGBTQIA+” to become more encompassing, the acronym “DEI” doesn’t sufficiently capture everything that’s needed for a truly inclusive experience. Now it’s expanded to “DEIA” and is becoming a more mainstream reference.
With the rise of DEIA as a concept, companies, organizations, and societies are recognizing how intertwined Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility are when it comes to creating equality. This means it’s critical that we talk about them in a connected way, and not as individual components that can be “solved” separately.
At RightHear, we believe that inclusion and diversity start with accessibility. If you want different opinions, skills, and contributions at the table, you have to make sure people can get to the table – both figuratively and literally.
So, how do we take these definitions of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility and infuse them into real-world situations?
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in practice.
Here are some quick tips to improve your DEIA strategy.
1. Do research. If you don’t know what people need, or what experiences affect them, everything else is redundant. Talk to people with disabilities. Ask questions from minority groups. The more you know the more you can authentically help to create a truly welcoming culture.
2. Raise awareness. Whether that’s through training, sharing experiences, publishing / updating policies, or simply providing a safe space, help everyone in your community (work, social, family, etc) understand what it means to embrace DEI practices.
3. Commit. Make a commitment to change. This doesn’t have to be something huge to start with. But it does need to be intentional. Perhaps it’s getting involved more in your local community. Or expanding your social circles. Or reading / listening to stories from diverse people.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are not just buzzwords or a one-and-done project that serves to check a compliance box. DEIA is an ongoing, deliberate, and holistic effort which puts the needs of customers, employees, and colleagues at the forefront of decision-making.
It is an attitude which must form the very foundation of our business and social ventures. When DEIA becomes built-in as opposed to an add-on, great things will happen.
Reach out below if you’d like to advance your DEIA initiatives.