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What is Inclusivity?

Inclusivity Definitions: What is Inclusive Education? What is Inclusive Design? What is Inclusive Language? Inclusive Leadership Defined.

Society has to ensure that whatever benefits and opportunities are there must be afforded to all its members. No one must be left behind or excluded due to differences, whatever they may be. If ever, society must extend in whatever form to ensure that everyone is accorded the benefits, opportunities and treated the same way.

One way to do so is to promote ideas of social justice, equal rights, and fairness in society and across all its members. All concepts and measures relating to it must be actively pushed and encouraged. We must banish all forms of discrimination, racism, and exclusivity eventually in the future for the benefit of everyone.

One way to promote social justice, equal rights, and opportunities is to promote inclusivity in all its forms and aspects. But what is inclusivity, and how can it promote social justice and equal rights and opportunities for all? What are the benefits, if ever, if society practices and promotes it? Finally, what aspects of society are in dire need of inclusivity?


What is inclusivity?

Inclusivity is the idea that all types of people, for whatever differences, must be included as much as possible in work and other institutions and must be assimilated. It means that whatever benefits afforded to others must be afforded to everyone, and if possible, if ever they are disadvantaged, society must address that deficiency to ensure equality.

Promoting inclusivity is easier in theory than in practice, for biases abound against the marginalized, minorities, women, and people of different genders and mental and physical disabilities. They have been victims of the patriarchal society, majority, the powerful, and the dominant classes throughout history.

The powerful and dominant in society instituted policies against them. The story of modern societies is much the history of redressing the wrongs against them and their emancipation and empowerment. Little by little, progress has been made, and in the middle of the last century, significant strides have been made towards achieving social justice for those mentioned.

Inclusivity is one of the results of the battle for social justice, equal rights, and opportunity. It is the product of the relentless struggle by the marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against injustice and oppression. Society, then, must push through with inclusivity, if only to preserve all the victories in our fight for social justice.

The workplace is one of the critical areas of struggle for inclusivity and one of the first to be won. Legislations were passed to ensure that people previously marginalized and discriminated against were not denied the right and opportunity for employment. The working environment is made conducive and friendly for everyone.

But victories in the fight for social justice here and elsewhere must be secured. The only way to do this is to promote inclusivity in society in all its aspects. All members of society must internalize the concept itself, and it can only be done if practiced thoroughly and citizens are educated on its merit and importance.

By implication, then, inclusivity must be promoted everywhere. We can bring the struggle not only in the workplace, for which a lot has already been secured but from other areas that might seem neutral but are actually implicated in society’s power relations. By making them compliant towards inclusivity, we can make society more responsive to the concept as a whole.

Among the key areas where inclusivity must make even more significant strides to make a difference are those concerning design, leadership in all its aspects, inclusivity in educational institutions, in the language that we used, in some aspects of our health like fitness, and in several aspects of learning.

What is inclusive design?

We all have tastes and biases regarding anything, in itself, not a bad thing. We make things for ourselves and others and design things that will suit us and make us comfortable. But more often than not, people design and construct for certain people only, and the needs of others remain unaccounted for.

Here, the idea of inclusive design comes into play. Whether we are talking about preplanned cities, designing products, applications, or even styles in dress and fashion, we must think of others, and by others, those who are frequently ignored, and not taken into account, mainly the marginalized and discriminated against.

For some products like clothes and dresses, one can have a design for all, meaning it must be for use or anybody regardless of the differences we mentioned. For others, gadgets, for instance,  should be available for use by anyone, and they must be user-friendly as much as possible and operable by everyone.

The designs must also cater to their specific needs, sensibilities, desires, and specific values. Designs for urban planning and buildings, for instance, must consider the needs of everyone. Examples are pathways designed for the elderly and persons with disabilities and comfort rooms tailored explicitly for those belonging to different genders.

But let us belabour what should be obvious. In planning for inclusive design, the inputs of those who belong to the protected class, minorities, and the like must be solicited. Designing clothing, for instance, the opinions of the minorities could be solicited to account for their sensibilities. Opinions of women and those of different genders must also be considered and given weight, especially if designing for them.

By including everyone, particularly the marginalized and minorities, in designing and taking into account their needs and sensibilities, people will be aware of differences and be conscious of them. Cognizant of differences, we can expect society to notice them and their needs in other areas as well.

What is inclusive leadership?

Leaders of institutions, communities, and organizations must be the prime movers of inclusivity in society. Ordinary folks take their cue from them, so they must set a good example for others by taking the lead and initiative in it. And they can take the lead by actively promoting inclusivity by words and deeds.

Inclusive leadership entails several things. First and foremost, the leader must be committed to the idea of inclusivity and everything it entails. It means the leader must have the desire to help, promote, and fight for the cause of inclusivity, social justice, and equal rights and opportunities in general. And he must not waver against severe challenges he may face.

A leader must know how to listen, not only to his ilk but also to others. He must take cognizance of others’ wants, needs, desires, beliefs, and ideas. He must consider the interest of all, everyone, and not just of the few or others. Doing so, he must respond and act in the interest of everyone.

And talking about inclusivity, he must make sure that everyone must be treated equally and fairly. He must be aware of his own biases and know whether they affect his decision-making and treatment of others. The leader is like all of us who come from a specific background; he needs reflexivity to overcome his own biases and set a good example.

He must maintain interest in the welfare of all. To do so, he must constantly be inquiring about the others, communicating, and collaborating with all the stakeholders to ensure that principles of social justice, diversity, and inclusivity remain in place under his leadership. He must ensure that policies regarding inclusivity must be in place and implemented.

Finally, he must make a diverse group of people work together to benefit the company, institution, organization, or society as a whole. He must see to it that all the strengths and abilities be put together while at the same time remaining sensitive to the differences and sensibilities of those diverse groups.

What is inclusive education?

Education must be afforded to all, regardless of gender, race, color, nationality, and other differences. But not everyone can take advantage of education as it is. Everyone has different skills and talents, and the education available may not be suited for a particular child, owing to some differences, physical and learning disabilities, for instance.

Society then must promote inclusive education to ensure that no children are ever left behind and that everyone can develop skills and talents and acquire knowledge that suits them. Acquiring those mentioned, they can prosper and be successful in society and be fully responsible citizens, helping themselves, their families, and their community.

In inclusive education, classrooms are specifically designed, having a particular environment that suits particular students. They also use appropriate teaching methods to enhance further the students’ capability to learn. It is different from the typical classroom arrangement we often see in our communities.

But it requires a lot. Schools, for instance, must have programs and facilities for it. We need to train teachers and educators to handle diverse students with different needs. It requires a total effort from all sectors and stakeholders in society, for vital resources are needed even before starting to have a functioning inclusive education.

But the rewards for society are far-reaching, for it ensures that no one will be left behind and that everyone will have the appropriate education needed to be productive. Once harnessed by the individual, those talents, skills, and knowledge could be put to good use by the community.

What is inclusive language?

Part of promoting an inclusive society means that we as much as possible avoid terminologies and concepts that promote exclusion and discrimination. Consequently, we must promote equality and inclusivity in our everyday discourse. Thus, there is the need to have an inclusive language that instills a sense of oneness and unity in society.

Therefore, one must avoid using language that is insensitive to people, races, and ethnicities. One must not also use terminologies or words promoting prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Throughout history, words like these abound, and it is time that we discard their use to facilitate inclusive language, leading to greater inclusivity in discourse, in culture, and in society.

Bearing that in mind, inclusive language refers to the appropriate use of language in referring to the marginalized and discriminated, various races and minorities, for instance. It also includes gender sensitivity to language use, primarily when referring to women and other members of the LGBTQ community.

Finally, it also refers to the politically correct use of language when referring to others, such as people with disabilities and the like. Overall, we must know how to relate to others through appropriate and proper discourse. It also means giving respect to their terminologies and not appropriating them culturally, meaning taking them out of cultural and historical context.

But aside from this, we must also promote language use that will tear down all those invisible barriers and structures. One can use, for instance, neutral pronouns instead of exclusively masculine ones, which is the usual case when referring to an unknown person or things. Those acts can go a long way in promoting a culture of inclusivity.

What is inclusive fitness?

One aspect often neglected in the fight for greater inclusion is inclusivity in fitness. Yes, even fitness programs, facilities, and the like need to adopt inclusionary policies and consider the differences, like health, age, gender, and disability. They must cater the programs and facilities to accommodate and include as many people as possible.

Gyms and fitness facilities are essential in maintaining the health and physical well-being of the populace. As a place for recreation and exercise, it must be safe for everyone and promote a welcoming ambiance for anybody regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or age. The environment must be friendly and warm.

To elaborate, it must not be a place for sexism, jingoism, and other discriminatory or exclusionary practices prevalent in times past. It would be great too for fitness facilities and programs to employ various inclusionary practices mentioned above, like using inclusive language and appropriate behavior towards others, to promote an inclusive environment.

For truth be told, discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion are more rampant in places where the prying eyes of the law and society are nowhere, where chance meetings between people of all types are frequent. Therefore, we must be more alert and sensitive in these areas and facilities.

And talking fitness and health, it is the duty of both the society and the state to provide for everyone. So it is far more critical to ensure that there is inclusiveness in fitness and health programs, too, and that this must never be neglected in the fight for social justice and equality.

What is inclusive learning?

This aspect of inclusion refers explicitly to some children who have specific disabilities, primarily mental. Society must ensure that they are given appropriate education and that they are being taught what they must learn to facilitate their acquisition of skills and their inclusion to the educational system and the community.

Inclusive learning, then, involves applying various techniques and learning strategies appropriate for specific children. Underpinning the concept is the fact that children have differences concerning learning capacities, something that the educator must take cognizance of.

Inclusive learning ensures that whatever disabilities a child has will not impede his education, learning, and acquisition of knowledge and skills. It ensures that the child will be eventually integrated into society and will not be a victim of exclusion due to failure to acquire skills.

It is not that all different from inclusive education. Still, here, the emphasis is more on the disabilities of the children rather than other general factors which make them maladaptive to specific situations, education included. The focus is on learning rather than the general educational setup.

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These are only some areas where we can advance the cause of inclusivity. It is not exhaustive, definitely, and as much as possible, we must promote inclusivity everywhere to ensure that discrimination, exclusion, and exclusion become a thing of the past. As we go along, we continually erase, slowly but surely, all its vestiges.

But we need to start somewhere, and the critical areas mentioned are strategic enough to ensure that we can follow up on the successes previously attained. Inclusivity in those specific areas mentioned will make more and more people aware of the idea, hopefully making them more responsive to it and more intolerant of exclusivity and discrimination.

The fight for greater inclusivity is only part of the overall fight for social justice, equal rights, and opportunities for all of us. It does not mean, though, that it is far less significant. If ever, victory in the fight for inclusivity will indicate whether we can have more successes or more setbacks in the fight for parity in society.

Inclusivity is the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. Inclusivity is a mindset, in contrast, diversity is the what. You can have a team of one, which is not diverse, but, can be inclusive. Someone who has an inclusive mindset behaves in a way that welcomes and embraces diversity.

You can measure diversity, it is harder to measure inclusivity. Inclusivity has to be observed.

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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory