Real-World Actions That Organisations Can Take To Mainstream Diversity And Inclusion

"To foster a culture of equality that provides equal opportunities to all individuals, organisations need to adopt a mindset that embraces diversity in all its forms", says Nidhi Bhasin, CEO, Nasscom Foundation.


In recent years, the global workforce has witnessed a significant shift towards fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. While progress has been made, it is essential for organisations to recognize that true inclusivity extends beyond lip service and requires tangible measures that improve inclusion for a diverse set of communities. Diversity and inclusion are not merely buzzwords but imperative for creating a healthy, innovative, and high-performing work culture. 

To foster a culture of equality that provides equal opportunities to all individuals, organisations need to adopt a mindset that embraces diversity in all its forms. One powerful approach to achieving this transformation is by incorporating the 7 Principles of Universal Design throughout their processes. Universal Design is an inclusive philosophy that seeks to create environments, products, and services that are accessible and usable by all, regardless of their age, abilities, or backgrounds. By actively integrating these principles into their operations, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion and make a positive impact on all genders, people with disabilities, neurodivergent individuals, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

1. Equitable Use

Inclusion requires all spaces, resources and processes to be accessible and beneficial to all users equally, and it is important to do so at the design stage. For example, organisations can work towards equitability throughout the recruitment process by ensuring that job postings are inclusive. This may require steps like avoiding language that might discourage diverse candidates from applying or offering multiple channels for submitting applications to accommodate different individuals' needs and preferences. Equitable use should be a fundamental consideration in the formation and implementation of every activity that the organisation and its employees engage in, whether it is in the creation of office spaces, benefits programmes or recruitment & retention policies.

2. Flexibility in Use

Properly implementing equitable use will require organisations to design tools and processes that can accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. This is why flexibility in use is an equally important principle that companies need to incorporate in their design processes. For example, they could adopt a policy of offering multiple communication channels, such as text-based, video, and audio options for meetings and presentations to cater to individuals with diverse communication styles, hearing impairments, or language barriers. It is also important to provide flexibility in physical ways like accessible workspaces, gender-neutral restroom policies, adjustable furniture and assistive technology as well as through building reasonable accommodations in important work policies on issues like leave, benefits, insurance, etc. 

3. Simple and Intuitive Use

To make processes more inclusive, organisations should adopt a user-friendly approach in all aspects of their operations. For instance, they could adopt plain and accessible language in all communications, including internal memos, employee handbooks, and customer-facing materials like websites and prospectuses. By doing so, they don’t just foster inclusion but improve productivity through better understanding. Providing multi-lingual support can also aid members of diverse linguistic backgrounds, including those who may not be fluent in the primary language used within the organisation. Conducting user testing with diverse focus groups will also generate insights on pain points that will enable companies to constantly iterate to accommodate unforeseen requirements.

4. Perceptible Information

To accommodate people with visual or auditory impairments, organisations should provide information in multiple formats. For internal communications, companies can transcribe important meetings and share audio recordings to cater to individuals who may have hearing difficulties. Similarly, public-facing content such as brochures and pamphlets should incorporate easy-to-read fonts and include pictorial representations to aid comprehension for a broader audience.

5. Tolerance for Error

Perhaps, the most important one of all, the principle of tolerance for error centres around designing processes that minimise the negative consequences of mistakes. There are two important facets to this. The first is to acknowledge that women, neurodivergent individuals and members of other marginalised communities often feel like they have to meet a higher standard than their peers. Inclusive organisations are ones where all employees should feel comfortable acknowledging their mistakes without fear of discrimination or bias. 

The second is to recognise that while mistakes do happen, what is more important is that their consequences are minimised and organisations view it as a learning moment. A culture that encourages learning from errors instead of punishing them is crucial to making the world a more inclusive place.

6. Low Physical Effort

Providing equitable use is not really equitable if it requires significantly more effort for some people. This is why designs that require minimal physical effort benefit individuals with disabilities and health conditions. Implementing automatic doors, ramps, and elevators in the workplace can significantly enhance accessibility for individuals with mobility challenges, whether temporary or permanent. 

Such measures can actually benefit the entire organisation as workspaces that are ergonomically designed reduce strain and fatigue. Moreover, they demonstrate an organisational commitment to employee well-being and create an environment where every individual can thrive.

7. Size and Space for Approach and Use

The final principle focuses on an important aspect of inclusion: manoeuvrability, both in physical offices and virtual environments. This is a key aspect of flexibility and simplicity of use that often gets ignored when designing for inclusion. For example, organisations may provide wheelchair accessibility in general, but fail to do so for emergency protocols. 

Organisations can accommodate people with mobility issues either by creating physical spaces that they can navigate comfortably or by offering remote work options. Additional steps could include creating quiet and calming spaces for neurodivergent individuals to avoid sensory stimuli or through gender-neutral restrooms to make employees of all genders feel welcome. 

A paradigm shift

Incorporating the seven Principles of Universal Design throughout organisational processes is a transformative approach for companies to take real world actions for mainstreaming inclusion. Embracing this inclusive philosophy will benefit organisations to create an environment that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of all employees, thus improving productivity. Technology plays a critical role in driving this shift, breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for individuals with unique needs. As we navigate this transformative era, it is imperative that we prioritize and embrace the potential of technology to shape workplaces, communities and the entire ecosystem, prioritizing equality and inclusivity. Together, we can harness the power of technology to create lasting change and shape a more equitable and prosperous world that leaves no one behind.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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