The be inclusive, you need to what it's like to be excluded..
As part of our ongoing research to create the Oddity Inclusive Events Playbook, the team are exploring and exposing ourselves to content, conversations and events to educate ourselves on diversity and inclusion.
In February I attended the C&IT Agency Forum. The keynote of the day was given by Naomi Sesay, Head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4. The session explored diversity, cultures within the workplace and what we can do to alleviate unconscious bias to create a positive culture with diverse and inclusive talent.
To explore my learning further, I had to truly understand what defines diversity and inclusion.
Inclusion; the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have disabilities and members of other minority groups.
Diversity: the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
To understand what inclusion truly means, there is a need to understand what it feels like to be excluded. We have all experienced unfairness and exclusion in one way or another, whether that is not being included in the ‘in joke’, or feeling like you don’t fit into the cool group at school due to your upbringing, or simply not being able to relate to your work colleagues, however, this is not the same as those marginalised by society because of their ethnicity, religion or ability. Many of us may not have lived experience of exclusion due to marginalisation, therefore we cannot truly relate. We can, however, commit to listening, identifying areas for improvement and creating a movement of ‘doing better’ in our industry.
As team leaders and event managers, it is our responsibility to be able to create environments within the workplace, and within our events, which enable our teams and delegates to feel safe: Safe for our teams to come as they are; safe for our delegates to know they have been seen, heard and thought of purposefully; and safe be able to express themselves freely and enjoy the experiences we have created with ease.
Eager to understand how we can implement this further into our event design, the Oddity team attended a webinar with Purple Tuesday on how event collateral can be more inclusive and accessible.
Event design for accessibility is no longer just about ramps, accessible toilets, lifts in the building, spaces for wheelchair users in the audience. It’s every element within an event campaign, from communication of event details to physical environment design. We didn’t anticipate how many groups inaccessible content affects. This includes those with low/limited vision, dyslexia, on the autistic spectrum, and physical disabilities. It may seem like a minefield, but simple tweaks to how you design communications can go a long way. Removing any jargon/acronyms, writing clear call-to-action instructions, using well balanced and simple colour combinations and logically structured layouts all would make your content screen-reader compatible and more accessible and inclusive.
So what does this mean for events, and how do we put this into practice for our events and work spaces?
As an able-bodied, white person, I am part of an audience that largely gets by, with little struggle. When I organise events, I must always consider that there is a significant proportion of potential audiences that do not find attending events easy. We must approach every event with a clear understanding of who the audience is, what can we do to audit the experience design to ensure these audiences are able to attend, and in what ways can we do more with our event environments to ensure every attendee can come as they are.
Designing inclusive events is not just about the physical space. We now need to start thinking about accessibility across every element of the event campaign.
I am accountable in creating a safe space for my team, and our delegates. I need to challenge myself to identify and audit any weak areas and strive for improvement.
Remove the fluff in any communications about events and create clean, jargon free content that is accessible to all. This sets the standard from initial outreach and can be carried forward to the event itself.