One of the many outgrowths of the COVID-19 pandemic and conversations surrounding racism and systemic inequities has been an increased focus on diversity and an expansion of our understanding of diversity issues, including equity and inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB). This focus is of particular importance to human service professionals. Many professional development organizations are taking steps to prioritize their commitment to DEI, including the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the largest social work organization. “NASW’s commitment to diversity is rooted in our belief that creating a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is ethical. It is the right thing to do. It is also crucial to our organization’s continued success. Most important, it is what all members of our workforce deserve.”1
As our workplace organizations evolve to make DEIAB an integral part of workplace culture, it is equally as crucial for human service professionals to embrace the principles of DEIAB in our work with the individuals we serve. Demonstrating DEIAB in both word and deed is critical for acknowledging the disparities that exist for many and ensuring equitable service provision. Defining the significance of each of these principles and operationalizing their application to our work is the first step in ensuring that DEIAB is infused throughout our efforts to improve the lives of all the individuals we work with.
Diversity refers to recognizing differences in identities, experiences, and perspectives. As human service professionals, consideration of diversity helps us understand the vast and intersecting experiences of those we serve and necessitates the need for individualized care and services. Equity is about fair treatment and eliminating barriers so that the individuals we help have more of an even playing field in achieving their goals. Identifying the systemic barriers that exist can aid human service professionals in recognizing what might make it harder for individuals to access support and resources. Inclusion is embracing and affirming differences through our language, images, and practices related to how we engage with others in our professional capacity as service providers.
Accessibility considers the needs of individuals at all ability levels and guides our efforts to provide accommodations to meet those needs. In addition to physical accessibility, practitioners should also consider financial, cultural, and linguistic accessibility. Belonging speaks to the desire of all human beings to feel welcome in their environment. As helping practitioners, we must create a safe and welcoming environment. The principles of DEIAB are not new; however, as human service professionals, we must be proactive in our collective utilization of all of these principles to effectively meet the needs of those we serve and ultimately create stronger communities.
1 (n.d.). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Diversity-Equity-and-Inclusion.
Naeemah Staggs, MHS, is an Author, Educator and Wellbeing Expert. Connect with her online at https://linktr.ee/ichoosethesun.
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