This guide provides questions and recommendations for event coordinators to plan, execute, and evaluate inclusive events. It's not an exhaustive guide but should serve you on your way to becoming a more inslusive leader.
- Who is the target audience for your event? Are the folks planning the event representative of our attendees?
- If there is a fee for an event, do you have the resources to offer fee waivers to allow those not able to afford the event to still attend?
- Looking at the target date for the event, what religious or cultural events or holidays are happening around that time that could impact who is able to attend? Think about other high-profile events (elections, sporting events, etc.) that could impact attendance.
- Consider collaborating with other departments/organizations
- Ensure that your budget earmarks funds for disability-related accommodations.
- AU requires live-streamed events to be captioned.
- The Academic Support and Access Center will cover the costs for students who have registered accommodations on file with their office.
- Print items in large font (20+) or have braille copies on hand.
- Your Venue
- Is it accessible for people with disabilities (not just your event location but also the restrooms nearest your venue)?
- Are there fragrance dispensers in the restrooms or around your event location? If so, consider asking that they be removed or disabled for your event for folks who may be sensitive to smells.
- When students are included, consider a metro-accessible location given that most students have UPass.
- Consider finding venues at institutions that have a history of being inclusive and welcoming.
- Visit the venue before committing.
- Plan and share with attendees a route of travel to your building from various landmarks or parking areas to assist people in finding your venue.
- Collecting RSVPs: Not just beneficial for projected attendance
- Is your RSVP method accessible?
- Collecting information about accommodations for those with disabilities.
- Collecting dietary needs or restrictions (those who don’t drink alcohol, Halal, Kosher, vegans/vegetarians, food allergies, etc.).
- Requesting attendees don't wear heavy scents to accomodate those who might be sensitive (have baking soda on-hand the day of to help neutralize heavy smells)
- Use language outside the gender binary: Instead of “he/she”, say “they” or in addition to options like “Mr., Mrs., Ms.”, offer gender-neutral options like “Mx.”.
- Consider asking for attendees pronouns and including those on name badges (if provided).
- What is the identity make up of your slate of speakers or presenters? If they’re all one identity, what message is it sending your attendees? How do you prevent tokenizing when it comes to inclusion?
- If your event includes films, video clips, slideshows, or other digital components, are they accessible?
- If transportation is part of your event, is it accessible?
- Consider child care options for caregivers.
- Include information about requesting accommodations. For example: “If you would like to request a disability-related accommodation or accessibility information, please contact (PERSON) at (EMAIL ADDRESS). Request should be made by (AT LEAST TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE START OF THE EVENT)”
- Email addresses are preferable over phone numbers due to attendees who may not be able to use a telephone
- The Academic Support and Access Center can consult in effectively providing accommodations on campus
- Any information that is shared digitally should be in an accessible format (CTRL can help)
- Use the alt-text feature to allow those not able to see images to receive an audible description
- Consider color-coded name badges at social/networking events to indicate a participant’s intentions: Red means please don’t interact with me, yellow means only those I already know should interact with me, green means please talk to me, blue means please interact with me, but I may have trouble interacting with you so please be patient, etc.
- Identify pronouns (on name tags, as people introduce themselves, etc.)
- Share information about restrooms with your attendees, identifying a single-stall private restroom if nearby
- Consider lighting and sound
- Consider folks who are sensitive to fluorescent lights and those with low vision
- Will the lighting in your space allow for interpreters to be seen?
- Discourage or forbid flash photography
- Ensure food and beverage options are labeled clearly and include ingredients
- If music is a part of your event, consider how or why it is being included and what message the song selection might convey to your audience. Or is it a necessary component to the presentation or is it an add-on?
- Videos/Clips should (and in some cases, must) be captioned
- If your event involves a Q&A or audience participation, ensure there are microphones for both presenters and the audience. If a microphone is not available for the audience, be sure presenters repeat questions or statements into their microphones before responding
- Check in with the audience frequently: Is everyone able to understand and follow what is happening?
- If you have interpreters at the event, be sure to reserve seats at the best vantage point for the people who need their services
- Ensure open space in rows and walkways to accommodate wheelchairs
- Have paper copies of presentations available for folks to follow along and take notes
- At events where speakers are asking attendees to donate or contribute money towards something, think of non-monetary ways folks can give back for those that want to participate but may not have the resources to do so
- Have recordings or materials available to attendees after the event (in an accessible format)
- Academic Support and Access Center or CTRL can consult on captioning videos but there are some free online services like YouTube or Amara
- When soliciting feedback about your event, think of your methodology or how the evaluation is distributed and whether that’s inclusive. Do you want to collect feedback on how inclusive participants thought the event was?
As our world constantly evolves, it’s critical that we use language that reflects our progress in striving for equity. Researchers from Handshake have found that over 70% of students prefer to work for companies that value diversity and make them feel included and respected regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, socioeconomic status, or appearance. To be a successful business professional, the language you use both in speaking and writing should always strive to be fair and inclusive.
In general, only refer to a person’s situation, medical condition, illness, or injury if it is relevant to the content.
If a reference is central to the message, be as specific as possible and avoid inserting value judgments or victimizing language. Descriptors such as disabled, handicapped, or confined to a wheelchair or verbs like afflicted, restricted, stricken, suffering or unfortunate place too much emphasis on disability rather than on ability. Instead, neutrally state that someone has Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Use person-first language by mentioning the person first and the illness second (a child with autism instead of an autistic child).
|Instead of...||Try using...|
|crazy, insane, psycho||erractic, illogical|
|dumb, stupid, retarded||slow, simple|
|blind spot, tone deaf||unseen area, inconsiderate|
If age is relevant to your topic, mention it. Otherwise, avoid referring to someone’s age.
If a reference is central to the message (for example, when referring to benefits that are available to people of certain ages), use a neutral term like older person rather than senior or elderly to describe someone. These terms can be viewed as pejorative.
Remember that citizen is not a generic term for people who live in the United States. Many government programs serve non-citizens and individuals with a wide range of immigration and visa statuses. How you refer to the public is largely dependent on context. It’s often more accurate to use more inclusive terms like people, the public, or users. Use citizens for information related to U.S. citizenship, for example, when describing who is eligible to vote in federal elections.
Be as specific and inclusive as possible. Depending on the situation, you may want to say something like people who need child care services or people who want library access.
Words, images, or situations that reinforce racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes, even stereotypes that may appear to be positive, should be avoided.
When referring to a person’s race, ethnicity or religion, use the term as an adjective descriptor, not as a noun to substitute. For example, refer to someone as a Muslim person, not a Muslim.
Be as specific as possible. When writing about a group, refer to the specific group. For example, people of Korean descent rather than Asians.
- Hispanic is commonly used to refer to anyone from a Spanish-speaking background. The term implies an association with ancient Hispania, the contemporary nation of Spain, its history, and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is Hispanic.
- The terms Latino/Latina/Latinx are used mostly in the United States to refer to United States residents with ties to Latin America, including Brazil.
- In general, refer to an Indigenous group as a people or nation rather than as a tribe. In North America, we use the collective term Native American, or you can specify the nation or people if possible (e.g., Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux).
Keep in mind that the word "minority" may imply inferiority. An alternative might be historically marginalized people . If avoiding "minority" is not possible, qualify the term with the appropriate specific descriptor: religious minority.
Remember that whiteness should not be the default. Instead of using a term like non-white, use People of Color, or its acronym, POC, instead.
Capitalize racial/ethnic groups. Asian, Native American, Hispanic and other
similar terms should be capitalized. Depending on context, white may or may not be capitalized. In 2019, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) began capitalizing the word Black in its communications. We now see the word capitalized in news coverage and reporting about Black people, Black
communities, Black culture, Black institutions, and more.
Use a hyphen when two or more words together form an adjective, but no hyphen when the words join to form a noun:
African-American culture (adjective)
Many African Americans migrated to northern cities (noun)
Inclusive language avoids phrases with historically racist legacies such as
grandfathered in or grandfather clause; gyp (or gypped, jip or jipped); or blacklist, black mark or black ball.
Make content gender neutral wherever possible, and strive to use gender-fair
language in your writing.
Irrelevant descriptions of appearance can contribute to gender bias and should be avoided.
Use descriptors of gender identity or sexual orientation as adjectives, not as nouns. Use terms as adjectives that describe the whole person as in a transgender person or a lesbian woman rather than referring to someone as a transgender or a lesbian.
Avoid guessing sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. When in doubt, either reconsider the need to include this information, or ask the person you’re referring to how they identify and what terms they prefer.
Use different sex instead of opposite sex in order to recognize gender as a
spectrum, rather than a binary construct.
The 7th version of APA has approved use of a singular “they,” so if you’re writing about a hypothetical person or if you’re unsure of the person’s pronouns, use they or them instead of he or she.
It's more inclusive to refer to a mixed-gender group with terms like all or folks
rather than guys.
Use gender-neutral terms like spouse or partner instead of husband and wife; use parent instead of mother or father.
“Man” and words ending in “-man” are the most common gendered nouns in
English. These words are easy to spot and replace with more neutral language, even in contexts where many readers might expect the gendered noun.
|Instead of...||Try using...|
Person, individual, human
|Chairman||Lead, Coordinator, Chair|
|Mailman/Policeman/Fireman||Mail carrier/Police officer/Fire fighter|
Alternatives to gendered pronouns
Even when making a choice to use neutral terms, gendered pronouns can
sometimes be an issue in writing. Here are some options to avoid gendered
pronouns that don’t sacrifice specificity.
Use a plural form
If it works for your particular sentence, using plural forms is often an excellent
option. Here’s an example of a sentence that can easily be rephrased:
- A student who loses too much sleep may have trouble focusing during his or her exams.
- Students who lose too much sleep may have trouble focusing during their exams.
Use the pronoun "one"
Sometimes the word “one” can substitute for s/he.
- A teacher in California earns more than he or she would in Nebraska.
- A teacher in California earns more than one in Nebraska.
Use the relative pronoun "who"
The relative pronoun "who" can sometimes be substituted, though it may require rephrasing the sentence.
- If a customer is not satisfied with the store's policies, s/he can ask for a refund.
- A customer who is not satisfied with the store's policies can ask for a refund.
- Disability Language Style Guide from the National Center on Disability and Journalism
- National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Style Guide
Remember that language is evolving and context-dependent. When you're unsure what words or terms to use, consult your professor, classmates, and current academic readings in the discipline.