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People With Disabilities Are Overlooked In Business DEI Initiatives

Blog, Diversity & Inclusion, Small Business

The meeting of minds.

Last Friday, I walked into a meeting with the expectation of learning more about an organization I had planned to join. The group that I met were wonderful humans that had an unmatched community spirit and a drive to make the world a better place.

The meeting started and we jumped right in.

When I asked to learn more about their organization, they told me about all the perks and programs that would be available if I decided to join as well as ways I could get involved.

I was excited at all the opportunities, especially those virtual opportunities since I am 99.249363% remote due to my disability.

When I walked into the meeting, it was not their office like you might have envisioned, it was my own office, in my home and we met through Zoom.

These days, much of my life interactions are made through zoom and quite frankly I am more *excited* for Zoom than the average person.

Virtual connections for those that need accessibility.

Unlike me, the majority of people engaged in the normalcy of outside interactions and did not need Zoom to keep connected. Typically, people also have had more interactions with the outside world in a week, than I have in the last 5 years.

I have been isolated or wearing masks for 18+ years before it was a new rage and societal expectation with the onset of Covid19.

It was just my reality.

It was weird before Covid and is still just as weird.

I just do isolation better than most.

I have been training for almost 2 decades.

For me, the good news is that now I have a more robust and connective life with all the digital opportunities to connect with people, network, have fun and attend events.

Due to isolation for almost 20 years, finding new ways to connect with people is not only exciting but super healthy. It’s amazing to find new ways for me to be included in things I never thought I could.

Hence, joining this organization and meeting these fabulous human beings on this day. It was also a boon that they were strong about supporting the community and conversations of DEI.

DEI communications leave out those with disabilities.

As we talked as a group and enjoyed each other’s time, their mention of DEI piqued my interest. I asked them to tell me more about the programs and things that they were doing to improve the conversations and progress towards DEI.

It was obvious that my interest made everyone happy, and they were delighted to share with me all the things the organization was doing.

As I listened to information about various programs and opportunities surrounding DEI, I noticed that they never mentioned the disabled community when mentioning specific groups they were helping and supporting.

Perhaps the reason I noticed was that I am a part of the disabled population, so it was just obvious to me.

Disabilities, the largest marginalized group in the west.

As a member of the largest marginalized group in western society, it concerns me how we are often overlooked in DEI conversations, campaigns, and movements.

Yet, this did not surprise me, since this has become extremely common when engaging in conversations about DEI. The intent of people, organizations, and companies is always good – but they are still missing a group of people more often than not.

The interesting thing about the disabled community is that it’s the largest marginalized group of people because it doesn’t discriminate, yet it is overlooked again and again.

Similar to Generation X. If you are a Gen-xer, you know what I mean. Just a silly joke to lighten the mood of this quite serious topic. If not, move on… there are a lot more important things to ponder than my silly attempt at humor.

Listen, disabled people are of every age, race, gender, etc and disabilities aren’t always visible, actually, the majority of disabilities are invisible. You have met hundreds of people in your life who’ve had disabilities that you knew nothing about.

DEI as a buzzword.

Right now DEI is a buzzword and people are at a point of feeling seen by the movement or rolling their eyes at the fact that it is on everyone’s tongue.

The truth is, it might be annoying to those that have never had to worry about DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). I get it, it annoys me that we have to keep having conversations around something that I feel should just be innate in human beings.

DEI this and DEI that…

Let’s look at each other with respect, find a way to improve equity, include people who want to be included, and welcome diversity. It is not that hard of a concept, yet it is, because we still need to talk about it and find ways to get it right.

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Bringing up disabilities in conversations about DEI.

So, in the meeting, I took a moment and pointed out the missing disabled community from their programs and initiatives because it was interesting to me, that it wasn’t obvious that people with disabilities should be included.

Everyone in the room was open to hearing this and stated that this was something they have just started to consider. I let them know I was here to support them in those endeavors and I was grateful to hear this.

It seems it had been on their periphery and I had brought it back into their focus. Let’s hope the disabled community is not forgotten once again.

I try not to assume, but I do.

I try not to assume in life as it gets me in trouble, but I assumed that including disabled people in DEI initiatives would not be common knowledge.

The more that I have interacted with the world and spoken up about diversity, equity, and inclusion, the more I realize that I need to step in and introduce a missing group often.

I need to bring into focus a very important group of people. I hope that if you are having conversations about DEI, you advocate for those who are disabled. That you find a way to slip in a nudge about that community, so it can be considered more often.

The reason I’m writing this article is to bring attention to this fact and ask you to

There’s no marginalized group of people that matters more than another marginalized group of people, however, we need to make sure when discussing how we can be more diverse and inclusive while looking at the world through equity, we must make sure that we’re including everybody.

Aunia Kahn, Rise Visible CEO

Aunia Kahn is the CEO of Rise Visible. With 24 years in the industry, she is a highly sought-after digital marketer, strategist, designer and public speaker. Rise Visible was named a Top-Ranking Woman-Owned Digital Agency by Clutch and is a certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (DOBE®). Kahn is also an internationally renowned artist and photographer and has been in over 300 exhibitions in 10 countries; at places such as SDAI, iMOCA, and the SLAM. She founded Create for Healing, is the host of the Rise Above Be Visible Podcast and a contributing writer for Better Marketing and Just Creative. She been featured on Yahoo, Prevention Magazine, Authority Magazine and Entrepreneur on Fire. She also identified as a disabled business owner in STEM surviving and thriving with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Type 3), MCAS, Dysautonomia, POTS, PTSD, etc.


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