As a people-centered institution committed to genuine respect, inclusivity and well-being for all, it is essential that our communications help to create an environment where our community feels respected, connected and valued. To help in ensuring that all perspectives and contributions are valued, we have developed a set of guiding principles for inclusive communications.
These 10 principles were developed from our values, and while they do not outline an exact “how to” they emphasize fundamental guidelines for inclusivity:
- Inclusive communications are accurate, respectful and inclusive of all.
- The University of Waterloo community is made up of people with a diverse range of backgrounds and lived experiences. Community members should have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in everything that we do. To accomplish this, ensure that Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled people, or those belonging to other racialized, marginalized, and/or excluded groups are at the center of their own stories. The “Nothing About Us Without Us” principle should be at the forefront of everything that we do.
- You must first get consent when featuring anyone in communication. People should share freely, with no obligation or pressure to disclose specific information. You should also share content with participants before publishing to ensure they are comfortable with how they are being depicted.
- Ensure that consultation and review with subject matter experts occurs during both content and design development. Consider how the overall layout and composition (e.g., copy, photography, graphical elements) work together to create meaning. Consider if this may reinforce biases or stereotypes or convey a message that was not intended.
- When dealing with diverse groups, it is best practice to ask how someone identifies themselves and how they would like to be referred to.
- Inclusive communications do not demean people based on characteristics. It is critical to understand that certain terms have been used to belittle, oppress and erase the contributions of Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled people and other racialized, marginalized, and/or excluded groups. Avoid the use of such terms.
- Be mindful of unconscious bias. Unconscious bias can influence and impact communications. Having others with diverse backgrounds review your work can be helpful in eliminating biases and gaps. While this guide is useful strategy, additional training, workshops and other learnings will help you to identify and combat unconscious bias in communications.
- Consider whether anyone is being tokenized (i.e., selecting individuals who are Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled people, or who belong to another racialized, marginalized, and/or excluded groups in a symbolic effort to appear diverse.
- Invest in developing strong, authentic and reciprocal relationships with Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled people and other racialized, marginalized and/or excluded groups that promote shared power, cultural safety, knowledge, democracy and long-term reciprocity.
- Understand the difference between tokenism and genuine inclusivity. In addition to their day-to-day roles and responsibilities, Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, disabled people and other racialized, marginalized, and/or excluded groups are often asked to assist in additional activities that stem from or are tied to their lived expertise or identities. These groups often experience tokenism when asked to participate in or engage in equity and diversity work, including communications plans and initiatives. When employers and colleagues disproportionately lean on people from these groups there is a pressure of possessing a level of visibility, and a burden of responsibility to create, sustain, and be the change. They often feel that their identities are manipulated, used, and tokenized as a marketing tool to demonstrate the diversity of a workplace.
Genuine respect, inclusivity and well-being for all
- Guiding principles
- Tools and strategies for community engagement
- Language and written style
- Visual elements and design guidelines
- Web and social media
- Digital Accessibility Guide