In 2021, Abilities First engaged a consulting firm to assess our organizational culture related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), with the intent to address and diminish the impact of bias in the organization to create a safe and supportive workplace. As part of that initiative, the development of an internal DEIA Committee was launched in the Fall of 2021, which was open to all employees to join.
In May of 2022, DEIA Committee representatives presented the development of the committee’s efforts to the Abilities First Board of Directors. Upon its establishment, the committee developed a regular schedule of meetings, kicking off its work with the development of its Mission, Vision, and Values, which focused on enhancing inclusivity for all identities, enhancing diversity at all levels, and developing a system for questions, comments, and feedback.
In the months since its establishment, the committee has:
- Developed a form for staff to submit questions, comments, concerns, and incidents;
- Addressed the problems of the people that we provide services to exhibiting discriminatory behavior;
- Agreed that there are Sensitivity Trainings that need to be implemented;
- Added a section to the biweekly agency bulletin to disperse DEIA news to staff;
- Celebrated Black History Month and sent bulletins acknowledging local pioneers of the Black community;
- Joined a discussion about Equitable Access to SSA DisabilityA traditional term that generally means a person has a condition that makes it difficult for them to do things that those without disabilities can do. While we try to minimize use of this term because it emphasizes people’s limitations rather than strengths, it is sometimes necessary for diagnostic and funding purposes. More Programs for LGBTQIA+ Communities;
- Received HR-provided training to learn how to understand and process reports of DEIA incidents
- Discussed the concepts of Employee Resource Groups;
- Intended to develop a logo to represent the committee;
- Created a Decision Tree to aid in understanding mitigation of DEIA incidents;
- Received important insight into how LGBTQIA+ community members feel about the culture in our county, courtesy of the president of the Dutchess Pride Center.
The committee has also established long-term goals, which include:
- To create an equitable and safe environment for all peoples of all identities;
- To deeply look at how we recruit new staff members and how we can provide an environment that offers growth and acceptance; and
- To have volunteers from the committee present the mission and purpose of the committee during onboarding and orientation to ensure that new employees know they are supported and this is a safe and equitable agency to work for (and with).
Overall, the committee finds that AFI has a lot of individuals that are enthused to see the benefits of the DEIA Committee. A good deal of the committee members have been employees of the agency for a long time and are excited to be a part of something that will have a positive impact on our culture at AFI.