Last week, during TLDC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility for Learning (IDEAL) conference, I shared something exciting that I’ve been working on—with the help of several amazing folks who are listed at the end of this post. In case you missed that session, I’m using this week’s post to officially launch The Inclusive Learning Pledge. I hope you’ll take the time to read it, sign it, and share it with others who care about inclusion.
(If you were hoping for a recap of the IDEAL 22 conference, please be patient. I’ll post it next week!)
Why Inclusion Matters to Me
Before we get to the pledge, I’d like to share my “why”—the reasons inclusion matters to me like it does. If you were in last week’s session, you will have heard most of this already. As you read it, think about your own “why.” Remembering your why can help you keep pushing forward in the hard work to building a more inclusive world.
I Know What Exclusion Feels Like
Inclusion is personal to me because I know what exclusion feels like. As I’ve talked about before, I have airborne food allergies (due to a rare condition called MCAS) that severely restrict my ability to interact with the world. My body is like an old car with an overly sensitive alarm that goes off if a strong gust of wind comes through the parking lot. Everything’s a threat. My body’s alarms are constantly going off, triggering asthma and sometimes anaphylaxis, as well as a whole host of other problems like gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, and joint pain.
Managing MCAS means avoiding the triggers that cause the alarms to go off—including coffee, chocolate, and caffeine in general (along with other foods). I can’t even be around these things without risking an asthma attack and anaphylaxis.
Since social gatherings always revolve around food and/or coffee, I live a really isolated life. Even my extended family members don’t usually make the effort to ensure that gatherings are safe for me and my husband (who also has airborne food allergies). They invite us to Thanksgiving and then bring brownies. But inclusion is more than extending an invitation—it’s making the person feel like you truly want them there.
My Kids Know What Exclusion Feels Like
The above photo shows most of my kids gathered for my birthday last month. From left to right on the couch, there’s my husband, me, my daughter Tessa, and her fiancée Alison. In front of the couch is my nonbinary daughter Nay on the left (yes, they prefer the term daughter), and my nonbinary bonus kiddo, Colt, on the right. In the middle is my bonus grandkid, Nat.
Everyone in this picture is neurodivergent in some way—some in multiple ways. Most are queer—gay, nonbinary, asexual, bisexual. Two are Indigenous. These kids know what it feels like to be excluded and othered. And they shouldn’t have to feel that.
My kids are the people who mean the most to me in the world, and I’ve seen how the world treats them. They’re why inclusion matters so much to me.
Those extended family gatherings I talked about? Even if they cared enough to make sure it was physically safe for us to go, it wouldn’t be psychologically safe for my queer kids. They could make it accessible simply by not serving foods we’re allergic to. Accessibility is the easy part. But making it inclusive would require them to set aside their biases and truly welcome my kids for who they are.
We have to be able to see others’ humanity, even when we don’t understand one another’s lived experiences. (And we should always seek to understand.)
Guiding Beliefs for Inclusive Learning
Now that you’ve met my family and gotten to know my “why,” I’d like to discuss the foundational beliefs that guide inclusive learning.
- Everyone deserves equitable access to learning experiences where they feel represented, included, and valued.
- If learners do not recognize themselves represented, included, and valued in learning experiences, those experiences cannot be engaging, meaningful, or relevant.
- People are more important than profit or policy and should be treated with respect, kindness, empathy, and love.
- Diversity of all kinds should be celebrated, and learning opportunities must be inclusive, equitable, and accessible for everyone.
- Building inclusive environments requires a conscious commitment and the willingness to explore and address our own biases.
Inclusive Learning Values
Inclusion is guided by a set of core values—our “IDEAL” values of inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and love:
- Inclusion: We value workplaces and learning opportunities where everyone belongs.
- Diversity: We value and celebrate people of every ability, race, color, national origin, ethnicity, native language, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, size, marital status, neurotype, or other characteristic.
- Equity: We value fairness and justice for systemically excluded people. We recognize that L&D professionals have a responsibility to address systemic prejudice and implicit bias.
- Accessibility: We value people with disabilities and recognize that access to learning and opportunities is a human right.
- Love: We value people over profit or policy and treat people with respect, kindness, empathy, and love.
Inclusive Learning Principles
Finally, I propose 10 principles that drive inclusive learning experience design. You can read more about these principles at the Inclusive Learning Pledge website.
- Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s a moral and ethical obligation.
- We live our IDEAL values in everything we do.
- Being inclusive means leading with empathy.
- Inclusion starts with us.
- Diverse representation matters.
- Accessibility is a human right.
- Sound design is inclusive design. No compromising.
- The language we use matters.
- We won’t let pursuit of perfection get in the way of progress.
- We invite input and welcome feedback.
Join the movement to build a more inclusive world, one learning experience at a time!
Please visit the Inclusive Learning Pledge web page to read the full pledge and add your signature to the growing list of professionals committed to inclusion. And share it widely!
I want to recognize and profusely thank the following individuals who provided input into the Inclusive Learning Pledge and made it infinitely better than the original draft. These folks are doing amazing things in the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility work. If you’re not already connected with or following them, go fix that now!
- Alan Natachu
- Bela Gaytan
- Devin Torres
- Gwen Navarrete Klapperich
- Luis Malbas
- Mike Veny
- Rubina Halwani
- Dr. Saeide Mirzaei
- Star Peterson
- Tessa Holt
I also want to thank the inclusion advocates not listed above who have inspired this non-exhaustive list (including the amazing Meryl Evans, who inspired principle #9), as well as the creators of the Serious eLearning Manifesto, after which it is modeled.
The Inclusive Learning Pledge is part of a shift we’re undergoing at Scissortail Creative Services to focus more intentionally on inclusion and accessibility. We are in the (very slow) process of launching a new trade name, inclusiveLXD, and we have some exciting things planned.
The pledge is the only page on our new website that’s currently active. It will undergo some look-and-feel changes in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the rest once we’re ready to launch the full website. We’re so excited for you to take this journey with us!