By Kate McKenzie, Rotary E-Club of Western Australia
Recently, I came across the concept of “conscious inclusion” when reading an article about how a bank consulted with an NGO for people with vision impairment when designing their new credit/debit cards. I started thinking about whether Rotary clubs are practicing conscious inclusion.
Unconscious bias means that we are often not aware of the needs of others. We may be willing to adjust if someone asks, but we may not be proactive about thinking ahead, asking for advice and then communicating with people that we have considered their needs.
People used to raise children in their 20s so by the time they were in their 30s they were starting to have time to do other things. Now parents often welcome their first born when they are are in their 30s and juggling career with everything else. Volunteering with Rotary could be easier if children could be a part of it. Does your venue have highchairs and maybe a small box of toys/books? Does your website mention that children are welcome? Do you plan some activities in family-friendly places like parks?
When I became a mother, I was suddenly a lot more aware of street design, building entrances and corridor width. Pushing a pram around made me aware of the challenges that people using a wheelchair must face. Has your club conducted an accessibility audit of the venue(s) where you meet? Do you consider accessibility when planning social events? Perhaps you could engage a guest speaker to help learn what you need to consider? You may find that persons with disability are more likely to join your club if your website gives them key information relevant to their needs.
In my previous Rotary club, one of our members had impaired hearing. He was taught to lip read from a young age, so didn’t use sign language. It was important, however, that we allowed him to sit where he could easily see the guest speaker and that we made an effort to face him directly during conversation. Through asking him what he needed, we learned how to make his Rotary experience more fulfilling.
Finally, many Rotary clubs come together in the act of sharing food. It’s important, however that we consider medical, ethical and religious dietary needs, so that food doesn’t divide us. Does your venue serve vegetarian or vegan options? Can kosher, halal options be made available? Do you collect information about dietary requirements in advance? If a member or visitor is fasting, can they attend without feeling obligated to pay for a meal? Is the kitchen capable of serving food that is safe for people with allergies or other medical needs?
A little forethought can go a long way to making our clubs more welcoming of diversity in our communities. Diversity makes us stronger.