Diversity Through the Lens of a Six-Year-Old
I'm sure there are parents who can relate to this, but my six year old asks a TON of questions! “Why is the sky blue?” and “Do flies have eyelashes?” are questions asked with the same curiosity and innocence as, “Why is your skin pink, when daddy’s is darker? Why is my skin color different than both of yours?"
I could avoid answering some of the harder questions, but as all parents know, doing so
often has uncomfortable consequences. In the long run, avoiding my daughter's curiosity doesn’t serve her well. I want her to learn about others, to grow and accept everyone. The only way I can ensure this is to have the conversations she wants to have.
When she asked, “Mommy, what’s wrong with your eyes?” I responded by saying her eyes work different than mine. I said it was another thing that made her and I different from each other. I could've responded the way previous generations have and told her not to talk about disability, or told her that was a rude question. I instead decided I would be open to all conversations, and talk to her about skin color, abilities, genders and strengths.
We are all six years old in the disability equity conversation. Often, the response from our parents were “That’s rude, don’t look,” and as a result, the topic of disability became a shameful thing, so we never talked about it. Now we’re all grown, working and trying to be the best, most open and inclusive people we can be. But we don’t have much of a foundation, especially when it comes to disability. So we’re trying and we’re messing up. This is happening in all realms of diversity and equity. How many people have launched a diversity program and have miserably failed? And now they’re scared to take action.
There's this odd belief that after a company initiates a diversity program, their problems are 100% solved. There’s no room for mistakes and failures; it must be perfect immediately, and everyone leaves happy. We all know this expectation and attitude is a recipe for disaster.
So what actually needs to happen? First, we have to create a foundation. What do we know? What don't we know? We’re all "six years old" when it comes to this topic, and we must remove the shame around that. We need to accept that we don't have all of the answers. We need to start asking the tough questions. It's the only way we can begin to improve our knowledge and understanding.
In my office, I have a poster full of these "six-year-old" questions I've received on slips of paper at my presentations. I bring them back to this poster, and my team and I do our best to provide solid answers with tangible next steps. Our goal? To expand everyone's knowledge about disability and diversity, to kill the stigma, minimize micro aggressions and become a truly inclusive workplace.
Remember, it’s okay to be a six year old. Ask and get answers. Always get comfortable around the uncomfortable, especially around disability so you can learn to include everyone. How are you going to apply this to your workplace or community? I want to know! Leave a comment below, or email me at email@example.com. Do you have a six-year-old question? I’ll do my best to answer!
Emily Purry Director of Independence at INCIGHT
Speaker for Activate
Emily Purry is a public speaker, trainer, keynote, disability rights advocate and coach in Portland, Oregon. Legally blind herself, and the parent of a child with autism, she brings her personal and professional experience together in a unique way to help move companies forward. Emily delivers presentations and trainings on disability topics relevant to today’s business environment. She specializes in accessibility, technology and the world of ADA. Emily provides valuable content from her lived experiences as a person with a disability.
Contact Emily today to begin creating change in your community. 971-244-0305 / firstname.lastname@example.org