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News: AUCD 2015 Impressions, Day 1

by Sara Luterman

November 15, 2015


Sara Luterman, MFA
Communications Assistant
301-588-8252
sluterman@aucd.org

This morning, I sat in a room at the AUCD 2015 Conference with disability professionals from all over the country in a Driving Change session entitled, "Taking the Lead: Driving Change in Diversity, Equity and inclusion." Many if not most of the people who were in the room hold advanced degrees from prestigious institutions. Each person in the room carefully piled or lined up M&M's for each advantage they could count. Have you ever been asked to speak for your entire minority or marginalized group? If not, take an M&M. Can you trust that you will see people like you reflected in popular media? Take an M&M. By the end, some people had tidy piles of brightly colored candies. Others only had two or three chocolates that looked lonely on the participants' paper napkins.

The activity was a brilliantly simple and informative way to introduce the sociological concept of privilege. Privilege means that some groups in our culture have advantages relative to other groups. Groups that have privilege over others include white people, men, and straight people. Some examples of groups that may face disadvantages include people of color, sexual and gender minorities, and  people with disabilities.

The model isn't without its flaws. In reality, privilege is not a uniform unit of advantage in a cheerful candy shell. There are a thousand different types of people who are underserved in a thousand different ways. During the roundtable part of the session, I learned about some issues affecting cultural competency and diversity that I did not even know existed. For example, how do you translate materials about disability into a language that doesn't have a word for disability? AUCD's Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit which launched today will be able to carry the conversation beyond the conference so we can enact real, measurable improvements in diversity.

Sara Luterman is a Program Assistant with AUCD. This was her first AUCD Conference.