Chapter 10: Commit to Deepening Your Knowledge and Understanding


Welcome to the last chapter of this introductory book on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. In this chapter, we synthesize concepts and guidelines discussed in previous chapters and introduce the concept of accessibility and invite you to self-explore some topics that were not covered in this book. We will provide you with some additional resources that could help your continuous learning.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain what accessibility is and how to better accommodate people with accessibility needs;
  2. Explore some of the barriers to accessibility; and
  3. Plan ways to continue your EDI learning.




Pushing for social change is a lifelong journey of commitment that requires learning and unlearning about lived experiences that differ from your own. Throughout this material, we covered some fundamental topics on social inequity that included Privilege (Chapter. 1) and Intersectional Oppression (Chapter. 2). We discussed the psychology of conscious and unconscious biases and how to act on them (Chapters 3 and 4). We filled the remainder of this book with actionable practices and guidelines that would allow you to be a better advocate for social and institutional changes, such as how to recognize and avoid common pitfalls in EDI practice (Chapter. 5), the usage of neutral and inclusive language (Chapter 6), effective allyship (Chapter 7), the importance of oppression interruption (Chapter 8) and ways to operationalize your actions (Chapter 9). Here, we synthesize some key EDI principles that you can reflect on in your everyday life. However, this should only be the beginning of your continuous learning.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are key elements of social justice. Equity means recognizing that there are individuals and groups who encounter individual, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic barriers to full participation. As we saw, systemic inequities, or barriers, may manifest in multiple forms, including unconscious biases, assumptions, perceptions, or stereotypes. These systemic barriers are particularly noticeable in systems, policies, practices, and procedures that impede the full recognition and participation of equity-deserving groups in the full range of activities across society and institutions.

Diversity is the collection of peoples with different identity characteristics, ways of knowing, and ways of being. The diversity of identities is articulated in the Ontario Human Rights Code as age, color, ancestry, disability, ethnic origin, family status, gender identity or expression, marital status, race, sex, and sexual orientation, citizenship, creed, and place of origin. However, Diversity also means different ways of knowing, thinking, or learning, legal status, education, or backgrounds. Thus, Diversity is about recognizing the many perspectives and lived experiences that contribute to our society, communities, and institutions.

Finally, Inclusion means that all members of our society are respected, valued, and empowered. The evolving nature of social work requires us to constantly update our vocabularies to be inclusive. Inclusivity is not a means to an end, but a method and a principle of how we handle our daily interaction, what language we use, and how to better accommodate and support others with accessibility needs. As national and provincial legislations starting to update their accessibility standards, issues surrounding accessibility are increasingly recognized as a key aspect of EDI work and of social justice.




Ontario is home to 13 million residents, 200 languages, and has the largest Indigenous population in this country (Ontario Public Service, 2021). Yet, 1 in 7 Ontarians has a disability that limits their full access to physical spaces, products, programs, services and/or employment opportunities. Similarly, people with disabilities, racialized visible minorities, Indigenous and LGBTQ2SIA+ members remain to experience the highest levels of discrimination in their workplace (Ontario Public Service, 2021). To ensure that all Ontarians can fully participate in all aspects of society, the government of Ontario was the first province in Canada to have passed provincial accessibility legislation, known as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This Act, which applies to government, business, non-profits, and public sector organizations, includes accessibility standards that aim to identify, prevent, and remove barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities in areas of daily life.


Accessibility , n, is an umbrella term that describes “the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to be used by all intended audiences” (AODA, 2016).

Barrier, n, broadly describes “anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice” (AODA, 2016).


Table 10.1 Five Barriers to Accessibility (Council of Ontario Universities, 2017., Greg, 2019., Thomson, 2019)
Category Attitudinal Organizational Physical or Architectural Information or Communication Technological

Behaviours, perceptions, and assumptions that discriminate against persons with disabilities, often developed from a lack of understanding

Policies, procedures, or practices that unfairly discriminate and can prevent individuals from participating fully in a situation

Elements of buildings or outdoor spaces that create barriers to persons with disabilities

Barriers to both sending and receiving information for people with sensory disabilities, such as hearing, seeing, or learning disabilities

A device or technological platform is not accessible to its intended audience and cannot be used with an assistive device


Assuming that people with a disability are inferior.

Consider your accommodation as a form of a “special favor”

No alternative method to interact with people, to learn, or to access resources

Ambiguous content objectives

While using a Wheelchair you encounter unfriendly sidewalks and doorways

Slippery ramps during the rain

Lack of accessible washrooms

Insufficient color contrast

No video caption or transcriptions

Small fonts

Non-accessible features, such as Alt text

Failed facial recognitions

Software compatibility


Unconscious bias training


Being an ally: Call in or Call out

Incorporate flexibility

Internal audit and survey

Identify and address on barriers that may affect equity-deserving groups (not an individual level, but at an institutional level)

Structural Updates

Prioritize accessibility needs during the winter and harsh weather events

Consider color-blindness

Always provide captions

Provide complementary lectures or meeting notes

Ensure accessible content

Broad compatibility with different devices, operating systems, and software


Video: Accessibility is a Human Right

Watch this short video (2:25) from the Canadian Human Rights Commission – CHRC: Accessibility is a Human Right



Summary and Additional Resources

Tip #10
Commit to a lifelong journey of learning and unlearning about lived experiences different from your own.

Accessibility is a broad topic, and it requires more exploration and learning on your own. Be mindful that there are multiple types of disabilities that can be visible or invisible, chronic or temporary.

Remember that inclusivity is about inviting everyone to the table, regardless of their identity. The work we do in social justice and EDI practice is not about flipping the power or dragging anyone down, it is about lifting up others who are historically and presently undermined, ignored, and unaccounted-for. It is about building a society for all talents not for selective privileges. It is about fostering a sense of belonging, welcoming diverse identities, and perspectives, and supporting each other. It is about creating safe space free of judgement, discrimination, and assaults so everyone can heal, rest, grow, and flourish.

We should constantly challenge our biases and reflect on our behaviors. We should continue our learning on our own without relying on others to teach us. We should make a conscious effort to appreciate different cultures and traditions that are present in our society. We should be sensitive of our language and our actions. We should always be open to being interrupted and capable to call in when seeing unfair treatments. The fabric of our community is only as strong as the individual threads that bind us together.

To help you get started on your learning we created the following resource list and we invite you to initiate your own community of practice to explore some of these topics.





Canadian History

Equity, Diversion, and Inclusion

Gender-Based Analysis Plus

Indigeneity and Decolonization


Power and Privilege

Self-Learning and Unlearning

Support and Donate

Systemic Barriers in the Research Ecosystem



Chapter 10 References

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11

Ontario Public Service OPS. (2021). Inclusion & Diversity Blueprint. Retrieved December 2021 from

Council of Ontario Universities. (2017). Understanding Barriers to Accessibility. Retrieved December 2021 from

Greg. T. (2019). Disability Barrier. Retrieved December 2021 from

Image Credits

Chapter 10 Banner: Open Learning and Educational Support, University of Guelph/graphic

Chapter 10 Divider: Open Learning and Educational Support, University of Guelph/graphic


Building Community: Introduction to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Copyright © 2022 by University of Guelph is licensed under a Ontario Commons License, except where otherwise noted.

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