Thursday, August 26, 2010

Equity and Access

Equity and access—two words that are often seen together in reading about diversity, but what do these words really mean. Do they mean that everybody has to be treated exactly the same and that square pegs must be driven into round holes? Does it mean that everybody has to do everything, even if they would really prefer to remain on the sidelines? Equity and Access is discussed in the Intellectual Freedom Manual, is an office of the Texas State University, and can be found on a variety of web sites.

The notion of equity of access is evident in the U.S. Constitution. How this plays out from a governmental perspective, is that all Americans need to have access to information and have the opportunity to speak out on how the country is governed. So equity of access means that every citizen must have the opportunity to fully participate, to the range of their abilities and interest, in the American experience. It also means that accommodations and modifications are made to ensure that everyone has this opportunity to access.

In 2000, I was participating in a doctoral program. At the end of the year, those who were completing the coursework required were recognized on stage in an auditorium that had been built long before equity of access had evolved into including the modifications and accommodations necessary to ensure that every person who deserved to be on that stage by virtue of the fact that they had completed 3 years of course work, had access. One of the people in the group was seated in a wheel chair. It became apparent that this person was not going to have access to the stage, and would, therefore, be excluded of participation in a “rite of passage” so to speak. Classmates and staff went to work to resolve this challenge and on the day of recognition, the person joined the class on stage. Then the person spoke to how it felt to have friends and colleagues not only understand on a core level about access and equity, but to take action to ensure that this is exactly what occurred.

Kids, all kids, need to have equity and access to your after-school program. The only viable exclusion is the exclusion that the child makes because he/she is unable to fully participate in the program because of the choices he/she is making regarding the agreements you have established. The exclusion for any other reason is denying youth the fundamental promise of this country—access that is equitable.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 26th is Women’s Equality Day. August 26th, 1971, by an Act of Congress, was established to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote—to have full access and equity to vote on national and state policies and procedures. Women’s Equality Day continues to highlight inequities of pay for the same work and other access that is denied based on gender. So today, celebrate some of the most influential women in your personal life, to include, at a bare minimum, your mother, grandmother, and sisters if you have sisters.

Activity for Kids
Today would be a great day to help kids understand equal. If you have access to a balance, have kids balance a wide variety of materials, determining what it takes to balance or create equality between 8 M and M’s and some number of TRIX, or how to balance 50 pennies with some number of paperclips. After literally working with equal and balance, talk about the importance of simple tools that act as great equalizers to ensure access. Think of something as simple as the variety of tools that allow people with less hand-strength (the young, the elderly, those with arthritis) to open a jar. Personally, I have several tools to make this easier. Have kids think of other things that are visible ways of ensuring equity and access in practical ways.

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