By Kellie Hale

I don’t believe the term “diversity” should be viewed as a buzzword or fad. It is an important word that should continue to be a part of a person’s lexicon. For me, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t learn something new when it comes to diversity. Recently, I learned the term “invisible diversity” from one of my Advisory Board members, Michele Turner. In talking with Michele, she mentioned how invisible diversity is an integral part of emergency management and everyday life. That diversity is not only what a person sees on the outside, but it also includes what a person does not see.

So, what is invisible diversity? Invisible diversity refers to traits or characteristics that are not readily or visually seen. Specific features can refer to a person’s disability (e.g., blind or deaf), experiences (e.g., level of education or work experience), or values (e.g., religion or beliefs). For instance, some people may not know that I have anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I may try to come off that organized, coordinated, and have everything together, but when something becomes out of my control, it can trigger my anxiety and OCD traits, or “quirks,” as I like to call them.

It is essential to understand that we all have our own indivisible diversity traits that make us unique. Sometimes, it is a matter of taking the time to sit down or Zoom with a person to understand better who they are. If you don’t, then the opportunity to see the whole picture will pass you by, and the opportunity is gone. Remember, a real conversation is more than a “Hello, what are your likes and dislikes?” or “Are there special services you need? How do you prefer to have them delivered?” Neither of those questions allows you to get to know someone. Those questions are too surface level. Talk with the person, not at them.

With this Confluence issue, our Center wanted to focus on access and functional needs in emergency management. This is such an important topic, one that should not be overlooked. Our team took great care and consideration when developing the articles and interviews for this critical issue from the profile of our Advisory Board member, Michele, by Deb Moller. We interviewed Jim House, Emergency Planning Disability Integration Manager for the Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP), about inclusivity in emergency preparedness. It provides collective pieces on the reflection of not doing enough to incorporate access and functional needs within an emergency management institution, lessons learned, and how the new generation of emergency managers are making up for time lost. We make sure to close out our issues by providing our readers with resources they can use or pass on to others in need.

Taking the time to understand that everyone is unique while embracing individuals’ differences will result in greater empathy and compassion in understanding
different perspectives. This can lead to better results in implementing access and functional needs within emergency management and disaster preparedness.
Remember, when talking about the “whole community” we need to include everyone from different aspects of life and backgrounds.

Our team hopes you enjoy this issue of Confluence and find it informative and worthwhile.