DEI at Work: The Familiar Life Cycle

Employees responded mostly positively to the first part of this note. But Hansson went further, taking exception to the use of the pyramid of hate in a workplace discussion. He told me today that attempting to link the list of customer names to potential genocide represented a case of “catastrophizing” — one that made it impossible for any good-faith discussions to follow.

Source: 🚨 What really happened at Basecamp – Platformer

If you do any amount of DEI advocacy, you’ll run smack into claims you are “catastrophizing” at some point, usually from a straight, abled, neurotypical, white man living life at the lowest difficulty setting. Sad to see such claims coming from people I thought knew better. This attitude is the true bad-faith and makes discussion and advocacy a trudge for marginalized people.

But the idea of worker-led efforts on diversity issues got a frosty reception from the founders last year, employees told me. They were allowed to work on the project, but did not feel as if the founders were particularly invested in the outcome.

I know that feeling. Every DEI worker does.

“At the end of the day, they are not interested in seeing things in their work timeline that make them uncomfortable, or distracts them from what they’re interested in. And this is the culmination of that.”

That too is familiar.

  • Employees rally to create ERGs and do the work of DEI
  • Little to no investment from the powers that be
  • Accusations of catastrophizing from the powers that be
  • Shutting down uncomfortable but necessary discussion
  • DEI workers thoroughly demoralized

There we have it, the DEI life cycle at many companies.

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Republicans: A Relentless Source of Minority Stress

30 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature this year — that is 50% more than last session.

Equality Texas

So much of our life-force goes into fighting GOP bigotry and enduring the hate they seed, sew, nurture, and grow. The Republican Party is a relentless source of minority stress.

As we come to understand depression in the transgender community more accurately, it’s become clear that the major cause is what’s referred to as “minority stress;” that is, “stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimization.”

Source: When Worlds Collide – Mental Illness Within the Trans Community – Lionheart

Why are there greater mental health stresses on autistic people from gender-minority groups? To quote from the research paper,

“The increased rates of mental health problems in these minority populations are often a consequence of the stigma and marginalisation attached to living outside mainstream sociocultural norms (Meyer 2003). This stigma can lead to what Meyer (2003) refers to as ‘minority stress’. This stress could come from external adverse events, which among other forms of victimization could include verbal abuse, acts of violence, sexual assault by a known or unknown person, reduced opportunities for employment and medical care, and harassment from persons in positions of authority (Sandfort et al. 2007).”

Source: Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, Transgender and Avoiding Tragedy

So. much. stress.

The Republican Party generates so much stress. It actively and directly harms productivity and life, at scale.

And it does so with the insistent ignorance of bigots that I know so well from childhood and from fighting for inclusion in our school district.

“SB 1646 (Perry) in Senate State Affairs, would add transition-related care to the definition of child abuse in the state of Texas and would target parents, guardians and anyone involved in administering that care.”

Equality Texas

This turns science and care on their heads. This inverts the moral universe. This is government-mandated conversion therapy that would force transgender kids to go through the wrong puberty.

So enormously ignorant and cruel.

And so very stressful.

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Accommodations: Individualized Responses to Structural Design Problems

Yet on a programmatic basis, disability policy and other social programs remain enmeshed, even at their best, in accommodation models, where specific proven needs or deficits generate specific individualized responses. What might it look like to shift our framing of the social safety net to a universal model?

Source: I Shouldn’t Have to Dehumanize My Son to Get Him Support | The Nation

This captures an aspect of accommodation models that really frustrate me. They encourage individualized responses to structural design problems. Instead of designing by default for “proven needs” well-known in disability and neurodiversity communities, accommodations models require individual episodes of forced intimacy, repeated over and over and over for the rest of your life. We should treat each episode of forced intimacy as a stress case that puts our designs to the test of real life.

Our industry tends to call these edge cases-things that affect an insignificant number of users. But the term itself is telling, as information designer and programmer Evan Hensleigh puts it: “Edge cases define the boundaries of who and what you care about” (http://bkaprt.com/dfrl/00-01/). They demarcate the border between the people you’re willing to help and the ones you’re comfortable marginalizing.

That’s why we’ve chosen to look at these not as edge cases, but as stress cases: the moments that put our design and content choices to the test of real life.

It’s a test we haven’t passed yet. When faced with users in distress or crisis, too many of the experiences we build fall apart in ways large and small.

Instead of treating stress situations as fringe concerns, it’s time we move them to the center of our conversations-to start with our most vulnerable, distracted, and stressed-out users, and then work our way outward. The reasoning is simple: when we make things for people at their worst, they’ll work that much better when people are at their best.

Source: Design for Real Life

School IEPs are a treasure trove of stress cases and structural problems currently treated individually. Let’s design for pluralism instead of putting us through a soul-chipping accommodations process that, at best, patches over bad design driven by “artificial economies of scarcity”.

What you can’t know unless you have #disability is how all the paperwork chips away at your soul. Every box you tick, every sentence about your “impairment” and “needs” becomes part of the narrative of your identity…

Source: Gill Loomes-Quinn on Twitter

Bascom tells me that experiences like ours happen because disability service systems are never designed to support people with disabilities but are “about managing access to scarce resources. We start with the assumption that these resources are limited, so you have to prove over and over again that you need them more than anyone else. If we as a society invested more resources in supporting people with disabilities, we could redesign our systems accordingly.”

Source: I Shouldn’t Have to Dehumanize My Son to Get Him Support | The Nation

Invest in care, and design for real life.

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