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Introduction to Diversity

Introduction to Diversity

Ing. Tomáš Sokolovský, CSc.
Centrum vizualizace a interaktivity vzdělávání, Ostrava

Diversity is a term meaning variety, versatility, difference, or distinction. Diversity is mostly mentioned as diversity biological when talking about the number of species (plants or animals).
The fact that the number of species (thus biological diversity) is gradually diminishing has been recently brought forward.

 

1. Diversity and its types

Concerning diversity in human society, we define it as a principle enabling all people to fully develop their personal potential regardless their individual differences.
Diversity is understood as meeting the principle of equal opportunities for various types of minority groups in the society. A certain difference which implies the membership to a given minority does not mean discrimination, but an opportunity or challenge for a full-featured application in the working environment as well as in the civic society. The principles of diversity are often confused with equal opportunities. The principles of diversity are often confused with equal opportunities, but equal opportunities have a legislative framework and they can be legally enforced whereas the principles of diversity can be met only on the basis of conscious willingness.
Applying the principles of diversity in the society means that the society tries to accept, sustain, support, and further develop development of individuals from various minorities and thus contribute to enriching the majority society by the diversity of the members of such minorities, while the principles of diversity can be applied to all minorities. Respecting them means that the difference of the members of individual minorities does not imply the possibility to discriminate them (even positively). On the contrary, mutual influencing and interconnecting of minorities with the majority society creates synergic effects both in accepting the minorities by the majority society and in their mutual interacting in working environments and civic communities.


What types of diversity in human society do we distinguish?
Simply said, sorting the types of diversity can follow sorting of minorities.

It means that we can talk about the following types of diversity:
  1. ethnic diversity which defines signs of national groups, their division to minorities and majorities – in relation to a national state, neighbouring countries, EU;
  2. religious diversity which defines the differences between belief, religion and church, and their influence on interpretation of the world, incl. characteristics of the signs of majority and minority religions in the Czech Republic;
  3. diversity towards the disabled which identifies forms of health disability, their representation in the Czech majority population, including definition of the principles of correct communication of the majority society with disabled persons (DP) which respect special needs of disabled persons resulting from the presence of a disability;
  4. age diversity which defines age structure of a society according to calendar age and quality of life in individual stages of life, including stating typical features of individual stages of life and defining and structuring the minority of seniors (+ 65);
  5. gender and sex diversity which defines the difference between biological sex and gender (society-assigned characteristics) including the differences between majority heterosexual and minority homosexual orientation.

The above-mentioned structure of the types of diversity is only a tool to understand that diversity has various featuring forms and in reality individual types of diversity appear concurrently.

 

2. Diversity and disabled persons

The biggest minority in the Czech Republic are disabled persons (1.015 mil persons). Disabled persons (DP) belong to the most numerous minority groups endangered by social exclusion and disadvantaged in job application. Just to provide an idea: on 31st December 2009, the total number of registered job applicants was 539 136, out of whom 67 738 disabled. The number of the offered jobs was 30 927, out of which only 1771 for the disabled. The situation of the disabled in not favourable at all and applying diversity - or diversity behaviour standards towards DP on workplace hand in hand with increasing awareness of specificity of DP in labour markets and removing lasting myths of the majority society on using DP – could improve this situation.
Citizens with physical disability permanently face problems when meeting other citizens. The needs of disabled citizens are basically the same as of persons without a disability, i.e. handling all the needs while keeping a dignified position on a partnership principle. Physically disabled persons often have this position worsened by the fact that a disability is traditionally perceived as a synonym for “absolute dependence, incapability”, or even “inability”, “incapacity”. This is frequently reflected in attitudes of the public. The basic problem when communicating with the disabled, or physically disabled, consists in the way of approaching to them the same as to other people. Various types of disabilities require individual approaches which must take into consideration the needs and possibilities of the disabled person as well as to respect human dignity. Knowledge of the rules and technique of communication with such persons is low or none among the non-disabled. However, there are barriers on both sides impeding breaking this state. A disabled being in unfamiliar environment is “afraid” of asking that they needs something different or in “a different way” than the others and the employer does not know how to ask or react to specific needs of the disabled person.
The basic causes of the state are:

  • Lack of information
  • Barriers in communication
  • Ignoring legal measures to support employment of DP
  • Long-lasting tabooed position of DP in society

The basis of diversity acting and behaviour of the majority society in relation to DP is both knowledge of procedures to implement diversity as well as knowledge of the rules of correct communication with this community. Since DP are not a homogenous group, but they are divided into individual types and grades of disability according to the specificity, it is necessary to elaborate separate rules of correct communication for each group of DP separately. It means that members of the majority society should acquire a general overview of the characteristics of the given disability, its aetiology both from psychological and special-pedagogical point of view. It is important that they undergo a training of the skills related to general human help with respect to the specificity of the handicap and acquire communication competences needed for work with the given group. ´
In other words, members of the majority society should know what is the essence of the given disability, its origin, how to behave to the disabled, how to call them, how to offer help, when not to offer help, what not to ask at all, how to touch them and where and when, and on the contrary where and how not to touch them at all, they should have basic information about their culture, humour of the given group of DP, etc. The result of implementing diversity behaviour in practice will be the fact that the majority society will understand that a disability does not necessarily mean inability to succeed in personal and professional life.
Getting familiar with those rules, accepting them as natural, and using them in daily life means that you have mastered the diversity competence towards disabled persons. Accordingly, your knowledge, abilities, attitudes and values respect the minority of the disabled as an equal part of the majority society.
In order to acquire the competence towards DP, it is necessary to create communication standards with each group of DP. The following communication standards (recommended practice) will be created:

  • rules of correct communication with hearing and visually impaired persons, and with physically disabled persons

and

  • model situations illustrating basic mistakes which are made by the majority society when communicating with each of the groups of DP,

Acquiring diversity standards towards DP can be supported by successful life (professional) stories of disabled from every group of DP presented in a form of motivating documentaries.

3. Competences to diversity towards DP

Competences denoting key competences as understood by the Framework Education Programme for individual types of schools mean that pupils or students in educational process will acquire knowledge and skills that will enable them to apply the given key competence in practical life after completion of their school attendance.

Competences to diversity towards DP touches the existing social and personal competence, competence of community and cultural awareness, but mastering basics of correct communication between the majority society and visually and hearing impaired and physically disabled means that those members of the majority society who acquire these basics theoretically and practically at primary, secondary or university will therefore acquire the basics for competences to diversity towards DP.

 

References:
Sokolovský, T. at al: Informace o problematice diverzity a Diversity Management, work material of project „Diverzita pro OZP“ , Operational Programme Human Resources and Employment, September 2009, pp. 15-16
Krása, V., Sokolovský, T.:      Diverzita, společenská odpovědnost firem a zdravotně postižení, journal HR Forum, 3/2010

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