Accommodating diversity in your project

Adeline Teoh ed.
February 1, 2016

Most projects bring together a diversity of stakeholders, but don’t accommodate the diverse way in which they may want to interact with the project.

I once went to an event where there was a segment of events for deaf and hearing impaired people. Some of the events were for deaf and hearing impaired people only, in which case they were conducted in Auslan (Australian sign language) and others, such as readings and debates were for the general public but featured Auslan interpreters.

I went to one reading and noticed there was a cluster of chairs reserved near the front corner of the stage. I realised this had been specifically set aside for the attendees who needed clear sightlines to see the Auslan interpreter. The problem was that the pitch of the stage meant many of those attendees could see the interpreter but not the performer. While the event organisers were being inclusive by having an Auslan interpreter (several in shifts, in fact, because signing is very tiring), they hadn’t actually thought through the whole process.

When we talk about accommodating diversity, we often use it as a broad term to mean ‘accommodating all types of people’, whether differently gendered, from a different culture or even differently abled. But even the organisations with the best intentions forget one important factor, which is that accommodating diversity requires feedback from the people you’re trying to include. Anything else reeks of arrogance: ‘we know best and we’re going to tell you what you need’ or ‘be happy we’ve thought of you at all’.

Adjunct to that is that these people may wish to provide that feedback in a manner that differs from the channels you have to receive it. I’ve had meetings where I’d say something like ‘is everyone okay with that?’ and have taken the lack of dissent as agreement, then received a very detailed email later about how someone is not okay with a proposal—it’s just that the person in question was not comfortable about speaking up at the meeting.

Fortunately for the hearing impaired attendees, the event organisers found a solution. Where possible, they positioned the interpreter closer to the performer and, at some events, they provided livestream video of the performer’s face so the hearing impaired attendees who could lipread could sit anywhere in the hall.

In what interesting ways do you accommodate diversity in your projects?

Author avatar
Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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