The u3a values its members as individuals and encourages everyone to recognise their unique and different perspectives, abilities and contributions, and it sees diversity and inclusion as routes to growth and enrichment.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee aims to support and advise u3as to ensure that all their members and prospective members can access the informal learning and the many other activities in their u3as, encouraging inclusion and diversity in everything we do. Moreover, coping with isolation during the recent pandemic has emphasised the need to use the technology available to us to stimulate inclusion.
u3as need to be aware of the problems their members and potential members may experience, whether age-related or not. With a little planning, they can ensure that participation is increased by addressing accessibility, for example:
- Is your u3a welcoming and accessible in all its activities, from monthly meetings to interest groups, from day trips to residential trips?
- Does your u3a meet its commitments in its own Diversity and Inclusion policy?
- Do you have a committee member with responsibility for Diversity and Inclusion?
- When you use technology such as virtual meetings, on-line learning materials, etc., do you make it as accessible as possible by paying attention to the least confident members and by simplifying the guidelines?
- Do you have a committee member willing to support members and group leaders with the use of digital technology (virtual meetings, on-line materials)?
- Can your hearing-impaired members enjoy an open meeting with a speaker?
- Do you ask your speakers to follow guidelines, and do they use an audio system when available?
- Is the lighting good and signage clear at your meetings for those with sight impairment?
- Have you checked whether any member with a mobility problem can access meeting places easily, whether open meetings or interest group meetings?
In these pages we have addressed some of the problems that members may experience, and have gathered some of the practical ideas and suggestions from u3as around the country to help u3as nationwide to ensure that all members can access the informal learning and activities on offer. Diversity and inclusion matter – they must coexist.
We welcome your ideas and observations, so please let us know what you think and do!
Please note that the Equalities Agency Support Service states that, despite u3a being a member-led organisation, we still are viewed as a service provider in terms of being required to make reasonable adjustments so all members can be included.
Croydon u3a did just this and has sent some wonderful suggestions for increasing diversity as part of an outreach programme