Equity and inclusion are on everyone’s minds these days. Out-of-school time professionals across the nation are taking a good look at their practices with an eye toward assuring that all young people and their families feel welcome.
Don’t forget to review your program’s enrollment forms and surveys as part of this process – it’s a common, yet overlooked, spot for unconscious bias to have a field day. Small changes to the words you use in these materials can make a difference in the experiences your youth and families have when interacting with your program’s materials.
Here are five inclusion-minded fixes for your enrollment forms and surveys:
- Directions – Sharing personal information – like name, demographic information, or household income – on an official form can be threatening for some respondents. In the directions, be clear about the purpose of the form or survey and remind respondents that they don’t have to answer questions that they don’t want to share.
- Language – Are your forms and surveys available in the languages your youth and families read? Many school districts have translators on staff that can translate documents for school-based programs for free; find a professional translator through the American Translators Association.
- Reading Level – Difficult-to-read forms and surveys can be intimidating for youth and families. Use a reading level calculator to find the grade level of a document or sentence and revise your language until the level better matches the needs of your youth and families. There’s a reading level calculator built into Word, and many free calculators online! A quick Google search will point you in the right direction.
- Verbal Forms and Surveys – Consider making recordings of commonly-used forms and surveys available to youth and family members who may feel more comfortable listening and responding verbally. Play the recording for the youth or family member and have a staff member fill in the form based on their responses. Be sure to read the answers back to the respondent to make sure the form is accurate.
- Find and Fix “Other” – Many forms and surveys ask for demographic information about the respondent, like race/ethnicity and gender. Using the phrase “other” as an option sends a message of exclusivity. When possible, expand answer options to include the identities of the youth and families you serve. Next, allow respondents to check more than one option to describe their identity. Finally, change the “other” option on your forms and surveys to, “I describe myself in a different way,” and have respondents write in their answer.
“Improving Measurement of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Among Middle and High School Students” – Child Trends
Click here! “Respectful Collection of Demographic Data”
For breakfast, I had cereal, soy bacon, and an apple.