Why Value Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural and Linguistic Competence

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"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities." - Stephen Covey

The United States is home to an increasing number of culturally diverse individuals. Trends in immigration and birth rates indicate that by 2050 there will be no majority racial or ethnic group in the US (Center for Public Education, 2012), a pattern already present in some states (Weller, Ajinkya & Ferrell, 2013). Currently, one in three people int he United States identifies themselves as a member of a racial and ethnic minority (US Census Bureau, 2012). Additionally, nearly 54 million Americans have a disability associated with a long-term physical, sensory, or cognitive condition (US Census Bureau, 2012). People with disabilities experience many of the same challenges of other marginalized groups. Even through progress is being made in the move toward equal opportunity in training, education, and leadership (Wolanin & Steele, 2004), the intersection of disability and race presents additional challenges. An area that demonstrates this is in the overrepresentation of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in special education (Blanchett, Klingner, & Harry, 2009) in some states of the US, while other states have poorly researched but pervasive instances of underrepresentation of English language learners in special education. With diverse populations growing in the coming years, addressing and eliminating disparities in education, service, training, and leadership is a top priority for the disability community.

AUCD's national network does not yet reflect the growing diversity of the United States. In the 2014-2015 academic year, students trained in UCEDD and LEND programs report the following demographics in the National Information Reporting System (NIRS):

  • Race: 0% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 1% American Indian or Alaska Native, 4% more than one race, 6% Black or African American, 8% Asian, and 74% White.
  • Ethnicity: 10% Hispanic or Latino, and 80% not Hispanic or Latino. An additional 10% chose not to respond.
  • Gender: 17% male and 83% female
  • Relationship with Disability: 1% person with a special health care need, 1% family member of a person with a special health care need, 3% parent of a person with a disability, 4% person with a disability, 6% family member of a person with a special health care need, 8% no relationship, and 13% family member of a person with a disability. An additional 70% chose not to respond. (Total percentage is over 100%, as some respondents report multiple relationships.)

The National Center for Cultural Competence highlights several key reasons to incorporate cultural and linguistic competence into policies and practices:

  1. To respond to current and projected demographic changes in the United States
  2. To eliminate long-standing disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds
  3. To improve the quality of services and health outcomes
  4. To meet legislative, regulatory and accreditation mandates
  5. To gain a competitive edge in the market place
  6. To decrease the likelihood of liability/malpractice claims
"It is the policy of the United States that all programs, projects, and activities receiving assistance under this title shall be carried out in a manner consistent with the principles that…services, supports, and other assistance should be provided in a manner that demonstrates respect for individual dignity, personal preferences, and cultural differences; specific efforts must be made to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds and their families enjoy increased and meaningful opportunities to access and use community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance available to other individuals with developmental disabilities and their families;[and] recruitment efforts in disciplines related to developmental disabilities relating to pre-service training, community training, practice, administration, and policymaking must focus on bringing larger numbers of racial and ethnic minorities into the disciplines in order to provide appropriate skills, knowledge, role models, and sufficient personnel to address the growing needs of an increasingly diverse population…" - Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, Sec. 101(c)(4-6)

A number of additional research studies in the broader business community also show that diversity and inclusion:

  1. Serves as a source of creativity and innovation
  2. Prevents organizations from becoming too insular and serve as agents of organizational change
  3. Creates an environment where employees feel (and are) valued
  4. Fosters better team performance
  5. Brings together a wide range of views that can focus and strengthen core values
  6. Stimulates social, economic, intellectual and emotional growth
  7. Attracts top talent and limits turnover
  8. Helps organizations find a place in the global community

Engaging with more diverse employees is likely to lead to a healthy range of diverse perspectives, which may lead to serving all communities more effectively.

"People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs." -Paul Block, Merisant CEO


Andrade, S. (March 13, 2010). Workplace diversity. Retrieved from https://saharconsulting.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/workplace-diversity/

Blanchett, W. J., Klingner, J.K., & Harry, B. (2009). The Intersection of Race, Culture, Language, and Disability Implications for Urban Education. Urban Education, 44(4), 389-409.

Center for Public Education. (2012).Changing Demographics: at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Changing-Demographics-At-a-glance.

Cohen, E., & Goode, T. D. (1999), revised by Goode, T. D., & Dunne, C. (2003). Policy Brief 1: Rationale for Cultural Competence in Primary Care. Washington, DC: National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. Retrieved from http://nccc.georgetown.edu/documents/Policy_Brief_1_2003.pdf.

Connecting the Dots: Inclusion and the benefits of diversity in the workplace. (March 6, 2014). Talent Intelligence Leadership Risk Management. Retrieved from http://www.talentintelligence.com/blog/bid/377611/Inclusion-and-the-Benefits-of-Diversity-in-the-Workplace

Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, Sec. 101(c)(4-6). Retrieved from http://www.acl.gov/Programs/AIDD/DDA_BOR_ACT_2000/p2_tI_subtitleA.aspx

Egan, M. E. (July 2011). Global diversity and inclusion: Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. Forbes:Insights. Retrieved from http://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf

Groysberg, B. and Connolly, K. (Sept. 2013). Great leaders who make the mix work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/09/great-leaders-who-make-the-mix-work/ar/1

Kerby, S. and Burns, C. (July 22, 2012). The top 10 economic facts of diversity in the workplace.Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/07/12/11900/the-top-10-economic-facts-of-diversity-in-the-workplace/

Steele, P.E., & Wolanin, T.R. (2004). Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: A Primer for Policymakers. Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Tudor, P. (no date). Adding value with diversity: What business leaders need to know. Retrieved from http://tudorconsulting.net/pdf/AddingValuewithDiversitybyPamelaTudor.pdf

U. S. Census Bureau. (2012). Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Retrieved from http://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed/2012-statab.pdf

Walter, E. (Jan. 14, 2014). Reaping the benefits of diversity for modern business innovation. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2014/01/14/reaping-the-benefits-of-diversity-for-modern-business-innovation/

Weller, C., Ajinkya, J., & Farrell, J. (2012). The State of Communities of Color in the US Economy: Still Feeling the Pain Three Years Into the Recovery. Center for American Progress (April 2012) p.2.

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