Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building Vibrant, Diverse, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!

 

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Unity in Diversity

A virtual meeting screen displaying a diverse group of attendees actively participating and smiling

In the Baha'i Writings, the concept of "Unity in Diversity" is eloquently expressed, emphasizing the significance of embracing differences for the betterment of humanity.

See a collection of Baha'i quotes on Unity in Diversity!

The metaphor of a garden, as stated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, illustrates the harmonious coexistence of diverse elements: "Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 41).

This metaphor extends to human society, emphasizing that unity does not imply uniformity but rather celebrates the richness found in diversity. 'Abdu'l-Bahá further states, "In reality all are members of one human family -- children of one Heavenly Father. Humanity may be likened unto the vari-colored flowers of one garden. There is unity in diversity. Each sets off and enhances the other's beauty" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 25-26).

The Baha'i Faith recognizes the potential challenges in achieving unity, especially when it comes to acknowledging and addressing inequalities. Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, emphasizes the vital role of justice in maintaining global tranquility: "No radiance can compare with that of justice. The organization of the world and the tranquillity of mankind depend upon it" (Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 27).

Applying the principle of Unity in Diversity to the issue of racial diversity, the Baha'i Writings underscore the importance of viewing diversity as an opportunity rather than a problem. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states, "When that unifying force, the penetrating influence of the Word of God, taketh effect, the difference of customs, manners, habits, ideas, opinions, and dispositions embellisheth the world of humanity" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 291-292).

This perspective encourages a positive approach to diversity, highlighting its potential to contribute to the beauty, efficiency, and perfection of the whole, much like the diverse components of the human body. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes, "Difference reinforceth harmony, diversity strengtheneth love, and multiplicity is the greatest factor for co-ordination" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 291-292).

In the context of addressing the inclusion of People with Disabilities, the Baha'i teachings provide a foundational principle: "Unity in diversity stands in contrast to uniformity. It cherishes the natural diversity of temperament and talents among individuals as well as humanity's variegated experiences, cultures, and viewpoints, inasmuch as they contribute to the human family's progress and well-being" (Bahá’í International Community, 1994 Aug 23, Role of Education, Media Arts in Social Development).

This principle emphasizes that embracing diversity, including the unique abilities and perspectives of People with Disabilities, contributes to the progress and well-being of the entire human family.

The Baha'i Writings offer a comprehensive framework for understanding and implementing the concept of Unity in Diversity. They guide individuals and communities to appreciate differences, promote justice, and actively include all members, including those with disabilities, in the collective progress towards vibrant, inclusive, and accessible communities.

Inclusive Design and its Connection to Unity in Diversity: 

Inclusive Design, a methodology rooted in the concept of Unity in Diversity. Inclusive Design is centered on removing barriers and enables designers to develop programs, services, communications, and materials that promote a sense of belonging in diverse real-world situations. It underscores the importance of acknowledging individual uniqueness and emphasizes the designer's role in ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, particularly for People with Disabilities. This principle extends beyond physical accessibility to embrace cultural, linguistic, and cognitive diversity.

Applying Inclusive Design to People with Disabilities: 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 adults in the United States has some form of disability. Despite the existence of international accessibility standards for almost three decades, a stark reality persists – only 3% of the internet is accessible to People with Disabilities. To embody Unity in Diversity, it is imperative to bridge this gap. Websites and content creators must prioritize accessibility, following Inclusive Design constructs to ensure that People with Disabilities are not excluded from the digital sphere.

Inclusive Design Patterns: 

Drawing inspiration from real-world examples, Inclusive Design can manifest in various ways. Designers, taking the responsibility to remove barriers, incorporate features such as legible fonts, high contrast, and customizable interfaces. This approach aims to address the diverse characteristics of users, encompassing People with Disabilities and older individuals.  Global interfaces must embrace diverse surnames and demographic identifiers, eliminating exclusionary practices.

Key Takeaways:

"Unity in sameness at the Exclusion of the Oppressed results in elite separatism! However, we are challenged with something ever so much more profound -- Unity in Diversity!" 

As we actively pursue our community-building objectives, a fundamental question demands attention: are we consistently incorporating Accessibility and Inclusivity into our strategic planning, design processes, decision-making, and the development of policies and procedures? Evaluating whether our programs, services, events, and communications align with the established Best Practices for Inclusive Design becomes imperative in ensuring a truly accessible and inclusive community.

The Baha'i concept of Unity in Diversity transcends differences, emphasizing a fundamental unity in human experience. This spiritual reality serves as the foundation of strength and resilience, celebrating differences without demanding uniformity, akin to a garden with diverse elements contributing to overall beauty.

The Baha'i Writings eloquently convey the concept of "Unity in Diversity," stressing the importance of embracing differences for humanity's betterment. Recognizing challenges, especially in addressing inequalities, the Baha'i Faith emphasizes unity and justice in our community building efforts. When applied to racial diversity, diversity becomes an opportunity, contributing to the beauty and efficiency of humanity. In the context of People with Disabilities, the Baha'i teachings underline the need to cherish their natural diversity including both opportunity and contributions.  Inclusive Design, rooted in Unity in Diversity, serves as a crucial methodology, addressing the stark reality that only 3% of the internet is accessible to People with Disabilities. The focus is clear: prioritize accessibility and inclusivity, ensuring People with Disabilities are integral to our collective progress and well-being. Ultimately, the imperative to remove barriers that prevent us from building Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Communities is a major key to working toward Unity in Diversity.

 

Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building a Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Community!

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