Webinar Recap: Diversity and Inclusion Standards for ABA Organizations

There are plenty of reasons to focus on diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Diverse and inclusive ABA organizations are better positioned to meet the unique needs of patients from different backgrounds. Research also shows that a sustained commitment to diversity and inclusion can improve organizational performance and help retain happy, productive employees.

BHCOE’s webinar, Standards for Diversity and Inclusion for ABA Organizations, included the 13 standards for organizations seeking full accreditation. Below we recap each standard and provide illustrative examples on how to ensure compliance.

1. Organization Diversity Statement

Every ABA organization should have a diversity statement. It can be a simple sentence or a few paragraphs, but it should tie back to your mission and be clear and specific.

“The most important thing is that your mission statement is authentic,” says Hellen Adedipe, MA, BCBA, LBA, founder and executive director, The Reason for HOPE. “Make sure that yours is true to who you are and what your company represents.”

2. Materials Translation

Your website or intake packet is often one of the first touchpoints families have with your organization. Your organization should have the means to translate webpages, training materials, patient satisfaction surveys, and other materials into different languages.

“This doesn’t mean you need to translate all of your information into 20 different languages,” says Sara Litvak, MA, BCBA, BHCOE CEO. “The intent of this standard is to ensure your services are accessible to the non-English speakers that you serve.”

3. Authentic and Inclusive Training and Marketing Materials

Beyond your practice materials, your training and marketing should be authentic and inclusive of the individuals you serve. Images in all of your marketing and promotional materials should include a range of body types, skin colors, genders, and ages. A simple solution is to avoid using generic stock photography and use people you know in photo shoots.

4. Closed Captioning for Videos

According to the National Institutes of Health, 15 percent of Americans report hearing problems. If your organization offers videos, use closed captioning available to make your content more accessible. Besides demonstrating inclusivity and respect to your potential viewers, captioning your video content also helps you avoid possible Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations.

5. Mandatory Cultural and Diversity Training

Cultural and diversity trainings should be held at least annually. The most effective trainings are four to six hours in length broken down into shorter interactive sessions over a few weeks. “There needs to be a link between the diversity training and the mission and culture of your organization with opportunities for reflection, discussion, goal-setting, and self-awareness,” says Elizabeth Fong, Ph.D., MA, BCBA, LBS, Founder, Cultural Diversity SIG (ABAI) and Faculty, Saint Joseph’s University.

BHCOE partner Relias offers cultural competency training that is discounted for BHCOE members.

6. Talent Acquisition Efforts

Having perspectives from a diverse workforce improves problem-solving and creativity and leads to more significant innovation. While there is a widely recognized shortage of diverse candidates for clinical ABA roles, organizations can work to recruit diverse candidates for non-clinical positions, such as intake, scheduling, and billing.

It’s important to measure and document your talent acquisition efforts. In addition, using blind resumes and blind interviews can remove bias from the recruitment process.

7. Measuring Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

When assessing your diversity, it’s important to use quantitative and qualitative measurement to get a baseline and then track your workforce diversity and inclusion efforts. Metrics to measure include applicant tracking, job offers extended, hiring, promotions, separations, career development, and retention.

“At BHCOE, we track the job offers we’ve made so that we can see and show our stakeholders our efforts to develop a diverse workforce,” says Litvak. “If you’re getting a lot of declined job offers, you can use the data to look internally and assess what it is about your organization that may not be appealing to candidates.”

8. Fair Hiring Practices

As an organization, you must be able to demonstrate that you’re engaging in fair hiring practices, as regulated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job candidate or employee because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

It’s also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws.

9. Diversity Self-Assessment

As an accredited ABA organization, you should engage in self-assessment of diversity efforts at least annually. Similar to developing an annual budget, it’s important to set diversity goals each year, such as how many diverse staff members you plan to hire.

A number of assessments exist tothat can help guide your short- and long-term diversity planning, including Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence Self-Assessments. BHCOE also has several members-only resources within the Diversity and Inclusion section of the website.

10. Diverse Suppliers

When applicable, think about how your organization can provide minority- and women-owned businesses with equal opportunities to supply goods or services to your organization. Efforts can be as simple as ordering food from a black-owned bakery for an office party. Small steps such as this to support diverse suppliers make an impact over time.

11. ADA-Compliant Physical Location

Your organization’s physical location should be ADA-compliant. Common ADA compliance issues include no parking access or area for drop-off, inaccessible restroom facilities, and inaccessible entrances and exits.

“It’s important to try your best to be ADA compliant because we work with special needs individuals. We need to make sure our environment enables them to be able to receive services,” says Adedipe.

12. Access to Services for Low-Income Patients

Consider steps you can take to allow low-income patients to receive services. Solutions include offering one spot per year for a low-income patient, a sliding fee scale, or a scholarship fund. Free resources, such as a monthly parent training or an information packet, can also be valuable.

“You don’t have to offer free therapy if you can’t afford that. I encourage you to think outside the box. Offering free resources can be priceless for families,” says Adedipe.

13. Employee Accommodations

Your organization should be able to demonstrate reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs and practices, physical disabilities, and language abilities. Accommodation examples include ergonomic work stations to accommodate disabilities and time off for religious observations.

Litvak emphasizes that some of BHCOE’s diversity and inclusion standards can be aspirational and evolve over time. “You’re not going to be able to do everything at once, but by setting diversity and inclusion goals, you have milestones to work toward,” she notes.

To learn more about BHCOE’s updated Standards for Diversity and Inclusion for ABA Organizations, watch the full webinar.

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