Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. He launched DiversityInc as a website in 1997 and has guided it to be the leading publication for diversity, reaching more than 300,000 people monthly and ranked No. 1 globally for total web traffic and social-media reach.
Luke also created the DiversityInc Top 50, the leading corporate diversity list. Entering its 17th year, the competition had more than 1,800 participants for 2016. He is responsible for the methodology and has utilized the data collected in the Top 50 process to develop DiversityInc's Benchmarking practice, which has more than 70 corporate clients. Luke meets personally with more than 30 CEOs every year.
A prolific writer and interviewer, Luke has over 300 articles, interviews and columns on the website. His "Ask the White Guy" column is a leading draw on DiversityInc.
Luke also created the DiversityInc Foundation, a 501(c)(3), and donates more than 4 percent of DiversityInc's gross revenue to the foundation. The foundation has no administrative overhead and no salaries — all services are donated. The foundation primarily funds endowed scholarships at the three schools where he has/had a board seat: Bennett College (Historically Black) and New Jersey City University (Hispanic Serving) and Rutgers University. Since 2006, the DiversityInc Foundation has distributed more than $1,500,000.
Luke serves as chairman of the New Jersey City University Foundation, vice chairman of the National Organization on Disability, and is on HACU's corporate and philanthropy board.
Luke holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Rutgers University. He is a veteran, having served as a Naval Aviator for more than eight years on active duty and another 18 months in the reserves. He served as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel for almost ten years, briefed four Chiefs of Naval Operations and one Commandant of the Marine Corps on issues of diversity and inclusion and is currently the Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations for Talent Development and Diversity (an uncompensated position).
DiversityInc is a certified veteran owned (VA) and disability owned (USBLN) company.
NOTE: The downloadable, hi-res photo on this page is released into the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License by DiversityInc.
How can you adopt a vocabulary that's inclusive and respectful of everyone? This EY exec, an advocate for people with disabilities, shares her insights.
"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." —Mark Twain
As diversity leaders, we understand that disability is just another kind of difference, like culture, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We recognize that diversity is a valuable source of insight and adaptability, generating better business ideas and high-quality service. Differing abilities are a part of that healthy diversity. It's our business to promote inclusiveness throughout our organizations and to advocate for policies and programs that support it.
In building an inclusive culture, we're on the front lines and need to be visibly living our organizations' values every day. It's important that we set the tone not only in what we do and say, but how we say it—in formal messaging as well as everyday conversation. This is where even diversity leaders can get stuck.
Sometimes inclusive language can seem a bit cumbersome, but with a few simple changes each of us can make a significant difference—helping to promote an inclusive culture while setting an example both inside and outside our organizations.
Here are six ways never to talk about disabilities:
1. Never say "a disabled person" or "the disabled." Say a person or people "with disabilities."
Put the person first. A disability is what someone has, not what someone is. For instance, "mentally ill" is less respectful than "person with mental-health issues." "Retarded" is never an appropriate term. Say "intellectual disabilities" or "cognitive disabilities."
2. Never use the term "handicapped parking." Use "accessible parking" instead.
Handicapped parking is still in use (e.g., when referring to parking placards), though the word "handicapped" is offensive and has been virtually eliminated in most other contexts. Remove it from your organization's vocabulary completely by using the term "accessible parking." (It's also more accurate, as accessible describes the parking and handicapped does not.)
3. Never use the term "impaired." Use terms such as "low vision," "hard of hearing" or "uses a wheelchair" instead.
Though it may be used in legal contexts, the word "impaired" can be offensive, as it implies damage. Many people with disabilities do not see themselves as damaged, but simply as different.
4. Never say "hidden" disabilities. Say "non-visible" or "non-apparent."Many disabilities are not apparent, such as serious illnesses or chronic health conditions, sensory limitations, or mental-health and learning disabilities. When referring to these disabilities, avoid using hidden, as it has negative connotations, implying purposeful concealment or shame.
5. Whenever possible, don't say "accommodations." Say "adjustments" or "modifications."This can be tricky, as accommodation has a specific legal meaning and must be used in certain contexts, like policy or government communications. However, accommodation suggests doing a favor for the person who has a disability. An accommodation is a workplace or work-process modification made to enable an employee to be more productive. It is necessary and not a preference or privilege. The terms adjustment and modification capture this idea without suggesting a favor or special treatment, so are preferable whenever specific legal terminology is not required.
6. Never use victim or hero language; describe situations in a straightforward way.
Don't use language that portrays people with disabilities as victims, such as "suffers from," "challenged by," or "struggles with." Say "someone who uses a wheelchair" or "wheelchair user," not "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair." On the flip side, don't use heroic language when people with disabilities complete everyday tasks and responsibilities. People with disabilities don't see themselves as inspiring simply because they're going about their daily lives. We all have challenges—working around those challenges is not heroic, it's just human.
What Terminology Should I Use?
It's worth noting that even in the disability community (yes, that is how advocates for inclusion of people with disabilities refer to ourselves), different people are comfortable with different terminology. Some are fine with the descriptor "disabled," which is in common use in the United Kingdom. Others may freely use "impaired." However, as diversity leaders, it is our job to promote behaviors that make all people feel valued and included. Knowing that some people are offended by these terms, I feel strongly that the most inclusive course is to avoid them and adopt a vocabulary that feels respectful to everyone.
As champions of diversity, we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to set standards for how our people, organizations and society speak and think about people with disabilities. By shifting our language, we can help shift perceptions and promote the culture of inclusion that is the backbone of healthy diversity in all aspects of life.
— Lori Golden, EY, Abilities Strategy Leader
Golden leads EY's internal initiatives in the Americas to create an enabling environment and inclusive culture for people working with disabilities.
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