Atlanta Mayor Dickens unveils city’s ‘inclusive’ language guide

The guide will be continually updated to reflect evolving terminology

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The city of Atlanta is renewing efforts for a more equitable community, as Mayor Andre Dickens unveiled Thursday a new inclusive language guide touching on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality and other societal factors.

The 24-page document, now available on the city’s website, is intended to show how city officials should address people.

Dickens said the city is committing to these progressive actions today, and everyday, because the city wants to ensure no one is left behind in society. Dickens also gave kudos to his predecessor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who in 2021 created the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which is the agency spearheading this initiative.

“As any child on any playground in Atlanta can tell you, words matter,” Dickens said at City Hall prior to signing the city’s administrative order for the recommendations.

“It matters what we call people and what we allow people to call us,” Dickens said.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The city’s new guide focuses on terms concerning race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, health equity, socioeconomic status, immigration and international affairs.

It also focuses on ability, addressing terms such as invisible disability. That term is defined in the guide as “disabilities that are not immediately apparent.” It continues by explaining how these conditions are “typically chronic illnesses or cognitive conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living.”

Additionally, the guide addresses critical race theory, a higher education concept examining racism’s impact on society. Republicans in Georgia’s Legislature have vowed to rid state schools of the concept, just as other agencies in the public and private sectors have done.

But Dickens said Atlanta will double down on its inclusive principles.

“This is not about being politically correct, but seeing people as whole humans with complex identities,” Atlanta Chief Equity Officer Candace M. Stanciel said.

Stanciel said the city pledges to repeatedly recommit and revise these guidelines as best practices change. She also said the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will have public events citywide this month to support this effort.

Atlanta equity events planned for September
Inclusive Language for Leadership: an administration-only, cabinet-wide session on the impact of inclusive language.
#MeetMOEDI Pep Rally: training for city employees who will oversee equity learning across departments.
Lunch and Learn event, Sept. 13.
Community Listening Series: The first public community engagement event convening disability advocates to discuss disability inclusion in Atlanta.
Public Atlanta Year of the Youth event on diversity education for the youth.
Disability access and roundtable, Sept. 26.

People can visit the city’s website to sign up for the events focused on equity.

Dickens and his administration was joined by Angad Sahgal, co-founder of LetMeDoIt and a student at Georgia State University. Dickens said Sahgal inspires the community to move forward in its inclusive work.

Sahgal’s LetMeDoIt business is a platform enabling persons with disabilities to lead their decision process with the help of their support networks. Sahgal said people often think he’s less than or in need of fixing because he has Down Syndrome, but he assured everyone that his diagnosis doesn’t define who he is. He also started Chai Ho Tea in the basement of their Sandy Springs home last fall. The latter business supplies imported Indian teas.

“I have created awareness for my business and it has connected me to some great mentors,” Sahgal said. “All of us need an opportunity to pursue our dreams. ... My dreams are as valid and realistic as anyone else.”

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