Language Matters! The Inclusive Spotlight

Celebration of Light

When fireworks take place in the community, everyone seems to have their own ritual. You bring specific things, find the right spot, wait for the magic and then head home. In Vancouver, tonight is the final performance of a public fireworks show called the Festival of Light.

Performed from a barge facing English Bay, you can see the fireworks from multiple viewpoints. The show is available for all to see, and the most popular viewpoint is on English Bay. With local and international summertime tourists, it’s a busy time in the city, and takes place close to the Vancouver Pride Parade and season. Crowd control is a priority for coordinators, which includes washroom accessibility.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a client as we were walking through the washrooms at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.

She walked me towards the washroom and asked me to observe the following sign:

Queen Elizabeth Theatre Washroom Sign

Queen Elizabeth Theatre Washroom Sign

An African woman, she looked at me and said, “I’ve been in Canada since the 1970s. This reminds me of signs like ‘Blacks Welcome.’ Perhaps the sign is intended to welcome all people, that’s not what it says.”

“All people Welcome” is different from “Trans People Welcome.”

Fantastic initiative on behalf of the City of Vancouver to use inclusive language. However, there’s no need to shine a spotlight on inclusivity. The whole point is to welcome all people rather than single them out.

Other suggestions to communicate the same message:

• Everyone welcome

• Washrooms

• Restrooms

I recently came across the following sign at Simon Fraser University:

Simon Fraser University Washroom Sign

Simon Fraser University Washroom Sign

This is much better. It made me smile, and appreciate the positive message. It points to the bias we may carry, as well as our shared needs. Indeed, everyone uses the washroom. We all require access.

We can only change our own interpretations of the messages we receive. I challenge you to be mindful of your words and thoughts on being inclusive. As you enjoy this summer weekend, observe the language being presented to you. What do the signs say, and what do they mean to you?

Share your findings with me, wherever you are!

Happy Pride, Vancouver!