In the evolving landscape of hybrid work and education, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging recognizes the importance of actively promoting inclusive programming and collaboration. This resource is tailored to aid members of the GSD community who aim to foster inclusivity in their virtual programs, classes, and events as we transition towards a sustained hybrid mode. Please take into account the following considerations to ensure that your virtual environment is both inclusive and accessible.

Creating an Inclusive Virtual Space

Culture Priming

Cultural priming is a cross-cultural and social psychology technique to understand how people interpret events and other concepts, like a sense of self and community. Not everyone is an expert in navigating virtual meetings or events, so priming your participants to create a culture of openness over your virtual platform is becoming increasingly important.

  • Remain clear about the challenges of the virtual space and extend grace when you recognize that others are encountering difficulties.
  • Encourage participants to communicate any challenges as a result of online collaboration.
  • Utilize the platform signaling functions (e.g., emojis on Zoom) to praise and encourage others to participate.
  • Create and communicate opportunities to connect and check-in outside of scheduled events and meetings (e.g., virtual office hours) so that participants can identify you as a resource for additional support.
  • Communicate your openness to feedback and new ideas to cultivate a culture of transparency.

Addressing Barriers

Some virtual participants may not feel comfortable disclosing any learning or sensory disabilities. While it is essential to encourage people to share any accommodations they may need to collaborate virtually, it is best to employ practices that reach a variety of learners.

  • Provide files (e.g., slide decks, infographics, etc.) in advance that you plan to share in your meeting for participants to download. This practice can be helpful for those who need additional processing time.
    • For distributed supplementary materials, consider using PDFs or Word documents. They are more accessible for those who may rely on screen-readers, and they generally adapt well to different devices (i.e., cell phones).
  • Add closed-captioning to your meetings to improve accessibility and better attendee engagement.
  • In spoken presentations, all audience members should be able to perceive and understand all of the content. Describing presented images in detail will benefit those who are visually impaired and act as audible alternative text.
    • When composing image descriptions, there are a plethora of things that one may include. Here are specific features that can be included in image descriptions when applicable[1]:
      • Placement of objects in the image
      • Image style (e.g., painting, graph, etc.)
      • Colors
      • Names of people
      • Clothes (if they are an important detail)
      • Animals
      • Placement of text
      • Surroundings

Office Hours

Office hours are an excellent opportunity to check in with others and connect in a way that humanizes the virtual environment. However, one must consider the geographic and institutional restrictions preventing colleagues and students from engaging online.


While the hybrid platform has had a differential impact on all aspects of work culture, virtual collaboration introduces more potential for flexible assignment deadlines and schedules.

  • Create flexible lesson plans as students and colleagues may have inequitable access to technology and may need wiggle room regarding extensions on deliverables.
  • Encourage participants to be communicative about their wherewithal to deliver results on time to promote a culture of transparency.

Language & Interaction

One of the most important aspects of cultivating an inclusive virtual environment is intentional and creative communication strategies. Utilize inclusive communication techniques to foster a sense of belonging within your space.

  • While camera usage should be encouraged when connecting virtually, allowing participants the option to turn their cameras off during meetings without singling them out will also demonstrate respect for their boundaries. [2]
  • Set expectations around interactions (i.e., raise hand, chatbox, and unmute features).
  • Words carry significant meaning, so consider the words you use to address specific populations.
  • The spelling and pronunciation of names are critical to belonging and inclusion.
  • Refrain from abbreviating a person’s name unless they allow you to do so.

[1] How to write alt text and image descriptions for the visually impaired. Perkins eLearning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2022, from

[2] Working from home while black. Harvard Business Review. (2021, August 31). Retrieved May 11, 2022, from