By Kerrin Jeromin, Volunteer Writer

Hi! I’m Kerrin, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. 

If this introduction sounds unfamiliar to you, don’t worry! The choice to add pronouns to your introductions is just one thing staff at the Dumb Friends League encourage to help everyone feel safe, comfortable, and included.

Take it from Rachel Levine (she/her/hers), the League’s Director of People Development: 

“My name is Rachel. I physically present as what people associate with a female, but my pronouns [might] be they/them or he/him. It’s important we honor people’s preferred pronouns,” she explains. “It’s important that we create a space for others so they can be themselves when they are here at the League.”

Beyond encouraging gender identification and respect for other people’s pronouns, Levine is spearheading a variety of initiatives and activities at the League to promote and encourage diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI). Noting her long history of working with organizations to create a more inclusive culture, Levine shared details of the expanding DEAI efforts underway to make the League a more inclusive and accessible space for its volunteers, staff, and anyone who enters.

The efforts have been successful thus far, largely due to the people.

“We already have a population of humans, who are extremely compassionate, wanting to minimize the trauma, damage, and negative behaviors that have happened in the past to animals. We’re building on that with the human experience,” said Levine. 

Levine says the most important part of the League’s DEAI work is to create a space for everyone so that people feel comfortable being just who they are while at the League, no matter their background, appearance, quirks, preferences, or physical needs.

“We are actively working to make sure activities, meetings, and events are accessible for everyone,” explains Levine. “For instance, how will someone join an event if they have mobility restrictions? How will someone access training materials if they are visually impaired, if they have temperature sensitivity, or if they are a nursing parent? We’re thinking holistically about an experience that feels right for all individuals.”

She also says it’s completely acceptable to show off your quirky side, as long as it isn’t harming anyone! So, if you like to sing while walking a dog, go for it! 

New trainings are being rolled out for Dumb Friends League staff and volunteers to help them navigate this more accessible and inclusive culture. As one would expect, these trainings will be offered through a multifaceted approach, with various types of media, remote options, or socially distanced alternatives, while also meeting any accessibility needs.

Levine also says some aspects may seem new and unfamiliar for some people. She says the most important thing is to keep an open mind, learn, and give it your best to understand these new initiatives that aim to make the League a safe and happy place for everyone.

“The goal is to create an educational space to help people learn [new] behaviors, move forward, and learn from past mistakes without shame,” says Levine. “You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. That’s how you learn and grow. You just have to try … that’s how you start.”

In 2022, the League created its first official DEAI statement, which reads: We are committed to providing a team member experience where each person can be their authentic self, every day, as part of a community of respectful people. We are driven to create an accessible, inclusive, and equitable culture that supports, encourages, and celebrates the diverse voices and experiences of our colleagues.