Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility & Belonging

DEIAB Statement

I have advocated for inclusive and diverse perspectives in research design since I entered research training over 10 years ago. I am committed to outreach in active involvement of minoritized and historically excluded community members in research and education. By research involvement, it is through reaching out to our community partners,  asking for their involvement in the study design stage (i.e., questionnaire creation and validation analysis), and acknowledging them as collaborators in research. Researchers call this action: participatory research and Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR); an illustration can be found on the AASPIRE website in using CBPR with autistic self-advocates. Lastly, education involvement includes curriculum design and community partnership in DEIAB content-specific trainings and ensure pay for our community partners' work. 

As a first generation academic at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels, a second-generation Vietnamese American to refugee parents, and autistic mother of neurotypical and neurodivergent children, DEIAB in research and in academia are issues important to me as a person who identifies as a minority with intersectional identities in the United States. I make it my mission to strengthen representation of minoritized groups and intersectionality in research using participatory partnerships in research and in academia and by supporting minoritized students in their career development and research training. 

Land Acknowledgements

Since 2022, I work, live, and regularly traverse on lands that have become Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. As I continue to be educated and commit to sharing my knowledge with others, I invite everyone to learn with me about peoples who lived on and cultivated the lands of what is now the United States of America before these lands were taken from them. I believe that it behooves us all to acknowledge the ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples who have cared for these lands and waters for countless generations. We can develop a better understanding of Indigenous rights, support their struggles for justice, and empower their voices in our communities. In our commitment to truth and acknowledgment, we must uncover and address the legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that have shaped our communities. 

We honor their elders, past and present, and recognize the enduring presence of Indigenous peoples on this land.

In Maryland, we stand on the lands of:

In Washington DC, we stand on the ancestral land of Nacotchtank and Piscataway Peoples, the first residents of the land that would become the District of Columbia. 

In Virginia, we stand on the lands of peoples and tribes of:

We can acknowledge the painful history of colonialism, forced removal, and degradation of the land and waters that continues to affect Indigenous communities. With humility, honesty, positivity, and respect, we can learn about and honor their culture, support Indigenous-led initiatives, and advocate for their rights and issues. We can stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities, affirming their rights and voices in shaping the future of these regions.


Definitions can assist conversations about complex subjects. We can then read further about definitions and potentially affirm or challenge those definitions. In challenging definitions, it includes understanding the history of the definition. When discussing subjects about diversity, marginalization, discrimination, identities, and health, we can use definitions to guide where to start and go next in the conversation. 

Diversity: the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.; the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

Neurodiversity: individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population; the concept that differences in brain functioning within the human population are normal and that brain functioning that is not neurotypical should not be stigmatized 

Note: A resource guide on neurodiversity and science made by neurodivergent scientists for the broader scientific community organized by the Scientist Action and Advocacy Network (see this link ScAAN.net).

Neurodivergent: differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal (frequently used with reference to autistic spectrum disorders); not neurotypical. 

Neurotypical: not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior. 

Equity:  fairness or justice in the way people are treated 

Inclusion: the act of including; the state of being included; the act or practice of including students with disabilities with the general student population  

Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized

Anti-racism: the policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance

Sexual orientation: a person's sexual identity or self-identification as bisexual, straight, gay, pansexual, etc.

Sexuality: capacity for sexual feelings; a person's identity in relation to the gender or genders to which they are typically attracted; sexual orientation; sexual activity 

Link: American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Sexual Minority Persons

Sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex

Biological sex: either of two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures

Note: Definition above is from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. There are, however, more than 2 biological sexes based on karyotype (sex chromosome variations). Examples are individuals with a single X chromosome (Turner's), an individual with XXY chromosomes (Klinefelter), an individual with XYY, etc. For a detailed essay on sex chromosomes and sex chromosome variation classifications, see this link to an article by David Andrew Griffiths. Also, this video explains sex chromosome variations and their characteristics. 

*Assigned sex at birth: the sex that a doctor or midwife uses to describe a child at birth based on their external anatomy

***Gender: Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed.  This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time. 

Note: See this link to the World Health Organization for a more detailed description of gender and health. 

Gender identity: an individual's personal sense of having a particular gender

Note: Learn more about gender spectrum and identities through this link to the Gender Spectrum organization.

*Cisgender: a term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth

**Transgender: an individual who identifies as a gender different from the assigned sex at birth

*Non-binary: an adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term for someone who identifies as agender, bigender, genderqueer, or gender-fluid.

Note: For more definitions to help with understanding LGBTQIA terminologies, see the Glossary from this link to the Human Rights Campaign.

Gender Pronouns: sometimes referred to as nonbinary, gender inclusive, neopronouns, or other terms. 

Note: Learn more from these sources that provide lessons, guides, and examples of gender pronouns: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, GLSEN, and them.us.  

LGBTQIA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (one's sexual or gender identity), intersex, and asexual/aromantic/agender 

Homophobia: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or gay people

Transphobia: dislike of or prejudice against transgender people

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of definitions on human sexuality and LGBTQIA+ terminologies. Links above provide additional terminologies and definitions as well as guidelines in approaching conversations about human sexuality and LGBTQIA+ terminologies. Definitions above will vary by sources, and it is recommended to consult multiple reputable sources on community standards. Reputable sources are locally/nationally/internationally- recognized agencies/organizations/institutions where people with lived experience (e.g., individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, family members, researchers) contributed to community standards of definitions and practices. When speaking with individuals, it is recommended to ask the person as a sign of respect and kindness, especially in using their identity and pronouns.

Sources: Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Oxford Languages (access date November 9, 2021)

*Glossary from this link to the Human Rights Campaign (access date March 23, 2022)

**Glossary from this to the Gender Spectrum organization (access date March 23, 2022)

***Glossary from the World Health Organization (access date March 23, 2022)

Person-first language: puts the person before the disability and describes what a person has, not who a person is (i.e., individuals with disabilities, person with a disability, children with disabilities; link: Office of Disability Rights)

Identity-first language: emphasizes that the disability plays a role in who the person is, and reinforces disability as a positive cultural identifier (i.e., autistic person, deaf person, blind person, disabled person; link: Association of University Centers on Disabilities)

*Disorder: an abnormal physical or mental condition

*Disability: a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions

*Ability: possession of the means or skill to do something; talent, skill, or proficiency in a particular area

*Developmental disability: any of various conditions (such as autistic spectrum condition, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, blindness, or fragile X syndrome) that usually become apparent during infancy or childhood and are marked by delayed development or functional limitations especially in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility

Note: Other developmental disabilities include but not limited to attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, hearing loss, learning disability (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory processing, language processing, nonverbal), vision impairment, speech and language disability.

*Intellectual disability: mild to severe impairment in intellectual ability equivalent to an IQ of 70 to 75 or below that is accompanied by significant limitations in social, practical, and conceptual skills (as in interpersonal communication, reasoning, or self-care) necessary for independent daily functioning and that has an onset before age 18

*Mental illness: any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning

Note: Other mental illnesses include but not limited to anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders, substance abuse disorders.

Chronic illness: conditions that last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention and/or limit activities of daily living (e.g., heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma, arthritis; link: Frontiers in Public Health)

*Immunocompromised: having an immune system impaired or weakened (as by drugs or illness; i.e., those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, congenital agammaglobulinemia, or taking immunosuppressive drugs, or a person with an organ or bone marrow transplant)

*Immunosuppressed: suppressed immune response or to suppress immune response

*Autoimmune illness: conditions of, relating to, or caused by autoantibodies or T cells that attack molecules, cells, or tissues of the organism producing them (e.g., alopecia areata, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis)

Ableism: discrimination in favor of able-bodied people

Ageism: prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of definitions on disabilities terminologies. Links above provide additional terminologies and definitions as well as guidelines in approaching conversations about disabilities terminologies. Definitions above will vary by sources, and it is recommended to consult multiple reputable sources on community standards. Reputable sources are locally/nationally/internationally- recognized agencies/organizations/institutions where people with lived experience (e.g., individuals who identify as disabled/with a disability, family members, researchers) contributed to community standards of definitions and practices. When speaking with individuals, it is recommended to ask the person as a sign of respect and kindness, especially in using their identity.

*Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Oxford Languages (access date February 12, 2022)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

"The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications and applies to the United States Congress." 

"An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered." 

For a complete read of the ADA laws and regulations, see ADA.gov link, which include information:

Title I: Employment

Title II: State and Local Government Activities

Title III: Public Transportation and Public Accommodations

Title IV: Telecommunications Relay Services

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA law states, "Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities."

Learn more about educational rights of students with disabilities by visiting this link to the U.S. Department of Education website.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

According to USLegal link, "The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 is the act which gives the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) authority to sue in federal courts when it finds reasonable cause to believe that there has been employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In the case of public employment, the EEOC refers the matter to the United States Attorney General to bring the lawsuit. The Act prohibits employment discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status. Added as an amendment to Title VII , it expands the protection of Title VII to public and private employers with 15 or more employees, both public and private labor organizations with at least 15 members, and employment agencies."

For a complete read of the EEOC laws and regulations, see EEOC.gov link, which include information:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination

SOGI anti-discrimination: "The law forbids sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. "

For a complete read of Title VII laws and regulations, see U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission link.

Know your rights. Visit this link to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website to learn more about LGBTQIA rights.

Title IX and Sex Discrimination

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Title IX applies to schools, local and state educational agencies, and other institutions that receive federal financial assistance from the Department."

For a complete read of Title IX laws and regulations, see U.S. Department of Education link.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Criminal Justice System