Equity and inclusion glossary of terms

The equity and inclusion glossary provides a list of terms related to equity, diversity and inclusion that are often used at UBC.

The terms listed in this glossary are not prescribed terminology – perspectives and lived experiences will determine which terms are most common and/or appropriate in particular contexts. Terminology and language in equity, diversity, and inclusion spaces are often contested and evolve over time.

This glossary was last updated in May 2023. If you have feedback on any of the terms or resources below, please contact us.

Additional resources

Explore our Connection + Support page for campus support services and opportunities for connection. For more information on terms and concepts related to anti-racism, disability, gender and sexuality, Indigeneity, conflict engagement, and equity, diversity and inclusion, see Resources for further learning below.

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This acronym stands for: Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Asexual. The plus sign (+) represents all the different, new and growing ways that people might identify with, as well as the ways that we continually expand our understanding of sexual and gender diversity.

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While there are many versions of this acronym, at UBC, we place Two-Spirit (2S) first to recognize that Indigenous people are the first peoples of this land, and their understanding of gender and sexuality precedes colonization.



Ableism is a systemic and structural form of oppression that stems from the attitude and belief that disabled people are inferior. It underpins individual discrimination and systemic barriers and inequities against people with disabilities. Ableist beliefs include the fear of becoming disabled, as well as the fear of disabled people. It engenders the erasure and invisibility of disabled people, which leads to inaccessible places, processes, and groups.

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Disability justice endeavours to eliminate ableism in all its forms by recognizing and addressing the historic and intersecting forms of discrimination; improving the accessibility of spaces, processes, and information; creating opportunities for the meaningful participation of disabled people in change efforts; promoting the rights and perspectives of disabled people; attending to the diverse and intersectional positionalities of people who are disabled.

Accessibility / Accessible 

According to Article 9 (Accessibility) of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accessibility enables disabled people to participate fully in all aspects of life, on an equal basis with others, and to access services, employment, information and communications, physical environments, and transportation.

For more information on terms and resources related to this topic, see the disability resources listed at the bottom of this page.

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At UBC, the policy of reference is LR7 Disability Accommodation Policy (PDF)


The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. (Source: EDI Glossary, Vice-President Finance & Operations portfolio)


Conflict engagement

Conflict engagement is broad umbrella terms that includes the skills, tools, and processes associated with alternative or adaptable conflict resolution, conflict management, and conflict transformation.

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Built on the foundations of procedural, social, restorative, and transformative justice, UBC’s conflict engagement framework offers structured adaptable processes tailored to meet a variety circumstances and may include coaching, training, dialogue, mediation, restorative circles, shuttle diplomacy, and/or investigation.

Read more about UBC’s Conflict Engagement Initiative (PDF).

Take UBC’s self-directed course Conflict Engagement: An Introduction.

Conflict literacy

Conflict literacy is a measure of the capacity to engage with conflict productively and creatively, and to help others do the same. In the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, conflict literacy inevitably relies on some measure of EDI competencies.

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In the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, conflict literacy inevitably relies on some measure of EDI competencies.

The skill set at this level of competency includes (but is not limited to):

  • solid understanding of policy landscape, including formal and informal processes,
  • acting as a third-party to support others who are in conflict,
  • providing conflict coaching to others, and making referrals as needed,
  • guiding strategic decision-making about the appropriate approach to conflict engagement,
  • advanced capacity for attending to one’s own feelings and the feelings of others,
  • prevention of conflict escalation through strong team leadership practices, and
  • identifying and addressing systemic issues that reproduce persistent and historic conflicts.

Conflict fluency

Conflict fluency builds on conflict literacy and is an increasingly relevant leadership competency, comprising a set of basic knowledge and skills that allow individuals to identify, work through, and de-escalate conflict as it naturally emerges in the context of their life and work.

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The skill set at this level of competency includes (but is not limited to):

  • awareness and conscious expression of emotions,
  • active inquiry and ability to listen to understand,
  • articulation and advocacy for one’s own views,
  • perspective taking,
  • effectively exchanging feedback,
  • awareness of rank and power, and
  • offering and receiving apologies.



Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and mind and features of the society in which they live. Because of its complexity, there is no single, harmonized “operational” definition of disability.

A disability can occur at any time in a person’s life; some people are born with a disability, while others develop a disability later in life. It can be permanent, temporary or episodic. Disability can be a sense of identity, community, and pride.

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Reflecting this complexity are the different approaches to understanding the experience of disability. Disability justice invites everyone to view disability as value-neutral differences and a natural part of society. Ableist structures, processes, attitudes, and stigma create barriers for people with disabilities that prevent or hinder their full participation in society.

Disabled people / Persons with disabilities

A disabled person, or a person with a disability(ies), is a person who experiences barriers and/or functional restrictors or limitations to their full and self-determined participation in activities due to a difference in mobility, sensory, learning, or other physical or mental health experience.

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Identity-first language (external link) (e.g., “Deaf person”) places the disability-related word first in a phrase. It is used primarily by disabled people who consider their disability as an important part of their identity. It is also a way of showing pride in the disability, rather than minimizing it. Scholars in Critical Disability Studies argue for identity-first language because person-first language can contribute to the common belief that disability is the result of an individual impairment rather than disability being a result of social and environmental structures. (Source: Colin Cameron (2015), Disability Arts Online (external link)).

Identity-first language arose as a counter-argument to person-first language (external link) (e.g., “a person who has asthma”). In the late 1980s, disability advocacy groups in the United States started advocating for person-first language because, by mentioning the person first, this language was seen as avoiding perceived and subconscious dehumanization of people with disabilities. This language has become common in Canada and is used by Statistics Canada, the Canadian government, and major advocacy organizations such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

Each person has the right to define how they are described. – listen to and follow the lead of individuals in terms of what language they use for themselves.

According to UBC’s Policy LR7: Accommodation for Students with Disabilities, a person with a disability or disabled person is someone who:

  • has a significant and persistent mobility, sensory, learning, or other physical or mental health impairment, which may be permanent or temporary;
  • experiences functional restrictions or limitations of their ability to perform the range of life’s activities; and/or
  • may experience attitudinal and/or environmental barriers that hamper their full and self-directed participation in life.

Diverse Groups / Diverse Students / Diverse Populations

The entire collective that represents the full array of characteristics present within a group of people.

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Interpretation varies widely among these terms, and they are commonly used incorrectly. When using the word diverse, it should only be applied to an entire collective (e.g., the entire student body is diverse), and not for a subset of a collective, nor as a euphemism for historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized people (e.g., “diverse students were less likely to feel sense of belonging” is unsuitable). The latter usage assumes that the other part of the collective is “not diverse”, which is rarely accurate and can imply that certain identities or aspects of diversity are fundamentally different from the rest of the group. (Source: SAGE Reference Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education (external link))


Differences in the social identities and lived experiences and perspectives of people that may include race, ethnicity, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, class, and/or socio-economic situations. These personal characteristics are protected grounds under the Canadian human rights legislation (external link). (Source: Office of the University Counsel and Association of American Colleges & Universities (external link))

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Diversity is a concept meant to convey the existence of difference. Each person’s unique combination of differences contributes to their experiences in ways that can be both positive and negative. Diversity is not a spectrum or a measure. One person cannot be more diverse than another. Diversity exists when people who are different from one another come together, and it includes everyone and all differences in the room.



An acronym for equity, diversity and inclusion.

See also JEDII and IDEA.

EDI competencies

The attitudes, knowledges, and skills that demonstrate levels of competency (e.g., literacy, fluency, proficiency) to advance equitable, diverse, and inclusive environments.

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Scholars have identified some key competencies for advancing EDI across the following domains in social systems:

  • Individual level – Self (e.g., individual awareness and / or education)
  • Interpersonal level – Relationships (understanding, valuing and working with others in groups)
  • Organizational / institutional level – Systems (understanding inequity and demonstrating skills that foster equitable and inclusive policies and practices to contribute to systems change)
  • Cultural/Societal level – Context (critical consciousness and understanding of power structures to contribute to social justice)

(Source: Ramsey & Latting (2005), The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (external link))

Equity / Equitable

Equity refers to achieving parity in policy, process and outcomes for historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized people and groups while accounting for diversity. It considers power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes, in three main areas:

  • Representational equity: the proportional participation at all levels of an institution;
  • Resource equity: the distribution of resources in order to close equity gaps; and
  • Equity-mindedness: the demonstration of an awareness of, and willingness to, address equity issues.
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In the university context, equity requires the creation of opportunities for historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized (HPSM) groups of students, staff, and faculty to have equal access to education, programs, and growth opportunities that are capable of closing achievement gaps. This requires recognizing that not everyone is starting from the same place or history, and that deliberate measures to remove barriers to opportunities may be needed to ensure fair processes and outcomes. (Sources: Association of American Colleges and Universities (external link), University of Southern California Center for Urban Education (external link))

Equity-Denied / Equity-Seeking / Equity-Deserving

These three terms are used to refer to communities and groups that experience significant collective barriers in participating in society. This could include attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, Indigeneity, gender identity and gender expression, nationality, race, sexual orientation, etc. Equity-denied groups are those who identify barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination and actively seek social justice and reparation. (Source: Glossary, Canada Council for the Arts (external link)).

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The Equity & Inclusion Office prefers using the term “Historically, Persistently or Systemically Marginalized (HPSM)” to refer to groups that experience significant collective barriers, but you may come across these other terms.

While the three terms are essentially synonyms, their focus differs. “Equity-seeking” suggests that it is HPSM groups that must be active to reach equity – they must actively seek it. “Equity-deserving” focuses on the fact that HPSM groups are deserving of equity. Finally, “equity-denied” emphasizes that the responsibility to remove collective barriers and create more equity does not belong with groups who have experienced these barriers, but rather with the groups who have contributed to equity being denied to certain groups by establishing and maintaining barriers to full participation in society.


Historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized (HPSM) groups

In Canada, and in the current UBC context, disadvantaged groups are commonly understood to include: Indigenous Peoples, women, racialized people, disabled people/people with disabilities, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual, plus countless ways people choose to identify) and TGNB people (transgender and non-binary) who experience barriers on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The use of “HPSM” is intended to reference these groups.

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This phrasing is used to acknowledge that:

  • UBC and other institutions throughout Canada were created at a time when societal norms privileged and included some groups and disadvantaged and excluded others.
  • This history entrains a legacy of day-to-day barriers that contributed to past, and perpetuate current, inequities which compound over time.
  • Our systems, in the form of policies, practices, culture, behaviours, and beliefs, continue to maintain these barriers in the ways that they continue to create the institution. It is often not an individual intention, but rather a systematic process that discriminates. It is an unconscious, unrecognized practice of doing things as they have always been done (and recreating the historical exclusions).

This language was intentionally and carefully chosen during the development of UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and is re-affirmed in the StEAR Framework and Roadmap to Change. However, this does not preclude recognition of the historic, persistent and systemic marginalization of groups on the basis of numerous other characteristics, including, for example, those protected grounds established under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as national or ethnic origin, socio-economic status, religion, age, marital status, etc.

Though it is useful to talk about HPSM people as a whole in some contexts, in others it is important to take a disaggregated and intersectional approach to understanding barriers to equity, and to consider what specific interventions might need to be tailored to the unique experiences of groups such as, for example, racialized women, Indigenous disabled people, and queer Black men.



An acronym for Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour.

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At UBC, IBPOC is used (rather than BIPOC, an acronym originating in the USA around 2010) in efforts to recognize ‘First Peoples first’ because of the unique history and context of colonization, displacement, and cultural genocide enacted upon Indigenous peoples in Canada, and the ongoing national conversation about reconciliation. It is appropriate to use the term when referring to issues or groups that related to Indigenous, Black and People of Colour, however, if the subject of discussion does not relate to all three groups, then it may not be appropriate to use IBPOC as a shorthand as that can conflate distinct experiences and realities of each of these groups.

While usage of the term ‘People of Colour’ dates back to the late 18th century, its contemporary usage is rooted in the 1970s when it emerged as an alternative to the then common, and highly contested, terminology of “non-white” to describe all racialized people. In response to critiques that ‘People of Colour’ (abbreviated as ‘POC’) erases or conflates the particular histories of Black and Indigenous peoples under colonialism, the additional letters are placed before ‘POC’ by those who aim to recognize those distinctions. (Source: Sandra E. Garcia (2020), The New York Times (external link))


An acronym for equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.

See also JEDII and EDI.


Inclusion is an active, intentional, and continuous process to address inequities in power and privilege, and to build a respectful and diverse community that ensures welcoming spaces and opportunities to flourish for all. (Source: Association of American Colleges & Universities (external link), Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (external link))

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It is important to note that inclusion and Indigenization/Decolonization are two seemingly related concepts with distinct histories, contexts, and frames of reference. It cannot be assumed inclusion is a substitute for Indigenization/Decolonization.

A frequent critique of inclusion when the concept used alone (instead of in conjunction with other concepts such as equity or justice) is that it centers dominant groups, who have the power to include HPSM groups (or not) instead of questioning or seeking to transform the power structures that give more power to some groups more than others.

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive Excellence (IE) is a systems-wide approach to equity, diversity and inclusion. IE states that true excellence in an institution is unattainable without inclusion – and in fact, diversity and inclusion are fundamental to excellence. It moves away from historical approaches to diversity that focused on numbers and representation. Instead, IE helps us think about the institution as a vibrant community that can create excellence by embedding diversity throughout the institution.

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The Inclusive Excellence (IE) model is grounded in work from the American Association of Colleges & Universities (Source: Williams, Berger & McClendon (2005), Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Post-Secondary Institutions (external link)). Universities Canada adopted Inclusive Excellence principles in 2017. IE appears as a key strategy in Shaping UBC’s Next Century: 2018-2028 Strategic Plan.


The term ‘Indigenous’ encompasses First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, either collectively or separately, and is a preferred term in international usage, e.g., the ‘U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’ In its derivation from international movements, it is associated more with activism than government policy and so has emerged, for many, as the preferred term (Source: Indigenous People’s Language Guidelines).


The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity as they apply to a given individual or group. Intersectional identities create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

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The term was coined by lawyer, civil rights advocate, and critical race theory scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the “various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural and political aspects of violence against women of color”.



An acronym for justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigeneity.

See also EDI and IDEA.



A social process by which individuals or groups are (intentionally or unintentionally) distanced from access to power and resources and constructed as insignificant, peripheral, or less valuable/privileged to a community or “mainstream” society. The term ‘minoritized’ is also used to connote the same meaning.

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This term describes a social process, so as not to imply a lack of agency. Marginalized groups or people are those excluded from mainstream social, economic, cultural, or political life. Examples of marginalized groups include, but are by no means limited to, groups excluded due to race, religion, political or cultural group, age, gender identity or gender expression, sexuality, or socioeconomic or financial status. To what extent such populations are marginalized, however, is context specific and reliant on the cultural organization of the social site in question.


Racialized people

Members of racialized groups are persons who do not identify as primarily white in race, ethnicity, origin, and/or colour, regardless of their birthplace or citizenship. The term “racialized” is used as a more current term than “visible minority” from the Employment Equity Act (1995).

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The expression recognizes that racialization is a social construct (rather than an objective biological reality) and that it is no longer apparent who is a “visible minority” as the diversity of UBC’s campuses and broader community increases. This term is intended to be more inclusive of the various ways individuals may identify themselves, including individuals of mixed heritage and those who may be less familiar with the Canadian context and terminology.

The term ‘racialized’ may sometimes include Indigenous people, depending on the project and the perspectives of Indigenous people consulted as part of that project. For example, in UBC’s Employment Equity Survey, the term does not include Indigenous peoples.


Transgender and Non-Binary (TGNB)

This expression refers to the diverse communities of people whose gender is different from the gender that they were assigned at birth. This phrase attempts to capture a shared experience with, and relationship to, gender, rather than specific identities; people may use many different words to describe their gender identity.

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You may also see the term “gender-diverse” used as an umbrella term to designate this community. This can be an acceptable alternative term when applied to a group, though it usually does not apply to individuals (diversity is the attribute of a group, not an individual).

Each person has the right to define how they are described. Listen to and follow the lead of individuals in terms of what language they use for themselves.


Two-Spirit is a cultural concept specific to some Indigenous communities and its meaning encompasses cultural, spiritual, sexual and gender identity. It reflects complex Indigenous understandings of gender roles, spirituality, and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures, and as such should only be used by Indigenous people. (Source: Terms & Concepts, Trans Care BC (external link))



Individuals or groups with insufficient or inadequate representation in various aspects of university life, often determined when compared to their proportional representation in Canadian society or Labour Market Availability per Statistics Canada demographic data. In the university setting, other considerations may also override strictly proportional representation.

Resources for further learning

Anti-racism resources

Here are some websites, glossaries and resources if you’re looking for more information on additional terms and concepts such as: anti-Black racism, Black, biracial, culture, cultural background, cultural humility, cultural safety, multiracial, systemic and institutional racism, race-consciousness, racialized/racialization, racism, whiteness.

Disability resources

Here are some websites, glossaries and resources if you’re looking for more information on additional terms and concepts such as: ableism, accessibility, access needs, disability justice, universal design, universal design for learning.

Gender and Sexuality resources

Here are some websites, glossaries and resources if you’re looking for more information on additional terms and concepts such as: asexual/aromantic, bisexual, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, intersex, lesbian, gay, gender expression, gender identity, misogyny, non-binary, sexuality, sexism, trans or transgender, Two-Spirit.

Indigenous resources

Here are some websites, glossaries and resources if you’re looking for more information on additional terms and concepts such as: Aboriginal, colonialism, cultural humility, cultural safety, decolonization, Indigenous, Indigenization, Two-Spirit.

Broader EDI resources

Here are some websites, glossaries and resources if you’re looking for more information on additional terms and concepts such as: Anti-oppression, Cultural Humility, cultural safety, power, systemic bias/institutional bias, self-determination, trauma-informed, unconscious/implicit bias.