I’ve learned so much already on this DFP journey. One topic I didn’t anticipate learning so much about was accessibility. While I hadn’t heard of "508 compliance” before my fellowship began, it quickly became a regular component of my vocabulary. It’s a term used within the USFWS and across the federal government often. It refers to the adhesion to federal laws and policies which ensure content generated by federal agencies (whether written, verbal, or audio) is accessible to all people, regardless of ability. Before my time here, I never considered things such as how inaccessible emojis can be for the visually impaired!
I’m really impressed by the genuine dedication to human rights within the Service. On a number of occasions, I’ve witnessed staff proactively advocate for accessible content, even if they themselves did not require it. Their consciousness of the subject is admirable and really says a lot about their character. USFWS is a home for people who care.
On one occasion, I shared a document with a team of digital media strategists. Several people indicated to me that my document was not (yet) 508 compliant. One was even willing to take time out of their day to meet with me one-on-one and walk me through the process of modifying it. This document was meant for internal communications, meaning these employees were advocating for their fellow employees. A real family!
This zeal isn’t exclusive to disability rights. In this fellowship, I’ve met a number of people who are extremely passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on a grander scale. USFWS employees are incredibly sensitive to the experiences and perceptions of minorities and disenfranchised groups. One employee opened my eyes to the negative undertones that could be perceived from a “master list” I was sharing. I quickly renamed it a “database” and stopped using the other term entirely.
There are several internal DEI initiatives in the works focused on things such as diversity in recruitment, expanding access to nature, and developing digital content that connects with diverse audiences in a meaningful way. These are topics that are near and dear to my heart. Conservation has historically been a “white-washed” field, stemming from past colonialist approaches to protecting nature. It benefits us all (including Mother Nature!) when we invite diverse voices to the table. Today’s USFWS seeks opportunities to do just that.
Acceptance, mutual respect, and inclusion are not just job requirements for Service employees. It’s a way of life, a part of who they are 24/7. The USFWS doesn’t only recruit good, caring people; it creates an environment where employees continually grow and strive to become better versions of themselves.
Photo Credit: Mara Koenig/USFWS
Alt text for the visually impaired: A diverse mix of people fishing along a dock. At the front is a Black man standing beside another Black man in a wheelchair, both holding fishing poles.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: Directorate Fellows Program
Location: USFS Headquarters, Washington Office