Integrating Accessibility and Belonging into Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice

By Whitney Marris, CTIPP's Director of Practice and System Transformation


The Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) has long recognized that trauma-informed approaches must integrate social and economic justice and set intentions to promote healing, build resilience, and prevent trauma.


A critical part of this work invites us to move beyond merely requiring tools, strategies, tasks, and checklists and into a whole-person, whole-system transformation process linked with (individual and collective) identity, culture, wisdom, and healing processes.


With the recognition that individual, historical, cultural, and systemic trauma exposure can profoundly shape the ways people think about, experience, and engage with self, others, and the world around them, CTIPP has embraced a framework that:

  • leverages unique strengths and gifts

  • builds capacity

  • implements and sustains complex processes

  • maximizes health and well-being

Our vision for a trauma-informed and -responsive society demands the dismantling of oppression, and CTIPP has recently expanded our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) framework to include the concepts of “Accessibility” and “Belonging” (ABDEIJ).


At its core, ACCESSIBILITY honors and accommodates needs and preferences by creating environments and ways to interact within such environments that provide the context and conditions for the greatest number of people to effectively, actively, and meaningfully participate.


We agree with the Biden Administration, which defines accessibility as (emphasis added by CTIPP) “the design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them. Accessibility includes the provision of accommodations and modifications to ensure equal access to employment and participation in activities for people with disabilities, the reduction or elimination of physical and attitudinal barriers to equitable opportunities, and a commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities can independently access every outward-facing and internal activity or electronic space, and the pursuit of best practices such as Universal Design.”


A critical aspect of CTIPP’s framework is to view accessibility as an outcome and the process of actions necessary to produce a truly diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just society along the continuum of human ability and experience. Accessibility encompasses the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how communities, organizations, systems, and institutions make space for the richness and multidimensionality of each person’s ways of thinking, being, and doing.


Further, as social creatures who are wired to be in community, we must feel that we belong to show up as our full, authentic selves. We agree with Cornell University’s Department of Inclusion and Belonging, which defines BELONGING as “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group.”


In his book, Together, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy highlights loneliness as a public health epidemic because belonging is critical to building greater social connectedness and a stronger society. Through this lens, it is clear that operationalizing belonging (by being intentional in cultivating the safe, trustworthy environments that we know create space for shared learning, growth, creativity, and expression) is a key component of implementing and sustaining trauma-informed change that honors each person’s humanity.


And while many credible pieces define the other components of the ABDEIJ exist, we are guided by President Biden’s Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce (with minor adaptations):

  • DIVERSITY is the practice of including and appreciating differences within the context of (but not limited to) individual and collective identity, background, culture, beliefs, and experiences.

  • EQUITY is the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.

  • INCLUSION is recognizing, appreciating, and using the talents and skills of people of all backgrounds.

  • JUSTICE is the removal of systemic barriers to fair and compassionate distribution of economic, political, environmental, and social rights and opportunities.

We remain committed to ensuring empowerment, voice, and choice for everyone, especially those that have been rendered vulnerable by oppressive systems, marginalized, discriminated against, and otherwise excluded from opportunities that promote health and well-being.


We believe that a trauma-informed approach's core values and principles can only truly be operationalized when accessibility and belonging are centered in the work. Only then can we create a more just, equitable world that values and honors diversity and intentionally supports full participation and actualization.


We appreciate that lived experience must be included in the design and redesign of service systems. We encourage you to share your story and explore our vision, policy priorities, and checklist for what makes a policy or practice trauma-informed.


Have feedback? Please share with us today!