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RFO’s position on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Robert Ferguson Observatory is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and ensures equitable access for all individuals. Our mission is to offer educational programs about science and astronomy for students, the public, and in support of educators, and inspire a sense of wonder about the cosmos, while striving to make our programs and facilities accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or abilities. We recognize the importance of embracing diversity and eliminating barriers that prevent individuals from participating, and our aim is that our board, visitors, and volunteers reflect the diverse community that we serve.

Diversity: We celebrate and embrace diversity and believe that it strengthens our community and enriches our experiences. We are dedicated to creating an environment where individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, religions, neurotypes and abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds are embraced, valued, and represented.

How do we accomplish this?

  • We spread awareness of the observatory and its programs by actively engaging with diverse communities and underserved populations through outreach programs, partnerships and participation in other culturally diverse groups and associations.
  • We build individual and meaningful relationships by collaborating with local community groups, cultural centers, and organizations to help us better understand the unique needs and perspectives of diverse communities. Doing so allows us to tailor our programs to be culturally relevant and engaging.
  • We make decision-making collaborative at RFO, involving diverse voices in decision-making processes, including in our board of directors, committees, and larger docent group, to ensure that different perspectives are considered and integrated into our strategic planning.
  • We develop outreach programs specifically targeted towards underserved communities, schools, and organizations. These programs aim to increase awareness of astronomy and science, fostering a diverse and inclusive audience.

Equity: We are committed to fairness and integrity in all aspects of our operations. We strive to eliminate any disparities and barriers that may exist within our organization, programs, and outreach efforts. We work towards equal opportunities for involvement, participation, and leadership, ensuring that every individual has an equitable chance to access and enjoy our astronomical programs.

How do we accomplish this?

  • We create scholarships and offer free access for individuals and groups who may face financial barriers to participation. These initiatives provide opportunities for individuals from low-income backgrounds to engage with our observatory’s offerings.
  • We create mentorship programs and leadership opportunities within the observatory, ensuring that individuals from underrepresented groups have opportunities to advance and contribute to our mission.

Inclusion: Inclusivity is at the core of our observatory’s philosophy. We actively promote an atmosphere of respect and kindness, where everyone feels welcome, valued, and empowered to contribute. “Astronomy for All” embodies the notion that we are all under the same stars, we are all important, and we strive to deliver our programs to all who are interested.

How do we accomplish this?

  • We ensure that our programs and events feature content that represents diverse cultures, contributions, and perspectives in astronomy and space science. This approach highlights the global nature of astronomy and its relevance to all communities.
  • We develop educational programs and materials that are culturally responsive and sensitive, acknowledging the unique histories and contributions of different communities to astronomy and space science.
  • We proactively reach out and survey our visitors and volunteers to obtain their input on how we can best serve them and ensure that our programs are reaching all members of our community, as well as identify areas for improvement.
  • We use inclusive language by reviewing and updating all communication materials and observatory signage, avoiding any terms or phrases that may be exclusive or offensive. This includes providing multilingual materials to cater to non-English speaking communities.

Accessibility: We are dedicated to removing physical, financial, and informational barriers that could hinder participation in our observatory’s activities. We continually assess and improve our facilities, programs, and communication methods to ensure they are accessible to disabled individuals. We also work to provide opportunities for those who might face financial constraints, enabling their engagement with astronomy and science education.

How do we accomplish this?

  • We work with our partner, Sonoma Ecology Center, to create and deliver Spanish-language programs that reach our local Hispanic community. We work on offering multilingual signage and promotional materials, and, if possible, provide interpreters at various programs and events.
  • We participate in the Museums for All program which gives free access to low-income families in our community.
  • We continue to assess our facilities and surrounding area to ensure that disabled visitors and volunteers have safe and comfortable access to the observatory. We also work to improve all visitors’ experiences to ensure everyone is receiving the same caliber of education and involvement, including having adequate and clear signage.

Robert Ferguson Observatory is dedicated to ongoing growth in our DEIA efforts, and we acknowledge that to truly embody “Astronomy for All,” we must continually assess our practices, seek feedback from our community, and revise and implement strategies to improve our diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility. As such, the strategies outlined above will be reviewed and adapted to address the evolving needs of our community. In addition, RFO will provide regular training for our staff and volunteers on DEIA topics, including unconscious bias, cultural competency, and disability awareness. This will ensure that all interactions at the observatory are respectful, inclusive, and welcoming. The Robert Ferguson Observatory will not tolerate any form of hate or bias. By implementing these strategies, we aim to create a public  observatory that inspires individuals from all walks of life to develop a lifelong passion for science and astronomy. Our commitment to DEIA is an ongoing journey, and we are committed to ensuring that all individuals can explore the wonders of the universe and find inspiration in the night sky. 

Astronomy for All. No Bigotry, Hatred, or Prejudice Allowed. Respect others and be kind--or you will be asked to leave. We welcome: all races and ethnicities, all religions, all countries of origin, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities and disabilities, all spoken languages, all ages. We stand here with you. You are safe here.
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