Priority Areas for IDEA Work
As Boston By Foot makes progress towards our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access goals, we are focusing on several critical aspects of our organization and activities.
As a public history organization, Boston By Foot and our volunteers know that the stories we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them will have an impact on how our tour participants understand the story of Boston. As we strive to present broader and more nuanced stories, here are some ways we are addressing our programing content:
Tour Catalog - Boston By Foot has an extensive tour catalog, but it does not include all areas and aspects of Boston’s history and communities. We’re thinking carefully about what’s missing and what tours we need to add, while also recognizing the groups and individuals who are already doing great work that we should elevate rather than duplicate.
Tour Content - Our tour content is in-depth and well-researched, written over many decades and updated periodically by our volunteers. We are now in the process of systematically reviewing all of tour manuals to ensure tours are up-to-date, include timely content, and contain stories that may have been overlooked in the past.
Land Acknowledgement - Our tours take place on the tribal homelands of the Massachusett people. Though most of our tours focus on time periods after Europeans arrived, we include an acknowledgement on all of our tours of the long and ongoing history of the Massachusett and the neighboring Wampanoag and Nipmuc peoples, who continue to reside locally to this day. We aim to include this information in a relevant and meaningful way on all of our tours to make it clear that the story of indigenous people is an important part of Boston’s history.
Programming Outreach Opportunities - Boston By Foot would like to be present in more neighborhoods and reach more Boston residents. We recognize that guided walking tours are not always the best way to engage local residents, so we are actively exploring other community programming opportunities.
Virtual Programs - Launched to connect to our volunteers and members during pandemic lockdown, we quickly learned the value of virtual programming as a way to reach more people and explore stories that are challenging to address on a walking tour. Our virtual programming includes lectures, live tours, and other interactive activities. We now have an archive of hundreds of recorded virtual programs and have incorporated virtual programs as part of our regular annual programing.
Boston By Foot has committed to IDEA at all levels of the organization. First and foremost, we strive to create an environment that’s welcoming to all. The Board of Trustees have been a driving force in ensuring that BBF makes steady progress toward our goals. They have recruited the most diverse board of trustees in BBF history and they committed resources to ensuring the staff and volunteers have the support they need to fulfill our goals.
Volunteer Onboarding - Boston By Foot is known for in-depth, high quality tours. It's important that our volunteers are well-trained and prepared to lead the tours that we and our supporters expect. A new hybrid training format was created out of necessity due to the pandemic, but we’ve decided it is here to stay. This format proved to be much more accessible, approachable and effective in achieving our desired outcomes. Our training is always evolving as we strive to make the program more accessible, welcoming and focused on the critical elements of leading engaging, high quality tours.
Workshops on Access and Inclusion - Many of our volunteers have served as guides for years, even decades. But as lifelong learners, they are always looking for ways to improve their craft. Boston By Foot often offers workshops and training opportunities for our existing volunteers. In recent years, many of our workshops have focused on making our tours more accessible to people of all abilities and techniques to engage people with different backgrounds and learning styles.
Inclusive Language Guidelines - Many of our tours address complex historical topics, and the language we use and the way we talk about these topics matters. Our volunteers feel it's important that they use respectful and inclusive language, so we’ve created Inclusive Language Guidelines and added guidance in each tour manual that’s relevant to the material. We recognize that language is always evolving, so we consider this to be a living document. We also recognize as language evolves, our guides may occasionally use terms that are no longer recommended, or use different terms in different contexts. This is expected and acceptable. We are all lifelong learners, and gaining new perspectives with every new experience.
New Volunteer Roles - There are many skills needed to help Boston By Foot thrive that go beyond leading tours. Volunteers who are not interested or able to lead tours have the opportunity to become Associate Volunteers and help with many other necessary tasks. Long-time volunteers who are no longer able to volunteer as guides are able to stay connected to BBF and elevate their status to Emeritus.
Boston By Foot’s mission and vision includes both visitors and residents having a deep understanding and appreciation of Boston’s stories. Visitors often seek out our tours, but we want to ensure that our programming is accessible and known among Boston residents, particularly those who may not have thought about a walking tour as a way to get to know their own city. To make our programming more accessible, we’ve introduced discounted options and participate in several programs aimed at providing access to local residents.
Community Pass Program - Originally designed for local libraries to distribute free passes to their patrons, this program is now expanded to include other community organizations who wish to provide free access to BBF’s programs to their constituents.
Boston Public Schools Pricing - Groups from Boston Public Schools are able to schedule tours at steeply reduced rates.
EBT Card to Culture - Boston By Foot participates in the EBT Card to Culture program, a collaboration between the Mass Cultural Council and the Department of Transitional Assistance that breaks down the financial barriers to cultural programming. All BBF tours are $1 for EBT Card Holders.
New Community Engagement Programs - Boston By Foot is actively seeking partnerships with community organizations to create programming that will support residents as they explore Boston and discover its complex and diverse history.
An important part of our journey involves improving the way we communicate to our various audiences.
Website - When we redesigned our website in 2022, we prioritized accessibility and ease of use. The new website follows Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), uses plain language, readable fonts and photos that showcase the range of individuals who enjoy and participate in our programs.
Tour Descriptions - We are in the process of reviewing all tour and program descriptions to ensure they are written in plain language and accurately reflect the diversity of content on our tours. For each tour, the distance, duration, level of terrain, ending locations and accessible public transportation options are clearly stated so tour participants can make informed choices about which tours are best for them.
Accessibility Page - Details regarding practical and logistical concerns are addressed on a detailed accessibility page on our website. Tour participants of all abilities and backgrounds can use this page to better understand what to expect before, during and after their tour experience and to how to request accommodations if required.