From Theory to Reality: Examining How Equal Opportunity Falls Short Without Equal Access

The essence of equal opportunity is that all individuals should be treated equally regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. Equal opportunity does not mean equal access, however. Some individuals face barriers. They may be unaware of opportunities or unable to compete for them. 

Learn why equal access needs to be a central part of equal opportunity practices, and how you can support this effort. 

What Equal Access Means

Equal access is the concept that all people should be able to seek the same opportunities, such as jobs, internships, or enrichment programs. But not every person has the means or network to seek the same high-impact opportunities. 

Consequently, organizations and individuals committed to helping remove inequalities need to start by identifying barriers. Barriers limit the potential for equal access and, by extension, equal opportunity.

Just because an opportunity is there doesn’t mean that a diverse pool of individuals will be able to go after it. Before the concept of equal opportunity can be realized, equal access needs to come first. 

How to Support Equal Access

Supporting equal access can happen at an institutional or legislative level. But often simple, daily actions can make a difference, as well.  And for anyone looking to be part of a positive change, these simple actions are a tangible way to participate. 

For example, make a point of hiring or purchasing goods from black owned businesses. This provides financial support while helping boost visibility. This is particularly true if you share a positive review or offer word-of-mouth endorsements of the business. 

Additionally, supporting equal access can translate to providing access to your network of colleagues, community partners, and employer contacts. Mentors working with students or employees can serve in this capacity.

Supporting equal access also can happen through simple gestures and adjustments. This may mean being intentional about offering students different modes of communication in a classroom. It could mean moving furniture to ensure all individuals can see a demonstration. And it can include accommodating individuals with disabilities. 

Understand that Equal Opportunity Does Not Mean Equal Access

Perhaps most importantly, individuals committed to equal opportunity practices need to realize that equal access is embedded in that journey. Blindly assuming that adopting an equal opportunity mindset is enough can result in a failed mission. 

Every organization needs to take stock of its practices. Does a company work with black-owned vendors? Does it have hiring practices that make the effort to reach out to candidates from underrepresented backgrounds?

Similarly, non-profits and educational institutions can work to revise their existing systems to be more inclusive. This may mean focusing more outreach efforts toward underserved schools or neighborhoods. Working together to identify barriers to access is the first step toward achieving equal opportunity. 

At OhanaHC, racial equity is central to our mission. With each mentorship connection we help facilitate, we aim to build better access to more opportunities. Fill out the contact form on our website or email us at to learn more about what we do!

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