Make All Volunteering as Accessible as
People with disabilities volunteer for the same reasons as anyone else: they
want to contribute their time and energy to improving the quality of life
for others, or to promote a cause they believe in, or to have fun. They want
challenging, rewarding, educational service projects that provide them with
outlets for their enthusiasm and talents, just like anyone else.
For too long, individuals with disabilities have been viewed
as recipients, not providers of service. However, many are fully capable
and willing to provide service to others in their community. Their
desire to become active volunteers should not be overlooked. Their
involvement should not be merely as token volunteers, but as
fully-participating, active, and responsible partners of the community
-- from the Training Manual for Working With Youth Volunteers Who Have
Disabilities, produced by Youth Volunteer Corps.
Just as building designs can help persons in wheelchairs to navigate
doorways, there are ways to accommodate persons with disabilities to serve
in volunteering programs. And an added bonus: making assignments
accessible for people with disabilities ends up making them more
accessible for everyone.
The key to making volunteering assignments accessible is to put all of
the requirements for a volunteering assignment in writing, and let
potential volunteers view this complete information. Potential applicants
know what they can and cannot do, and most volunteers will search for
opportunities based on their abilities, as well as his or her interests.
If the volunteering assignment is very clear about requirements of the
task, everyone -- with and without disabilities -- can self-screen for it.
Back in 2009, on UKVPMs,
an online discussion group for volunteer managers in the United Kingdom
read regularly, someone posted a message about making the
volunteering opportunities at his organization more accessible for people
with disabilities, childcare needs etc. GREAT IDEA! Not so great was the
idea to put a symbol next to certain volunteering opportunities so that
those who need certain accommodations "can easily see which opportunities
they can participate in." YIKES!
Instead, a volunteer manager might want to include the accessibility
symbol next to a statement before every volunteer assignment listing that
We strive to make our volunteering opportunities accessible
to the largest number of people possible. If you have accessibility
requirements that you aren't sure could be accommodated in an assignment
in which you are interested, please contact us, so we can work together
to accommodate you in this or another assignment.
If you want to put symbols next to, say, those assignments that require
working during business hours, or that require a volunteer to use his or
her own car, or assignments requiring bi-lingual speakers, that's fine.
But don't brand assignments based on accessibility. Instead, keep working
to make all assignments as accessible as possible.
Resources that can help you make your volunteering activities
Return to my volunteer-related
certain volunteers feel unwelcomed because of your language and
you welcome people with your language?, blogs I wrote
after I observed a volunteer recognition event description on Facebook
and a post on Facebook that implied something about firefighters.
you canít find/keep volunteer firefighters, a blog about what
happens when you don't use
welcoming language and you don't ask questions of members of a group you
want to recruit as volunteers.
Volunteers for Attitude
When an organization involves volunteers in high-responsibility,
long-term roles, volunteer turnover can be a program killer. Screening
is vital to finding the right people for high-responsibility, long-term
volunteer roles, particularly those where the volunteer will work with
clients and the general public, and to screen out people who may be
better in shorter-term assignments or assignments where they would not
work with clients or the general public, or who would not be appropriate
in any role at the organization.
Local Volunteers To Increase Diversity Among the Ranks
Having plenty of volunteers usually isn't enough to say a volunteering
program is successful. Another indicator of success is if your
volunteers represent a variety of ages, education-levels, economic
levels and other demographics, or are a reflection of your local
community. Most organizations don't want volunteers to be a homogeneous
group; they want to reach a variety of people as volunteers (and donors
and other supporters, for that matter). This resource will help you
think about how to recruit for diversity, or to reach a specific
- Creating Group Volunteering Activities
Details on not just what groups of volunteers can do in a two-hour,
half-day or all-day event, but also just how much an organization or
program will need to do to prepare a site for group volunteering. It's
an expensive, time-consuming endeavor - are you ready? Is it worth it?
consulting services & my
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