Campaigning guidance

Our guidance for charities on campaigning in the lead up to the general election. Learn more

Helen Tourle profile picture

Helen Tourle

Helen Tourle

Senior Consultant, Volunteering

Helen can help with all aspects of volunteer involvement

Helen Tourle profile picture
Senior Consultant, Volunteering

How can we make volunteering more inclusive for disabled people?

Helen Tourle profile picture

Helen Tourle

Helen Tourle

Senior Consultant, Volunteering

Helen can help with all aspects of volunteer involvement

Helen Tourle profile picture
Senior Consultant, Volunteering

This National Inclusion Week, our senior consultant for volunteering, Helen Tourle, shares her top tips on how charities and voluntary organisations can make it easier for disabled people to volunteer.

We know that volunteering carries huge benefits for those who take part. It can give individuals the chance to contribute to their community and make a difference to the causes that are meaningful to them.

In our Time Well Spent research, 75% of respondents reported that volunteering directly improved their mental health and wellbeing.

But not everyone is able to participate equally. We know that disabled people have a different experience of volunteering to non-disabled people.

On average they report lower levels of satisfaction and significant barriers. These include practical barriers, as well as cultural and attitudinal barriers. Barriers come from the public, organisations, paid staff, and other volunteers.

So, how can your organisation make volunteering inclusive for disabled people?

Here are some of our top tips.

Increase understanding and knowledge

  • Do you have disability-inclusive training for staff and volunteers in your organisation? Building confidence and knowledge about disability is key to understanding and addressing the barriers disabled volunteers face. You could approach local organisations with expertise to see how you could share mutual training and learning.
  • Focus on the support and adjustments that volunteers need rather than their impairment or health condition. Regularly ask your volunteers about their needs and attempt to understand potential barriers. Make sure you're realistic and transparent.
  • Take a look at the culture in your organisation as well as your communications. Look out for stereotypes, stigma and unconscious bias about disabled people and address any concerns head on.

Make it easy to get involved

Consider how you could make your volunteer processes more accessible.

  • Nobody is expected to be an expert in all needs and adjustments, so ask for advice. Who are the national or local organisations working with disabled people who could offer advice?
  • Have you considered how disabled volunteers might experience your recruitment process? Use a range of recruitment methods, offer multiple methods of communication and provide different formats for recruitment resources.
  • Make sure you understand and can explain how volunteering could affect benefits claims. This may be a question some disabled people have. Read our guidance on volunteers who can claim benefits.

Offer flexible options

Flexible volunteering can be especially important for disabled volunteers.

Flexibility helps create an environment where people feel able to disclose their support needs. It can also allow individuals to volunteer when and where they're able to.

  • Can you identify activities that could be done as a pair or a group? This could help disabled people carry out volunteering with additional support if they need it.
  • Can you offer any of your volunteering opportunities remotely? Technology can be an enabler and a leveller for disabled volunteers. It allows disabled people to volunteer in a way and at a time that suits their needs.

Understand skills and motivations

  • Take time in your volunteer recruitment and management to understand volunteers’ motivations. This can help you provide volunteering opportunities which meet their aspirations. For example, volunteers might want to:
    • increase their skills for employment
    • enhance their knowledge of a particular interest
    • enable more social connections.
  • Our Time Well Spent research shows many disabled volunteers don’t feel their skills and knowledge are utilised. Consider how you enquire about and record the skills, interests, and abilities of volunteers. This will help you to match volunteer activities and enable people to play to their strengths.
  • Be mindful not to view disabled people only through the lens of their disability. Disability is not one dimensional and not everyone with support and access needs will identify as a disabled person. Be considerate of how the person can contribute through their skills and interests.

We hope this has been helpful. If you need any support or advice on making your organisation more inclusive for disabled volunteers, please get in touch with our consultancy team: consultancy@ncvo.org.uk.

Back to top