For example, disabled people may need adjustments or assistance to enable them to volunteer - including specially adapted equipment - and buildings need to be physically accessible and conveniently located near appropriate public transport routes.
But it's not just the physical obstacles that discourage disabled people from volunteering. Organisations sometimes send out messages that put potential volunteers off, such as images of volunteering that show disabled people as passive beneficiaries rather than active volunteers with skills to offer. And encountering the negative beliefs and stereotypes about the ability of disabled people to volunteer can be a real turn-off.
Scope's London Volunteer Network (LVN) is fully inclusive and we involve volunteers from the whole community. Most of our volunteers are disabled people so we asked them what makes our project so magnetic. They came up with the following points:
We pay for all out of pocket volunteer expenses (including taxis,
lunch, costs of carers or assistants, equipment, interpreters etc).
Our building is accessible and we make ongoing improvements at the suggestion of volunteers. For example we installed colour-coded signs, which not only makes a practical difference but also encourages volunteers when they can see they have been listened to and their ideas implemented.
Volunteers feel safe: this is particularly important for vulnerable people who are not used to voluntary work. Our volunteers are often involved in carrying out risk assessment, which promotes an understanding of health and safety issues and helps people feel more secure.
Our service users and volunteers are involved in every level of the volunteer programme - from coming up with ideas and chairing meetings, to setting up a working group to help with the planning and delivery of the project.
When we have meetings our venues provide appropriate support, such as cups with handles, drinking straws, and people to write for you. We avoid voting by show of hands, and make time to listen to people with speech impairments. Minutes of meetings are pictorial so they include as many people as possible, including those with learning difficulties.
We also do what we can to actively aid and simplify communication. We use plain English and provide interpreters where needed (including sign language). Information is given in a choice of formats, including email, letters and telephone. Letters of invitation use large print, and reply cards are printed in black on yellow to make them easier to read - they are already addressed and stamped, so that disabled people don't have the hassle and expense of getting envelopes and stamps nor have to queue up in the Post Office.
Working with a very diverse range of people can be hard - don't be afraid to ask for guidance and support, and share your successes with others!
By Kate Power.
Reprinted from Turn Your Organisation Into A Volunteer Magnet, 2nd edition (ed. Fryar, Jackson & Dyer) 2007
For the complete copy of Turn Your Organisation Into A Volunteer Magnet go to