Why volunteers with disability are an “untapped resource” for the NFP sector
18 September 2019 at 3:32 pm
People with disability are the “best kind of volunteer” an organisation can have and need to be better embraced by the not-for-profit community, sector leaders say.
During a Victoria Alive NFP leaders breakfast in Melbourne on Tuesday, a panel discussed the importance of disability inclusion in volunteering.
While people with disability volunteer at almost the same rate as the general population, they face additional barriers such as negative attitudes, misconceptions and a lack of accessibility.
These barriers mean people with a profound or severe disability volunteer at less than half the rate of the general population.
Anthony Aitken, a City of Greater Geelong councillor and the president of Volunteering Geelong, said people with disability were an “untapped resource” for the sector.
He told attendees that the sector needed to realise that people with disability could make better volunteers than able-bodied people.
“Some of those reasons are because they’re actually more committed, they’re more punctual, they’re more reliable and they have a real empathy with the people that they’re working with,” Aitken said.
“That’s why it should be a priority for these organisations because they’re the best kind of volunteers you can have.”
The panel spoke about how inclusive organisations benefited from access to a wider talent pool, and gained volunteers who were loyal, reliable, and highly conscious of safety.
People with disability themselves also benefit from the networking opportunities, skill development and pathways to employment that volunteering offers.
Melissa Hale, the coordinator of Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU), said she had seen the benefits of inclusive volunteering working with Cricket Victoria and Cricket Australia.
“We run a deaf cricket team now. And when we first met with Cricket Victoria and Cricket Australia, they started to see the joint value of investing into disability cricket,” Hale said.
“And once they understood how committed people with disability were to their [cricket clubs], it opened up new funding and opportunities for them and now Cricket Australia has an all new disability cricket division.”
The push for inclusive volunteering is being driven by the Victoria Alive project, which recommends NFPs develop a disability action plan, train staff and volunteers, and creates pathways to employment for people with disability.
Leah Van Poppel, the CEO of Women with Disability Victoria, said people with disability also needed to be involved in business planning processes, building redevelopments and other important parts of the organisations.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, in terms of setting up volunteering or hiring programs for people with disability, but it’s really important that you ask yourself as an organisation ‘how are we including people with disability in the design of this?’” Van Poppel said.
“We need to value people with disabilities’ expertise, and ensure they are at the front of mind for the design of all our programs.”