By K W Warburton, The Reluctant Spoonie
Finding accessible work experience can be a challenge when you live with a chronic illness or disability. Many people take part in charity fundraising or volunteering to add skills to their CV. However, charities are not always accommodating to the needs of disabled volunteers or fundraisers. Unfortunately, ableism is rife within the charity sector. Many disabled people have been left out of fundraising events or voluntary work because their chosen charity could not accommodate their needs.
How to choose a charity to support
It is important to remember that ‘charity’ is just a tax status. Large charities will still be run by someone who gets a fat paycheck. Do your research before you approach any charity or non-profit to ensure that your values align. Unfortunately, ableism is common within the charity sector when trying to secure a voluntary role.
Many of us with a chronic illness or disability want to volunteer for charities that support our illnesses. However, not all charities involve those with the condition they support in their work.
1. Avoid saviours
Does the charity actively involve those with the condition that they aim to support in their work? I like to call these ‘saviour charities’ where they like to be seen to be helping a particular group of people, but do not involve them within the charity itself.
2. Send an introductory email
We have many skills that we can offer a charity and there are skills that volunteering for the charity can help us to develop. Send an email to the volunteer coordinator to introduce yourself and outline your skills. Additionally, let them know if there are any skills that you would like to develop.
3. Quit if they are not supporting you
Sometimes it is not obvious that a charity cannot accommodate your needs. I wasted so much time volunteering for a charity that wasn’t committed to supporting disabled volunteers. I wish that I had just quit after my first session, but I persevered because I really needed something to put on my CV. Trust me, there will be an opportunity out there that is the right for you.
How to make fundraising events more accessible
Inaccessible fundraising events are one of my biggest pet peeves within the charity sector. Not everybody can take part in a 5k run or attend a music festival. Ableism is common within charity sector fundraising, even if the event is being hosted by a chronic illness charity.
Here are some ways that you can make fundraising events more accessible:
- Livestream so that people can watch from home
- Provide a quiet room/ space
- Nametags for pronouns and communication level e.g. no Smalltalk
- Provide an interpreter for sign language
- Large print or braille versions of flyers and handouts
How can charities include housebound disabled people in their work?
One of the main barriers to voluntary work that I have experienced is that there are very few opportunities that can be conducted from home. Social media management or content creation is often the only voluntary opportunity available. Yet, there are many things that you can do from home such as bid-writing, admin or crafting for fundraising.
During the 2020 pandemic, many charities switched their work online, creating many new voluntary opportunities available. Of course, this was hard for people like me to watch after being told ‘no’ by many charities when asking for remote opportunities prior to the pandemic, only to see that it was actually possible. They just didn’t want to include disabled volunteers in their work.
Continuing hosting online events after the lockdowns have been lifted would be a great way for charities to include housebound people in their work. However, many are committed to ‘returning to normal’ which will exclude disabled people again.
Remote accessible voluntary opportunities
Patchwork Hub is a new social enterprise that helps people with chronic illness or disability find flexible and accessible work. You can join their team as a volunteer to develop your skills.
The City Girl Network is a collective of local communities within cities throughout the UK, Europe and USA which helps young people when they move to a new city.
City Girl Network has the following flexible volunteer roles available in each city:
- Marketing and Promotions
- Events Host
- Facebook Admin
- Digital Marketer
- Newsletter Writer
In addition to national coordinator roles to help develop City Girl Network.
After finding that many M.E charities held fundraising events that were inaccessible, Anna created her own fundraising event which is held on ‘Blue Sunday’ each year. Find out more here
Become an online tutor with The Access Project and tutor online for 1 hour per week.