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DRC guidance on volunteering: its not enough

The DRC has published a guide 'Recruiting, Retaining and Developing Disabled Volunteers'.

Immediately, I went to search for interpreters, as I wanted to know how this guide dealt with this issue. Deaf people and volunteering, costs always gets in the way as far as communication goes. Yes its possible to volunteer where face to face communication is not always an issue, but that defeats opportunity.

Yes volunteering is about giving your skills to an organisation, however its frequently a misconception that this is a one way street. To be motivated into volunteering, you need to get something back. In fact volunteering is seen by the mainstream as potential routes to skill building and stepping stones to where you want to be.

However, what happens when you are unable to access volunteering? Deaf people need interpreters, therefore who pays? Say you wanted to volunteer at your local CAB, who pays for the cost for your communication support to attend meetings, training and perhaps even an advice situation? Whilst I've always argued that applications for funding for volunteers from organisations should always include an element of costs around reasonable adjustments (in the same way other costs such as overheads should be covered), there is always a bottom line the whole point of volunteering is that there's no money to pay someone to do the work.

The problem with lack of volunteering opportunities, is it becomes a form of indirect discrimination when it comes to doing other things in life. Applying for a job? Your prospective employer, and HR is going to notice that you don't have experience. Thus your application gets turned down. Indirect discrimination is not covered by the DDA, thus its perfectly legal.

Going back to the DDA guidelines, it touches on some of these issues, but barely scratches the surface relating to the issues out there. This is what it says:

Page 26

VOPs can budget for ‘reasonable adjustments’ and have a central fund available for potential costs of interpreters and other human support, assistive technology, extra travel costs and so on. Appendix 3 lists some organisations which may be prepared to consider making access related grants.

And a case study:

Page 16

Jamie, a management consultant and BSL user, participates in a national scheme and mentors two university students taking business related degrees. He does this via a video link with an interpreter which has been established between the university and his home office and which is supplemented by email communication.

That's it out of a 64 page document. Whilst not a policy document, but a guidance, it is painfully obvious that it really does not address this issue, and sweeps lack of an equal playing field under the carpet. On a practical level, it fails to recognise that its often easier to get organisations to fund tangible costs, and not intangible re-occurring ones. Perhaps another reason why language policy should be addressed as a separate issue in the UK?

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