Persons with disabilities, older people and other at-risk groups are almost always assumed to be the beneficiaries of the volunteer efforts and seldom part of the volunteer workforce due to the misconceptions about them being unable to contribute. When they are included as volunteers, it is often expected that they will perform tasks that other community members would typically be paid, for free. Challenge these assumptions and welcome every community member to contribute to the collective emergency preparedness and disaster resilience efforts.
Persons with functional limitations or other difficulties to engage in some labour-intensive types of volunteer work can contribute in disaster risk management efforts in many ways (the list is not exhaustive):
- Leading and participating in disaster risk planning- and management teams.
- Providing instructions on preparedness and personal protection.
- Teaching first responders and humanitarian actors about adequately supporting persons from at-risk groups.
- Participating in search and rescue by finding potentially affected persons and leading them to help.
- Developing and distributing information in multiple formats.
- Collecting, sorting and distributing water, food and supplies.
- Remaining in one location and providing directional or other information.
- Providing personal assistance services to other persons with functional limitations as required.
- Participating in debris removal, repair and rebuilding by providing guidance on universal design to build back better.
Women, older persons and persons with disabilities must always be paid the same for work that any other member of the community would be paid to do, without exception.
Volunteers with disabilities may require:
- Support from other volunteers with lifting, opening, carrying, reviewing or recalling instructions and other aspects of an assignment.
- Accessible transportation, workplaces, restrooms, path of travel.
- Readers, interpreters, captioning, materials in alternate formats, or additional time to process information and environmental settings that optimize their skills and abilities (quiet space, for example).
While some persons may readily identify what they can do, and what they will need, engaging other volunteers in an encouraging discussion about their interests, skills and support needs will very likely result in a fit. Just as with anyone else, it may take a few tries and possibly a change in assignment to make a match.