Impact Feature Issue on Paraeducators Supporting Students with Disabilities and At-Risk

Improving Inclusion in Volunteer Programs

Below are steps that organizations can take to ensure that their doors are open to volunteers with developmental disabilities. For additional information or assistance related to any of these items, local chapters of disability organizations such as Arc, Easter Seals, or United Cerebral Palsy can be valuable resources, as can disability agencies and services.

  • Evaluate your program’s accessibility on the physical, programmatic, attitudinal, and economic levels. 
  • Be familiar with your obligations under disability-related laws.
  • Include as a part of your volunteer and staff training a section on disability awareness and sensitivity. 
  • Ensure that your volunteer or service positions have clear position descriptions stating the essential functions of the positions.
  • Ensure that your application process and all forms are accessible.
  • Actively recruit qualified persons with disabilities by sending information about volunteer positions to local disability agencies. Add an inclusive statement to all of your recruitment materials (e.g. “Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply”).
  • Make the interview about ability and not disability. 
  • Be prepared to coordinate reasonable accommodation requests. Determine what resources are available to implement accommodations before anyone ever makes a request.

Adapted with permission from materials written by Helen Lowery and Amy Desenberg-Wines of Disability Consulting, L.C., Norwalk, IA.