Engaging Youth with Disabilities in Service (page 3)
In an effort to allow everyone the opportunity for greatness, we encourage and challenge you to consider ways to involve volunteers with disabilities in your community service programming. It is imperative that we all begin to view individuals with disabilities as valuable, skilled resources rather than people who are only able to participate on the receiving end of community service.
Many obstacles can deter youth volunteers with disabilities from participating in regularly scheduled activities. Take the time to assess facilities and personnel for potential problems. Your outreach efforts are more likely to succeed if you are aware of disability-related issues that might arise in recruiting and working with youth; assess you program’s present strengths and weaknesses with respect to youth with disabilities; evaluate your staff’s sensitivity and train them accordingly, and acquaint yourself with resources that will help you learn more.
Staff Sensitivity Evaluation:
Sometimes the most difficult obstacles to surmount involve attitudes such as prejudice and stereotyping. Get a sense of your staff’s sensitivity to, and knowledge about, people with disabilities. These tools and techniques can help you establish your base line and begin your assessment:
- Scale of Attitudes towards Disabled Persons (SADP) is an initial measurement
- Disability Quotient Questionnaire (DQQ)
- Staff discussion of history and experiences with disabilities
Physical Site Assessment:
How accessible is your program for participants with various types of disabilities? Do architectural barriers hinder the movement of an individual with a disability? Are programs or activities inaccessible to volunteers with disabilities? Use these resources to find the answers:
- Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG)
- Access Measurement Tools
- Regional and national assistance centers
Getting on Track
Etiquette for working with youth with disabilities
The key to ensuring a successful service project experience for everyone is PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. Volunteers with disabilities are no different. Like any volunteers, they want to give their time and energy to improve their community. An individual’s disability should only be considered to determine what accommodations will work best for that individual and allow them to give their all to the project.
Community service program planners and you development workers should help these youth:
1. Recognize, express and accept their feelings
2. Understand how others feel about and react to their disabilities
3. Be a teenager…who happens to be a person with a disability
Accomodating Youth Volunteers with Disabilities
Highly developed medicine, sophisticated rehabilitation techniques and enlightened legislation make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in all types of activities. Despite all these advances, discrimination still occurs; some buildings and service sites are not accessible to individuals with different disabilities.
Involving youth with disabilities in a variety of settings often means providing or allowing the use of accommodations that remove barriers. Assess each setting for accessibility and make evaluations on a case-by-case basis to determine what personal accommodations volunteers may need to carry out their service. Such accommodations might include:
- Assistive technology (‘Bobby approved’ website*, etc.)
- Minor changes and adjustments in the project site
- Alternative meeting places and/or media formats
Visit these organizations’ websites for more information on how to engage youth with disabilities:
- AmeriCorps Program Directors Resource Guide to Disability Inclusion: www.etr.org/nsrc/pdfs/disabilguid.pdf
- Autism Society of America: www.autism-society.org
- Best Buddies, International: www.bestbuddies.org
- International Dyslexia Association: www.interdys.org
- March of Dimes: www.modimes.org
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: www.nmss.org
- National Organization on Disability: www.nod.org
- United Cerebral Palsy: www.ucp.org
Information for this Tip Sheet provided courtesy of Youth Volunteer Corps of America. The resources described above are available in the Youth Volunteer Corps Training Manual for working with Youth Volunteers Who Have Disabilities. For more information or to receive a complete manual, please contact:
Youth Volunteer Corps of America, 4600 West 51st Street, Suite 300 Shawnee Mission, KS 66205 TELEPHONE: 913-432-9822 FAX: 913-432-3313
* “Bobby” approved websites are tools for Web page authors. “Bobby” helps them identify changes to their pages so users with disabilities can more easily use their Web pages. For more information on this service, visit http://www.cast.org/bobby/
Reprinted with the permission of Youth Service America. © 1996-2008 Youth Service America. All Rights Reserved.
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