Volunteering England targets deaf volunteers

Volunteering England is launching a sign language introduction to its website to help address concerns that volunteering is not accessible to deaf people.

The move follows a survey in which almost two thirds of respondents said volunteering organisations are not well prepared to work with deaf volunteers.

The poll, conducted on the Volunteering England website in March and April, saw just 20 per cent of the 374 respondents answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you think volunteering organisations are well prepared to work with and support deaf volunteers?’ A further 16 per cent answered ‘just about’.

The video introduction, launched to coincide with Deaf Awareness week, outlines Volunteering England’s support services for people working with volunteers, and signposts potential volunteers to volunteer centres.

Volunteering England chief executive Christopher Spence said he hoped the video, produced in conjunction with the British Deaf Association and funded by the Volunteering Hub, would act as “a gesture of welcome to deaf visitors in their preferred language”.

He also said he hoped it would encourage other organisations to improve their accessibility. “It is very important that potential volunteers and those working with them are able to access information in a meaningful way,” he said.

The website also contains eight case studies involving deaf volunteers. A spokesman for Volunteering England said: “not all volunteer-involving organisations can use sign language, but that's also the case when deaf people visit their local bank or doctor's surgery. Everyone's deafness or hearing impairment is different, and people find ways to communicate in many different ways.”

Commission for the Future of Volunteering member Tom Levitt, who has worked as a consultant to improve deaf people’s access to services and information, said: “Initiatives like this will do much to give deaf people, so often excluded from the mainstream, the confidence to volunteer within our communities."

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