KVIN team up with Third Sector Leaders and Volunteering Kirklees to offer a bespoke ‘Inclusive Volunteering with a Visual Impairment’ training course recently.
On Friday 28th February our volunteer coordinator Claire, accompanied by sight impaired volunteers Sam and Aisha led a training session for workers and volunteers of other Kirklees third sector organisations. The aim of the course was to inform and advise other organisations how they can implement simple changes to make themselves more accessible to potential visually impaired volunteers. The session focused on adapting recruitment, induction and retention, as well as giving a general overview of sight loss.
There were 12 participants from 10 organisations.
Of the participants, 10 rated the session as excellent and 2 rated it good. All 12 stated they had learnt something new to take away and use in their organisations.
More specific feedback included;
‘Trainers with real experience-insightful’
‘Content was unique and specific to inclusion and working with visual impairments’
All participants left the session with the KVIN top tips for inclusive volunteering for people with visual impairments, here are our top tips!
- advertise in a variety of places so that the information is available.
- Volunteering Kirklees website is accessible and a great place to start.
- Have large print leaflets and posters, most people with a visual impairment have some vision that they can use. Large print should be in at least 16pt in a clear font with a plain background.
Make sure your website and social media is accessible;
- Describing photos, or putting alternative text (alt text), for people who are blind or partially sighted is really important, as it allows them to build up a mental picture of what someone who is sighted is seeing automatically.
- When you’re using hashtags, always use CamelCase (capitalise the first letter of every word). This means that the words in the hashtag are read out correctly by screen readers – it also makes them easier to read for everybody else. For example, you would write #HowISee, rather than #howisee.
- For more ideas see this accessible social media blog
- Offer chance to speak to or meet the person before asking them to apply as a volunteer.
- Make sure application or registration forms are accessible (avoid tick boxes, these don’t work well with screen reader and basic print, we recommend Arial).
- People with visual impairment may struggle to find referees if they haven’t worked or volunteered previously, offer flexibility in this if possible.
- Offer to complete forms with the person face to face.
Flexibility in roles;
- Can your roles be adapted for people with different needs? Work with the roles you already have but speak to individuals about their interests and abilities to adapt roles around them.
- Can roles be completed at home?
- Is there flexibility to volunteer seasonally?
- Ask what the person needs, don’t assume! Only 5% of visually impaired people read braille, check first of braille would be useful.
- Things that may help are lighting adjustments, large print, email information that might otherwise be available on paper, being aware of furniture and trip hazards.
- KVIN can offer advice and support around assistive technology so we can either support the VI person to develop their skills or help the organisation have the right things in place for the volunteer.
- Offer to guide the person around the building and to and from local public transport. Sighted Guide training is available, contact KVIN for how to organise this.
- Offer a trail period so that adaptations can be worked out and both parties can make sure the role is working well.
- Match up a volunteer buddy who can help the volunteer settle in and help them to navigate the space until they feel confident to do this themselves.
Day to day:
- Raise awareness of visual impairment generally to staff, volunteers and service users. Ask the volunteer what others they are working with might need to know and pass on the information.
- Minimise the movement of furniture so that the layout remains much the same on a long-term basis, if it changes let them know.
- Encourage everyone to announce when they enter or leave a room so that the VI person knows who is there.
Ongoing support and training;
- Offer ongoing supervision and chance to have an open discussion about how it is going and to be able to give feedback.
- Allow roles to be adapted or developed as the volunteer becomes more confident.
- Offer training and development opportunities but there may need to be flexibility.
- Online eLearning training may be more accessible
- Make sure transport issues are covered if training is located in new places and assistance is provided.
- Get support from KVIN and Volunteering Kirklees, we will help where we can!
- Kirklees Transcription Service: council service where alternative formats can be created plus info and advice 01484 221955 Transcription.firstname.lastname@example.org www.kirklees.gov.uk/transcription
- The best policy is to always ASK! Then listen and do your best to make the adjustments needed. If something isn’t possible or might take some time, let the person know why and how long it may take.
- Concentrate on what the person can do rather than what they can’t do.
‘Visually impaired people have a lot to give!’ Aisha