Post | October 2023 | Volunteer Stories | 3 min read

Barriers To Volunteering That People Might Experience

Written by Amy
Young lady standing in a field looking at the camera.


It’s Amy here and I’m going to give you an overview of what barriers people might come up against when they’re looking for voluntary work. As you might be aware…

It’s important for both the volunteer and the charity or group that they volunteer with, to understand each other and for the volunteer to feel supported in their role. Some people with certain disabilities may expect you to know how they want to be supported, but if you don’t, then they would be happy to talk to you about it and you just need to ask.   


Have you ever thought that it might be worth asking people what they feel comfortable with and try to adjust as much as you can to make them feel welcome?


Everybody is different and might struggle in their own ways, but I would like you to think about a few examples and put yourself in their shoes.  


 The potential volunteer may find the application process difficult (for example, if it has to be done online and they don’t have access to the internet). Some find reading and writing challenging, and others understand pictures easier than words or people from other countries may have limited understanding of English.  

If references are needed, then some people may find these difficult to obtain, particularly if they have never worked before, and you didn’t explain that they could be character references from people who they know.


If there’s an interview process, then some might find it very nerve-racking meeting new people for the first time, might need to be given more time than others to answer questions and some questions may need to be explained and made easier to understand.  


Some might struggle to look people in the eye when they’re being spoken to (some people with Autism might even find it painful) and it may be considered rude in other cultures. 


And some people with specific disabilities or health conditions may say or behave in a way that most people view as rude or inappropriate, but they don’t mean to offend anyone (and of course, they deserve the same chances as everyone else).  


There are lots of different barriers that people might face when looking for volunteering opportunities. The potential volunteer may have issues with transport (like unreliable bus services and other means of transport being very expensive). Some people are sensitive to certain temperatures and might feel unable to come to their voluntary work if it’s too hot or cold. Some need to take more time off than others so that they can keep appointments that are important for their well-being. People with certain disabilities may struggle in particular environments (but still want to work in that setting). People from different cultures might need to take time off for religious events (and might not feel comfortable to wear certain clothes if there’s a uniform involved).  


Some people may need to take breaks at certain times so that they can take medication that’s important for their well-being and some people may need a quiet space to relax for a bit (people who have Autism and experience sensory overload might need somewhere where they can chill out for a bit and “stim”). Some people who have Tourette’s may have tic attacks where they need to be on their own for a bit (these can be exhausting). People who have epilepsy may need someone to stay with them after a seizure and if able to be moved once they have come out of it, then it might be good to have a quiet place for them to relax. People who have mental health issues may need somewhere to chill if things get too much for them and they need a break.  


People who have physical disabilities or health conditions may need adjustments made so that they can work comfortably (with things at their level if they need to sit down) or easy to reach if they have to reach up and are able to do so. Some people (no matter what their disability or background) may want or need someone to support them until they feel comfortable in their voluntary role (like a mentor).  


I wanted you to see how much effort people put into becoming your volunteers, especially when they have to face so many barriers. It’s very important for you to know, not only because you can support them better, but also because I feel it will make you appreciate them more. 

If you are a volunteer or an organisation and want to write a blog for Volunteer Cambs please get in contact with [email protected]

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