Prioritizing Access, What Volunteers Should Know

Posted: 2019-07-02 2:51:55 PM by WorkInCulture editor | with 52 comments

This includes the blog title and writer over an image of an empty communal space

Prioritizing Access (Volunteers)
Inclusive Workshops (Teaching Tips)
 Support Providers
Leaders with Disabilities
 Trauma-Informed Practices
Meaningful Outreach

Written by Emily Gillespie

Volunteers are a vital part of the arts and culture sector and they have the opportunity to make the arts more accessible. This post focuses on events; however, the ideas can be applied to volunteers and placement students supporting daily operations.

Prior to events, such as a conference or festival, you may want to establish a volunteer accessibility committee and an access plan. The committee which primarily consists of people with various disabilities can serve as a consulting group. They may do things such as screen venues for accessibility. Thinking about accessibility happens before, during and after events, and volunteers can be involved in all stages of this process along with staff.

Accessibility is not something that can be completely established prior to an event, creating more accessible spaces is part of an ongoing dialogue. For instance, what if an event is promoted as being accessible, but participants cannot find the accessibility features? That is why having staff and volunteers who are aware of the accessibility features of the event are essential.  Bigger events often have a visibly marked accessibility team.

An accessibility team may do things such as problem solve (perhaps the Live Captioning is not working) and help folks navigate accessibility features such as finding the accessible washroom or getting around construction.  This blog provides a few guidelines on accessibility, please ensure that all volunteers are aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and that volunteer orientation and manuals follow the AODA requirements, see resources included under Further Reading.

A few Things to Remember for Events 

  • Make it clear what each volunteer role entails, so that volunteers know how much time and energy they are committing.

  • Are there opportunities for disabled people to be involved and volunteer? Have an accessibility plan for disabled volunteers

  • Ensure that volunteers that are not directly part of the access team are still thinking about accessibility, for instance, can they direct a person to an access team volunteer?  Are they aware of how to work with service providers such as ASL? Can they remind participants to speak into the microphone? Are the folks setting up the room aware of space for people using mobility devices etc.?

  • Ensure that the accessibility team and volunteers have sufficient training, are familiar with the venue (and any potential challenges with the venue), and that volunteers have supports, such as a system for checking-in with other volunteers and staff. It may be beneficial to create training documents, especially if you are running a reoccurring event or coordinating a big team.

  • Introduce participants to the visibly marked access team volunteers (or general volunteers) and mention what they do (it may be helpful to think about what positions may need paid trained staff versus volunteer supports).

  • It’s okay for volunteers to say no and have boundaries, for instance, maybe they can’t physically push a mobility device, that’s okay.

  • Remind volunteers to ask first and follow the lead of disabled people for instance asking, “Can I assist you? Do you need anything?”

  • Think about where volunteers are placed, for instance, if there’s an active listener, can a disabled person easily get to them during an event?

  • Volunteers do not need to know everything about all disabilities, but should be committed to challenging ableist thinking, not making assumptions about needs, not framing accessibility as a burden, being mindful of oppressive language etc.

Disabled people have various needs at different times and folks with similar disabilities may have different access needs.  Developing accessibility plans and best practices is part of an ongoing conversation. Develop a process for collecting and documenting feedback from attendees and volunteers during and after the event, and use this material to enhance further volunteer trainings and events.  This is the start of thinking about accessibility, please consult AODA guides.


AODA information
Further Reading


More Blogs from this series

Prioritizing Access (Volunteers)
Inclusive Workshops (Teaching Tips)
 Support Providers
Leaders with Disabilities
 Trauma-Informed Practices
Meaningful Outreach

Emily Gillespie is Toronto based author and disability consultant, who enjoys using art to talk about disability. Emily recognizes that disabled people have different experiences and through her work focuses on people’s individual needs. 

Follow Emily on Facebook and Twitter | Follow Accessbility Advocacy Art on Facebook

Amazing piece! I'll bookmark this and will share it to a friend.
2021-07-27 5:33:37 AM
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What kind of in-your-own-country volunteering do you really want to do, but have had trouble finding?

Where are you (in what country, what state and what city) and how have you looked for the kind of volunteering you've described and can't find?
2021-07-27 4:49:45 AM
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What domestic volunteering do you want to do but are having trouble finding?
2021-07-27 4:49:18 AM
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i used to write like 1-2 paragraphs a week for united5's website ~15-20 years ago when moses was on that team and even back then i got paid the $5 a month or w/e in the form of free esea.
2021-07-27 4:48:16 AM
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I use the MoSCoW Method to prioritize what I need to focus on.
2021-07-27 4:47:19 AM
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I prioritise the list but also categorise by how much I can achieve with the resources available to me and also how quickly I can complete an item. It is a bit like filling a jar with rocks, then pebbles, sand and water. I start with the highest priority until I can't go any further and depending on the wait time I will pick up the next task (by prio) that will fit in that time frame. If I have a big task that requires full concentration I often will complete alot of the smaller tasks first to allow me to focus on the main task without interruption.
2021-07-27 4:46:41 AM
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I have a list. I then order the list. Typically, I try to intersperse easier tasks as breaks from harder or more boring ones.
2021-07-27 4:46:05 AM
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Well, I'm using GTD, and it tends to de-emphasise priorities in favour of contexts and available actions.
2021-07-27 4:45:35 AM
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I use Trello and have a Week planner board that has week says as cards.

Each day has the following categories

IGT's (income generating tasks) Pretty self-explanatory

KRA's (Key resource area's) Learning, Product development, writing, marketing, networking

OPE's (other people emergencies) Again self-explanatory, I try to outsource or delegate anything in this category

I do not have more than two per category as a rule of thumb and I put small tasks into one card and count it as one so I do not have fake victories

Hope that helps (may not but it works for me!)
2021-07-27 4:45:02 AM
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I have a list of things to do on an text editor that auto-saves. I just make a lot of bullet points and knock em down as the day goes by. I also send myself emails as reminders (a bit odd but it's what I like).
2021-07-27 4:44:06 AM
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The more tasks affect my future well-being, the higher their priority. This means that my school assignments are currently more important than exercising every day, although I still try to make that happen as well. Under exercise is chores, because I can technically live okay in a messy room.
2021-07-27 4:43:36 AM
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Gut feeling?

If there's too much write them down on a bit of paper.

Importance vs urgency are useful concepts.

"what events are important to me in the future" is a good way to fire up ur sub conscious.

I dunno. Haven't solved this problem yet...
2021-07-27 4:42:59 AM
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I ask myself three questions.

Does this need to be done? - If no, it goes in the trash.

Does this need to be done by me? - If no, it gets delegated.

Does this need to be done by me today? - If no, it gets added to my list. If yes, it gets added to my list for today.
2021-07-27 4:42:23 AM
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Answering yourself? That's productive.
2021-07-27 4:41:51 AM
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This link is a gold mine. Thank you
2021-07-27 4:41:12 AM
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Do you have a framework or philosophy that serves you well when you're looking at a long list of tasks or options that you could choose?
2021-07-27 4:40:13 AM
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great post !!
2021-07-27 3:32:58 AM
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I'm impressed, I have to admit. Really rarely do you encounter a weblog that's both educative and entertaining
2021-07-25 8:29:40 PM
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Prioritization on those who need it is a definite must when it comes to events. More so, educating the volunteers about this. Thanks for sharing this WIC!
2021-07-17 6:48:25 AM
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Great insights Emily. This is so useful for volunteer work.
2021-07-15 1:15:06 PM
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Thank you for sharing this amazing post. keep up the great work
2021-07-07 4:40:06 AM
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Absolutely right! priority is very essential!
2021-07-01 11:55:18 AM
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I really agree with your thoughts! Thanks for making it simple!
2021-07-01 11:52:38 AM
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Prioritizing access is a big deal for people and events. It shows that a company greatly cares for equality and being fair on who to showcase their products or services. Thanks for sharing this WIC
2021-07-01 5:14:20 AM
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Thank you for these tips.
2021-06-23 8:48:40 PM
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I am all that much satisfied with the substance you have specified. I needed to thank you for this extraordinary article.
2021-06-22 8:34:07 AM
I want to become a volunteer but preferably will join on weekends only. What are the requirements? More power to the organization!
2021-06-18 6:46:59 PM
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Prioritizing access to people with special needs is highly important. Thanks for sharing this!
2021-06-18 5:40:57 AM
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I enjoyed this article. Thank you for sharing it.
2021-06-14 9:30:14 PM
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Prioritization of access is what separates a great company from a good one. Thank you for sharing these tips!
2021-06-14 7:41:05 AM
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I needed to thank you for this incredible read! I like each and every piece of it. I have bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post.
2021-06-08 10:18:47 AM
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Great insights! Thanks for sharing this information and perspective.
2021-06-06 2:42:20 PM
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it's always important to educate everybody about the importance of volunteering and its effect on us. Thank you so much for sharing this!
2021-06-02 10:08:27 AM
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It's great that you guys are raising awareness regarding these issues. Thank you so much for doing this. !
2021-05-31 11:16:45 PM
That's so beautiful
2021-05-30 1:41:21 AM
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Planning is a crucial step
2021-05-29 11:23:37 PM
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Accessibility in any event or profession is important. We as professionals should always give extra attention to this. Thanks for sharing this!
2021-05-27 5:22:51 AM
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Great service Knowledgeable staff Good communication On-time service Highly recommend.
2021-05-25 11:32:25 PM
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Thank you for sharing this awesome and informative post. Great work keeps sharing.
2021-05-21 2:44:45 AM
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This is such a great blog. Thank you for sharing your talent with everyone. You are an inspiration.
2021-05-17 12:43:21 AM
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We should Really give priority to people who have special needs. I really enjoy arts events and I want other to experience the same level of passion it gives me. Thanks for sharing this!
2021-05-03 7:46:28 AM
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Thanks for your hard work in raising awareness of these issues, it's one of the things I like the most about you guys. Keep up the great work!
2021-04-22 7:51:44 AM
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Thank you for the good news and good information like this.
2021-04-22 4:26:10 AM
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This is a great and informative guideline for event volunteers. We do need to pay special attention to ensure that everyone has equal access and amenities in an event. Thank you work in culture for this!
2021-04-21 7:58:55 AM
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Great idea! Giving proper responsibilities and jobs to people with disabilities is a great way to make them feel welcome in any event. Great stuff as always!
2021-04-20 7:28:12 AM
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Expectations have changed. But if you can meet them, your volunteers will be happy and will stick around.
2021-04-14 9:03:16 AM
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I enjoyed over read your post. He has nice information, I got good ideas from this post. Keep sharing.
2021-04-13 11:47:55 PM
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event planning is something that you need to carefully plan. Especially for prioritizing access for some people. It's not just an event, but a science. Thanks for sharing this article. Will help a lot of event planners out there!
2021-04-08 6:31:26 AM
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I really never understood what exactly an events planner is for. But after reading this, I'm shocked at the amount of work, strategizing, and planning that goes into running an event. Thanks for sharing!
2021-04-05 8:19:09 AM
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Wow! I never heard anything like this! Thanks for the share!
2021-02-10 11:43:07 PM
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I love your content! Great job! :)
2021-02-10 11:42:43 PM
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Thanks for sharing this! This is very insightful! :D
2021-02-10 11:42:23 PM
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