Seeing volunteering differently

26 September 2019

We continue our series of guest inclusion blogs with some advice from Hollie Wilson of the RNIB on welcoming blind and partially sighted volunteers into your organisation.

RNIB See DifferentlyLet’s stop sight loss from being a barrier to volunteering. At RNIB we try to make our volunteering opportunities as inclusive as possible and we’d like to encourage you to consider how welcoming your volunteer opportunities are to people who have sight loss.

We want our opportunities to be accessible from the beginning so we make sure that our opportunities can be read online using accessible technologies and that our applications forms are available as accessible online forms (e.g. in alternative formats such as braille and audio).

We encourage our volunteer managers to feel comfortable asking questions at the point of application to understand what adjustments they can make if someone with sight loss applies to volunteer. The main questions we want to ask are:

  • Do you need any accessibility tech?
    Such as JAWS, NVDA (which is free) or Zoom Text. There’s lots of information about accessibility tech on our website.

  • Will you need any sighted guiding to navigate and familiarise yourself with where you’ll be volunteering?
    Our volunteers will need to know the layout of where they’re volunteering. For example office volunteers need to know: the location of the fire exits, kitchen and toilets. Sighted guiding doesn’t have to be complicated and you could offer this as an opportunity for other volunteers and staff who will be working alongside this volunteer.  Check out our guidance around sight guiding.

  • What format would you prefer to receive written information?
    We ask how our applicants prefer to read information; it could be in audio, email/Word documents, braille or large print. Please call our Helpline for information on how to order braille, audio and large print, 0303 123 99 99. If they prefer information to be in an electronic format then we need to make sure we format this correctly. For guidance on how to create accessible electronic documents you can find some great advice here.

  • Are any lighting adjustments needed?
    Sometimes our office based volunteers require lighting adjustments. Adjustments could be removing the light directly above their desk, increasing the light by adding lamps or closing blinds to avoid glare.

  • Will they need a bit more space? Do they work with a guide dog?
    If a new volunteer joins me who requires specialist equipment or has a guide dog then I’ll need to make sure they have enough desk space for the equipment or for their dog to lie under. I also need to make sure that other staff and volunteers who’ll be working alongside them are aware how to interact with a guide dog. Here’s some guidance on interacting with a guide dog that you can share with other staff and volunteers:
      • Don’t distract a guide dog when they’re in their harness. The harness means that they’re working and are guiding their owner around, if they’re distracted this can be frustrating or even dangerous for their owner
      • Do not feed a guide dog
      • Only pat a guide dog if it’s off its harness and the owner says you can do so
      • If the guide dog is to stay under the volunteer’s desk, do not coax it out. This means that its owner won’t know where their dog is and could be dangerous if the fire alarm were to go off.

  • Will you need any additional expenses?
    We encourage our colleagues to find out about additional expenses at the recruitment stage. Their team’s budget needs to be considered if a new volunteer will need to take expensive taxi journeys.

Improve your understanding of sight loss

If you’d like to develop your understanding of sight loss you can watch our videos and access our workbook called “Living with Sight Loss” on our website.

Get in touch with us!

We’ll be happy to speak with you about accessibility and volunteering.
RNIB Helpline: 0303 123 99 99
RNIB Volunteering team:

The National Inclusion in Volunteering Group coordinated by Volunteer Scotland has produced a series of Top Tips for Inclusion.