By Pippa Weaver, Volunteer Engagement Officer, British Science Association

See our guidelines and top tips on the branches resources page.

‘Disability need not be an obstacle for success’ – Stephen Hawking.

Professor Hawking is one of Britain’s best-known scientists. Not only did he make monumental contributions to the field of physics, but he also broke down the perceived boundaries between popular culture and science, and perhaps most importantly, he showed that disability and difference aren’t obstacles to success. He was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 22, but this didn’t stop him from pursuing what he loved. Throughout his whole life, he challenged perceptions.

We want to help others to do the same. We know that there are currently roadblocks for disabled people when it comes to volunteering, and this goes across the charity sector. Only 38% of people with a disability or long-term limiting illness participate in formal volunteering, compared to 46% with no disability. In our 2017 volunteer survey, we found that only 8% of branch volunteer respondents identified as having a disability or long-term impairment – this isn’t good enough. We believe our branches are best served to engage their communities with science, as they know them intimately. It’s therefore vital that our volunteer pool is diverse and inclusive, ensuring that our branches reach a broad range of audiences so that everyone can participate.

This is why the British Science Association (BSA) are proud to announce and publish guidelines we’ve produced, with the help of Disability Rights UK, to ensure our branches can support volunteers with disabilities or impairments so that EVERYONE has the opportunity to volunteer. We want to equip branches with the skills and knowledge they need to make sure that these barriers are broken down. This guide builds on work done at the branches away day back in September, where attendees took part in a disability confidence training session. They were encouraged to think about how we can change branches to make sure everyone can take part, giving them the context, skills and ownership to make positive steps forwards.

Volunteering is a great opportunity to learn new skills, to share your passion with your community and to make new friends along the way. Our network of 37 branches work tirelessly to put on different events to engage people with science. You don’t have to be a scientist to volunteer with us and we’re passionate in the pursuit of full inclusivity.

What Stephen Hawking can teach us is that disabled people have as much right as anyone else to achieve success. We have a responsibility as an organisation to ensure that everyone can volunteer and engage with science

See our guidelines and top tips on the branches resources page. Remember if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected]