Adjustments for disabled members

How we can remove barriers and include everyone

To include disabled members in our activities, we need to remove the barriers they experience.

These barriers may be physical – like stairs can be a barrier to a wheelchair user needing to enter a building - but may be due to negative attitudes, prejudice or stereotypes. When we remove these barriers, disabled people can be fully included, have independence, choice and control. This is often called the ‘social model’ of disability.  

Girlguiding’s vision is an equal world where all girls can make a positive difference, be happy, safe and fulfil their potential. Being inclusive is a core value at Girlguiding. All volunteers have a responsibility to make guiding accessible and inclusive for disabled members. To enable this, all volunteers need to follow our internal policies, and we have legal obligations too. 

All members also have a responsibility to follow Girlguiding’s equality and diversity policy. While the Equality Act 2010 applies to England, Scotland and Wales, these principles should be used by all members as a guide to best practice. Members guiding overseas should consider making adjustments in the context of the country in which they are guiding.

Learn more about ways to include disabled girls and volunteers.

What are adjustments?

Making adjustments means that we will do what we can to remove the barriers that disabled people can face. 

Disabled people can encounter many different types of barriers. These can be related to how we do things, the environment or even our attitudes. 

  • How we do things (systems and procedures): For example, if a member with a hearing impairment is asked to call someone on the phone to fix a problem in the unit, this could create a barrier for them.
  • The environment (physical and sensory): For example, stairs can be a barrier for a wheelchair user who needs to get inside a building. Likewise, using a room with no natural light may create barriers for a member with a visual impairment.
  • Attitudes: For example, assuming that a blind member won’t be able to take part in a cooking activity. Preempting a scenario and making assumptions about a disabled member’s capability can create a barrier for them.

To enable a member to participate fully in our activities, we must make adjustments. Adjustments are changes which remove, or significantly reduce, a barrier faced by a disabled person.

In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, we're required to make reasonable adjustments to include disabled people.  

How do I know if my adjustments are reasonable? 

Some criteria you can follow when making an adjustment, to know whether they’re reasonable according to the Equality Act 2010: 

  • Can I make this adjustment? 
  • Can I keep making this adjustment? 

The test of what's reasonable is ultimately an objective one and not simply a matter of what you personally think. When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable you should consider:  

  • Effectiveness: An adjustment must be effective in removing or reducing any disadvantage the disabled member is facing. Is this going to support the member to fully take part? 
  • Practicality: The more practical an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. This might involve thinking about suitability of your venue and equipment or deciding whether you need additional volunteer support. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. 
  • The resources and size. 

Your overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled member.  

You can treat disabled people better or 'more favourably' than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution. 

To help manage expectations, make sure that parents and carers are aware that we are a charity, and that all our activities are run by volunteers. This means we may not be able to offer the same support as a young person’s school, for example.  

If you’re not sure whether an adjustment would be reasonable, or you’re concerned that you might not be able to make an adjustment, email [email protected]. 

Talk to any new or current disabled members in your unit. It’s important to recognise, value and act on the member’s knowledge and expertise based on their lived experience. For young members you could also ask parents or carers what has worked well before. They may have some creative ideas that can help.  

Ask them to tell you about their disability or health condition and how it affects their day-to-day activities. You don’t need to know all the details but knowing if it’s constant or changes and how it affects them at guiding can help you create the right plan together. 

Ask what they can do with the right support, rather than what they are unable to do. Where appropriate, ask what can be painful or tiring to do or what they would need some help with.   

Work together. Make the changes and adjustments collaboratively with them. Ask for their ideas and if they can tell you what has worked for them before. Share any ideas you have and check if they think they’ll work. Remember, it’s not their responsibility to make these changes.  

Be positive and honest. Be open about what will be difficult to do, but always work on alternative ideas for next steps. And don’t make assumptions. What’s worked well as an adjustment in one place, like at school, won’t always work well or be possible in guiding, where we have fewer resources and are run by volunteers. Also remember that people are different. Just because a certain adjustment worked in one case, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for a different person who has the same, or similar, impairment. Talk together about previous experiences and how you can adapt them to work in guiding.  

It’s useful to keep notes of any ideas you’ve tried, conversations you’ve had, and what has worked well. Use our adjustment plan template to write your plans down and agree with everyone involved what will happen. The information must not be shared without consent. If you'd like more information about handling data safely, read our managing information procedure. If you need any advice on handling data, contact [email protected].   

  • When looking at venues, think about the physical space and how people might use it. Is there an accessible toilet? Does it have a loop system installed?  
  • Before buying new equipment consider how accessible it is. Would another model be easier?                     
  • If planning a trip, does the venue allow a disabled member to participate with the rest of the group? For example, could they share a room if they wanted to? Can they travel to the event with the rest of the group?  
  • Before using any resources consider alternative formats. For example, would printing out a larger handout or using a different colour help?  
  • When making signs, think about using icons and symbols as well as text. Some units use pictorial signs for drink, biscuits, toilet, and big crosses to mark the no-go areas like cupboards and kitchen, for example.  
  • Share what works.  When new volunteers join your unit, let them know what you’ve done to make adjustments for your members. 

As a leader, it's important to adapt activities so that all girls can take part. These hints and tips will help you to make small changes to make guiding available to all girls. 

Think RECIPES: 

Rules - can the rules be simplified or relaxed? 

Equipment - can you change the equipment? You could use bigger targets, soft balls or equipment that makes a noise. What equipment is necessary to make an activity happen? If a girl needs different equipment for a craft or activity, it may make her feel less self-conscious if all the girls are given this equipment rather than singling her out. 

Changes to speed and force- do girls have to run to play the game? Can girls move in a different way across the space? For a craft, could it be completed over multiple weeks? Consider whether you could have multiple activities happening at once in case some girls finish quicker than others. 

Instructions – what’s the simplest way to explain an activity? Try using visual prompts, such as flashcards, to make things clearer. How about getting the girls to explain the activity to each other? Remember, it doesn't matter if girls make mistakes or don't understand. 

Practice - have a practice run of the game. This means you can check if all the girls understand how the game is played. 

Environment - think about where you are playing the game or doing the activity. Do you need more space? Do girls all need to be sat at tables or can the use of the space be more varied? 

Skills - what skills are needed to complete the task and are these completely necessary? Could girls tear paper rather than use scissors? Can they work as a team or in pairs? If taking this approach, apply it to everyone in the unit rather than an individual. Remember, things do not have to be perfect! It's better that girls try and develop their own skills rather than have activities be done for them! 

Accessible programme books and resources 

Our programme resources, including activity cards, skills builders, badge books and handbooks, are available in a range of accessible formats. 

If you need these accessible resources, please email [email protected] and let us know: 

  • Your name and email address. 
  • The access need. 
  • The resource format you require. 

A member of the programme team will then be back in touch within 5 working days. 

Our qualifications offer a great opportunity for all our members to gain skills and experience. There may be times that these qualifications need to be adapted for members with additional needs.  

To achieve a qualification, a member must demonstrate that they have a set of specific skills. The outcomes of the qualification can’t change but, when necessary, you can change the route that a member takes to achieve these. 

The full 1st response and 1st response refresher courses are both attendance-based courses. A participant can’t 'fail' these courses. 

Always discuss any changes to the qualification with the member beforehand. They may not require, or want, any changes to be made. This is their decision. 

To help adapt the route to achieving these skills, think SET qualifications: 

Skills - what skills are required to achieve the qualification, and what are the core outcomes? These will be clear from the module descriptions in each qualification. Discuss these skills with the member and how they hope to work towards them. This is no different to the process that should be taken with all adult members working towards a Girlguiding qualification. 

Evidence - how will the member record their achievements? Do these need to be in written form? They may wish to be more creative. Video and photo evidencing could be used to demonstrate skills. If it’s entirely necessary to provide written evidence - for example, demonstrating the use of forms - someone else could act as scribe. 

Time - is there a time restriction to achieve the qualification? Does there need to be a time restriction? Could this be relaxed? 

In some circumstances, a member may benefit from 1-to-1 support to help them take part in guiding. Always discuss this with the young person and their parents or carers before being decided on.  

Some disabled members or volunteers may need an assistance dog to help with day-to-day tasks. It’s important that we’re inclusive, sensitive and supportive of anyone who needs an assistance dog in guiding, and that we’ve considered any reasonable adjustments we need to make so we can accommodate for this. 

What’s an assistance dog?  

An assistance dog is a dog trained to support a disabled person with their day-to-day activities. They can be trained to help people with anything from hearing and/or visual impairments through to epilepsy, diabetes, mobility issues and more.   

There are lots of different types of assistance dogs, including guide dogs and support dogs. An assistance dog is not the same as a ‘therapy dog’ or an ‘emotional support dog’. For more information on these definitions and differences, check out this useful guidance from Assistance Dogs UK.  

Introducing an assistance dog to your unit  

The first step to being inclusive of any disabled member is having an open and honest conversation with them about any barriers they may face in the unit, and how you can remove them. Remember, an assistance dog is a working dog not a pet, so there are different rules about where they can go and how we interact with them.  

Just as every member is different, every assistance dog is different and will have different needs, personalities, and boundaries. The member will know their assistance dog best, so respect their wishes and decisions about their assistance dog.  

Remember, not all people with assistance dogs have visual impairments, and many disabilities aren’t visible. It may not be appropriate to ask someone with an assistance dog what they need their assistance dog for, as this might reveal private information about their disability.  

Don’t forget you can apply for funding from HQ to provide support for disabled members.  

Dos and don’ts  

Do: 

  • Ask the member what you can do to make sure others understand how to support them. For example, the member might want you to make an announcement reminding others that an assistance dog is doing an important, special job and so it’s important that the dog isn’t distracted during unit meetings. This would mean asking others not to touch, stroke, talk to or make intentional eye contact with the assistance dog. This won’t always be the case, so follow their lead on how they’d like others to interact with the assistance dog.    
  • Make sure you and the other members always speak directly to the member rather than to their assistance dog.   
  • Save a chair for the member with extra space for their dog and a clear path to the door. 
  • Try to give advance warning about loud noises, such as moving heavy equipment or turning on music, as loud noises can startle dogs.  
  • Understand that members with assistance dogs might need extra or longer breaks, for example to take their dog outside for a walk or bathroom visit.  
  • Consider completing an adjustment plan with the member as a starting point to discuss any adjustments you need to make. Once you’ve filled one out, check in with the member regularly to review their adjustment plan and check whether there’s any additional support they need. 

Don't: 

  • Depending on the member’s disability, the dog might be trained to alert them to life-threatening medical situations. So, make sure you don’t try to separate the member from their assistance dog.   
  • Say things like: ‘You’re lucky you get to take your dog everywhere.’ An assistance dog isn’t a pet and is with them out of necessity, not for fun.   
  • Leave dangerous edible items within the assistance dog’s reach, such as chocolate, grapes or raisins. While assistance dogs are generally trained to ignore all food items, it’s still best to be safe.   
  • Take a photo of an assistance dog, unless you have explicit consent from the member.   

What if someone’s allergic to or scared of dogs?  

If you have a member who’s allergic to dogs, discuss how severe their allergy is with them. Depending on the severity of their allergy, you can take steps to make sure they have minimal or no contact with the assistance dog. For example, you could sit the member who’s allergic to dogs at the opposite end of the group from the member with their assistance dog.   

Likewise, if you have a member who’s scared of dogs, have a conversation with them about the steps you can take to make them feel more comfortable. It may be useful for those with a fear of dogs to know that assistance dogs are trained to stay by their owner’s side, remain quiet and focus on their owner.   

For further support, contact your local commissioner team or [email protected] 

What if the assistance dog is a nuisance to other members?  

Assistance dogs are highly trained to make sure they’re always under control and won’t be a nuisance to anyone. For example, they won’t jump up and will usually lie down at their owner’s feet.  

Assistance dogs are also covered by their own insurance, which is issued by the organisation that the dog works for.  

What extra considerations are there for trips?  

A member with an assistance dog will be aware of any considerations for trips. Have a conversation with the member before planning a trip to discuss any adjustments you might need to make. For example, when travelling as a group, recognise that the member may need special arrangements such as traveling in a specific part of the train which has more space for the dog.   

You might find it useful to read this assistance dog travel guide on Guide Dogs' website.  

For further support, contact your local commissioner team or [email protected] 

Support organisations  

  • Assistance Dogs UKa coalition of assistance dog organisations. 
  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf people: training hearing dogs who change the lives of deaf adults and children across the UK. 
  • Guide Dogs: helping blind and partially sighted people across the UK through the provision of guide dogs. 
  • Support Dogs: increasing independence and quality of life for people with various medical conditions, specialising in three areas: autism assistance dogs, seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy and disability assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. 

Some disabled young members can find it challenging to move to a new section, so we are flexible on the upper age range of each section, up to a member’s 19th birthday. This means disabled members can access the programme that's most appropriate for them and move on to the next section when they feel ready. 

The decision about when to move up should be made in consultation with the young person and their parent or carer. 

Get advice on including all

Contact us for more information and advice about including all girls and volunteers in guiding.

Email us

By completing an adjustment plan with a young member or volunteer, you can work out what barriers they face and plan the changes, or adjustments, you can make to remove these.  

It'sa personalised, practical plan which helps you identify and record adjustments for disabled young members and volunteers.  

Completing an adjustment plan 

By completing an adjustment plan with a young member or volunteer, you can identify the barriers they face and the adjustments you can make to remove these barriers. 

An adjustment plan will help you make changes in meetings, trips, and residential events to ensure Girlguiding is accessible. It's a personalised, practical plan which will help you identify and record adjustments for disabled young members and volunteers. 

You should also involve parents and carers in the conversation if making a plan for a member under the age of 18, or 16 in Scotland.  

As the adjustment plan is all about what support the member needs, you must listen to them and actively involve them when deciding on suitable adjustments. The individual must be central to the process and take part in completing it. Their knowledge and experience will help you to develop a supportive plan that meets their needs.  

If the conversation raises any concerns about safeguarding, including difficulties engaging parents or carers in making adjustments, follow our safeguarding policy and contact the HQ safeguarding team on [email protected] 

You should review the plan regularly with the member. This timescale will look different for each individual depending on things like how new they are to the unit or what the barriers they’re facing are. But this should be done at least every 12 months. Doing it each term is also a really good idea. This means you make sure that the things you have in place are still working for the member.   

Adjustment plans should be signed off by your local district or division commissioner.  

Remember, this form will contain personal information so please ensure the document is password protected and must be kept securely on a password protected device or in locked storage. You must not share any of the information in the form without the consent of the individual/ their parent or carer.  

When the individual has left Girlguiding, we advise destroying their adjustment plan within 4 weeks of them leaving. 

See our managing information procedure for guidance on keeping personal details safe.  

Paying for adjustments  

No disabled person should have to pay for any adjustments. Any costs should be covered by the unit or region. To help with this we offer grants to support disabled members. These can help with transport, training and the development of an accessible programme. You also may be able to find additional funding locally, for example through your local authority.  

Adjustment plan templates  

For young members:this template is for young members and those taking part in our 18-30 offer, Girlguiding Inspire. Anyone under the age of 18, or under 16 in Scotland, will need their adjustment plan to be signed off by a parent or carer.   

Download the young member adjustment plan template  

For volunteers:you should complete an adjustment plan for volunteers in partnership with the volunteer themselves. For volunteers under the age of 18, or under 16 in Scotland, this adjustment plan will need to be signed off by a parent or carer. 

Download the volunteer adjustment plan template 

For events:an event-specific adjustment plan should be made before taking part in non-unit events, for example a jamboree. This can be used alongside a unit adjustment plan, and we encourage you to share these with events teams before the event.  

If you are travelling overseas, remember to consider the laws, customs and insurance needs of the country you are visiting. Information about local laws and customs can be found inthe government's travel advice. 

Download the volunteer events adjustment plan template  

Download the young member events adjustment plan template 

For simple adjustments and changes, you should think about the following questions: 

  • Can I make this adjustment? 
  • Can I keep making this adjustment? 

You should also consider: 

  • Effectiveness: An adjustment must be effective in removing or reducing any disadvantage the disabled member is facing. Ask yourself, is this going to support the member to fully take part? 
  • Practicality: The more practical an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. This might involve thinking about suitability of your venue and equipment, or deciding whether you need additional volunteer support. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. 

Various factors influence whether a particular adjustment is considered reasonable. The test of what's reasonable is ultimately an objective one and not simply a matter of what you personally think.   

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable you should consider:   

  • How effective the change will be in avoiding the disadvantage the disabled person would otherwise experience.  
  • Its practicality.  
  • The resources and size. 

Your overall aim should be, as far as possible, to remove or reduce any disadvantage faced by a disabled member.  

  • You can treat disabled people better or 'more favorably' than non-disabled people and sometimes this may be part of the solution. 
  • The adjustment must be effective in helping to remove or reduce any disadvantage the disabled person is facing.   
  • In reality it may take several different adjustments to deal with that disadvantage, but each change must contribute towards this.  
  • You can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. You need to balance this against other factors.   

To help manage expectations, make sure that parents and carers are aware that we are a charity, and that all our activities are run by volunteers. This means we may not be able to offer the same support as a young person’s school, for example.  

If you are in any doubt about whether an adjustment would be reasonable, or are concerned that you might not be able to make an adjustment, please contact [email protected] 

As a volunteer, you should only be carrying out tasks that you are competent (and suitably trained, where necessary) to carry out.  

Any personal care that needs to be done away from the main unit should not be done 1-on-1, in line with our safeguarding policy.  

If you would like to discuss a specific aspect of someone’s care, contact HQ who will confirm whether you are insured to carry this out.    

If an adjustment is complex and you are concerned you may not be able to make it, you need to follow these steps. You must follow these steps before making a decision: 

  • Contact your commissioner to share your concerns. Depending on the situation, they may be able to offer support, guidance or signposting. 
  • If you and your commissioner are still concerned that the adjustment can’t be made, contact [email protected] to get advice from the inclusion team at HQ. 

You can use an adjustment plan as a starting point for a discussion between you, the young member (and their parents or carers if under the age of 18 or 16 in Scotland) or volunteer about adjustments you can make for them. 

The adjustment plan and discussion will help you make adjustments in meetings, trips, and residential events. 

As the plan is about supporting the member or volunteer, it’s important that their views are heard. They should be actively involved in the completion of the plan, based on what they know about their own experiences, rather than the plan being completed on their behalf. 

This plan should be completed and used in addition to any other relevant Girlguiding forms such as starting Rainbows, Brownies, Guides or Rangers information and consent for event or activity, and health information forms. 

If the discussions about adjustments raise any concerns, safeguarding allegations or disclosures, including difficulties engaging parents or carers with adjustments, please contact the HQ safeguarding team, as per our safeguarding policy. 

The plan should be reviewed regularly. At least every 12 months, but we recommend you do it termly. Hold the review with the young member (and their parents or carers where necessary) or volunteer to ensure it is up to date and any adjustments are appropriate. 

Adjustment plans should be signed off by your local (district or division) commissioner. 

When not in use, this form must be kept securely at all times, on a password protected device or in a locked storage unit. 

The information must not be shared without consent. If you'd like more information about handling data safely, read our managing information procedure. If you need any advice on handling data, contact [email protected]. 

Unit leaders will use this adjustment plan as a starting point for a discussion with you and the young member about how best to support the young member. 

The adjustment plan and discussion will help unit leaders to make adjustments in meetings, outings, and residential events to ensure Girlguiding is accessible for the young member.  

Girlguiding is a charity and our activities are delivered by volunteers. Girlguiding will do our best to make all adjustments that are reasonable. But it might not always be possible to make an adjustment, or in some cases it might take a while to make an adjustment. 

To ensure that our members and volunteers can enjoy their Girlguiding experience safely, volunteers are not permitted to carry out any tasks that they are not competent to carry out (which may require specific training depending on the task). 

This adjustment plan will be used as a starting point for a discussion with you about how best to support you in your volunteer role. The adjustment plan and discussion will help your unit leader or commissioner make adjustments in meetings, outings, and residential events so that Girlguiding is accessible for you. 

This adjustment plan will be reviewed regularly with you to ensure it is up to date and any reasonable adjustments are appropriate. You should let your unit leader or commissioner know as soon as possible about any changes that are likely to affect the support or adjustments you need. 

Girlguiding is a charity and our activities are delivered by volunteers. Girlguiding will do our best to make all adjustments that are reasonable. But it might not always be possible to make an adjustment, or in some cases it might take a while to make an adjustment. To ensure that our members and volunteers can enjoy their Girlguiding experience safely, volunteers are not permitted to carry out any tasks that they are not competent and comfortable to carry out (which may require specific training depending on the task). 

As you know, Girlguiding is committed to inclusion and supporting all volunteers to make a contribution to Girlguiding. Safeguarding is our first priority at Girlguiding. 

In recognition that there are some adult volunteers with significant support needs, there are 2 volunteer roles available in guiding:

Supported volunteer 

A supported volunteer will be supported by an individual volunteer supporter. Their individual volunteer supporter will provide them with tailored support to help them carry out their supported volunteer role enjoyably and safely. 

A supported volunteer role will be suitable for those who would otherwise be unable to carry out the full responsibilities of another volunteer role, including safeguarding responsibilities. 

A supported volunteer will always be paired with their individual volunteer supporter. A supported volunteer will not have any safeguarding responsibilities and will not need to complete a safe space training. The role will only be assigned in exceptional circumstances, and with prior approval from the HQ safe practice team. 

Download the supported volunteer role description

Individual volunteer supporter 

An individual supported volunteer will be paired with a supported volunteer. This person will carry out their regular role, while providing support for a supported volunteer. They'll make adjustments during unit meetings and events to enable the supported volunteer to carry out their role enjoyably and safely. The individual volunteer supporter must be a member and will need to have completed a safe space level 3. 

Download the individual volunteer supporter role description

To find out more about the supported volunteer and individual volunteer supporter roles and how to apply, please contact [email protected].

Making reasonable adjustments isn't a one-off process. It's something you should revisit again and again. Where you have made an adjustment, you should review how well it’s working to check it's still the best solution. And a person’s condition or impairment can change over time. If this happens, you’ll need to consider new adjustments. It’s a good idea to regularly ask for feedback and proactively think about what more you could do.  

For example:  

Alisha is a Ranger who has a hearing impairment. Her unit has made sure that their meeting space has an emergency alarm with a flashing light, that volunteers always try to face her when they speak, and they don’t rely on sounds only when doing activities. Every term the leaders ask Alisha how she is finding Rangers and if they can do anything more to help her be included. 

If someone raises a concern  

Any worry or concern about the lack of access or failure to make a reasonable adjustment must be taken seriously.   

If an adjustment is complex and you're worried you may not be able to make it, you need to follow these steps. You must follow these steps before making a decision: 

  1. Contact your commissioner to share your concerns. Depending on the situation, they may be able to offer support, guidance or signposting.
  2. If you and your commissioner are still concerned that the adjustment can’t be made, contact [email protected] to get advice from the inclusion team at HQ.

Remember that disabled people can take legal action if an organisation fails to make a reasonable adjustment. If you need any advice about managing a concern, contact  [email protected].