Disability and guiding

How to overcome potential barriers for disabled members so they can participate in guiding activities

It is estimated that more than one in every twenty children has a disability*

Considering access for disabled members, overcoming barriers and developing innovative and inclusive approaches to disability, are all part of making guiding available to all girls.

*According to a report from the Department of Work and Pensions 7% of children have a disability.

What is a disability?

A disability is an impairment or condition that might prevent some girls from doing what the majority of other girls may be able to do.

Not all disabilities will be immediately obvious to you or other girls in your unit. 92% of all disabilities are not wheelchair-related.

In guiding, we use the term additional needs when referring to disability.

Some disabilities which may result in additional needs or requirements include:

  • sensory impairments - for example conditions affecting hearing and sight
  • learning disabilities - which may affect memory, concentration, learning and physical coordination
  • mobility conditions – including wheelchair users
  • mental health conditions

Overcoming barriers

It's possible that some girls don't join Girlguiding because they, or their parents, think they won't be able to take part in everything we do. However, significant social and technological advances are making it much easier for girls with additional needs to both join us and join in.

What you can do

You can take small steps to make a big difference to the guiding experience for those with additional needs.

Promoting guiding to girls

In some areas, girls with additional needs may be less likely to consider joining a unit. They may be worried that guiding won’t be able to adapt the programme to include them, or that they won’t have access to the same opportunities.

Promoting guiding to teachers, parents, carers and friends of girls with additional needs is always a good start. Explain that around 20,000 of our existing members have additional needs.

Share our inclusion guidance with parents or potential members who need reassurance about the processes and support in place for members with additional needs.

Helping girls to join us

It's good practice to do what you can to understand the exact nature of any additional needs, limitations and support requirements before a girl joins your unit. It's very relevant to discuss this with both the individual and their parents. There is space in GO for parents to give additional information and our health care plans can be used if needed, to help facilitate a conversation.

It is particularly important to establish:

  • accessibility needs and how this will be achieved within your unit venue – including toilet facilities
  • dietary needs or allergies
  • medication
  • known activities that should be avoided - for example bright lights, loud music etc and suggested alternative activities
  • support requirements and arrangements.

Every person is different and how a person’s disability affects them will be different. Asking the question 'How does your condition affect you and what support can we provide?' is a very good start to understanding a girl’s additional needs.

Adjusting activities

As a leader, you need to strike a fair balance between the expectations and capabilities of girls with and without additional needs.

For example, where a unit has a girl who is a wheelchair-user, you shouldn't stop all walking or running activities. You should consider how you can adjust the rules or requirements of activities to allow girls to participate. Our guidance for adapting games and activities can help you to do this.

Providing support

Sometimes, a girl with additional needs may need one-to-one support to be part of guiding. A dedicated helper, for example another volunteer or member, can, in some circumstances, be very beneficial. Other times support may include providing resources in a different format or building in some extra time to complete activities.

Always ask the girl and her parents what support they need.

Flexible transition ages

Some disabled young members can find it chllenging to move to a new section, so we are flexible on the upper age range of each section, up to a member’s 26th 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 to move up should be made in conversation with the young person and their parent or carer.

Promoting guiding to adult members

Find out what you can do to recruit adults with additional needs to your team including flexible approaches to volunteering.

Need more support?

For further support or information, please contact your commissioner or county adviser or the inclusion team at HQ.

Jill Crowson, Leader, Freebridge Marshland Rangers

Jill Crowson, Leader, Freebridge Marshland Rangers

Our unit now has nine girls, including four with learning difficulties and other additional needs We all meet one Saturday a month to enjoy the programme, with some extra support.

Get advice on inclusion

Contact the info team at Girlguiding HQ for more information about including all girls and volunteers in guiding.

Email us