This short blog piece is about my experience of volunteering at Disability Wales. I am a university student and have just finished my third year of studying astrophysics. Last year, through the university support system, I encountered a group called Go Wales, which helps young students from different backgrounds gain work experience within Wales. While I had originally wanted experience in science communication, I became drawn to disability rights instead through my personal experiences of being disabled. My caseworker got in touch with Disability Wales, which I had some knowledge of through my research and activities in my free time. They were keen to meet me and have an extra volunteer, and I decided I wanted to focus on the research conducted in the organisation, as it fitted nicely with my background and skillsets from my degree. Thanks to Go Wales, who provided hotel accommodation and refunds for the food and travel expenses, I was able to have a full months’ worth of work experience.
Since I started my placement, the staff have all been friendly and supportive, giving advice where needed but also giving me the freedom to pursue some ideas of my own in regards to research. It has been an amazing environment to work in, and I feel so lucky at having been able to contribute to the organisation. I have been able to help with research and dissemination for funded projects, create a document on the history of the disability movement, helped to create a new survey for members to complete and analysed feedback from events that have been held. My biggest contribution, however, has been to disseminate the membership survey, which had over 120 responses, and create a report on the data and feedback within it, which I am very proud of. I have also been lucky enough to attend a seminar regarding the proposal of new school curriculums, as well as a meeting on the different projects funded by DRILL and to discuss trends and opinions from the different research areas.
Overall my experience of work experience within Disability Wales has been fantastic. This valuable placement has given me insight into working for the third sector, which would not have been possible otherwise. It has also given me a better understanding of how to apply the skills I have learned at university to the workplace environment as well as giving me more awareness of legislations for disabled people, the social model of disability and the number of projects being done over the UK relating to disability and the support structures needed in society.