Disabled volunteers : an analysis of the experiences of wheelchair-users who volunteer

  • Jane Andrews

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Following grounded-theory methodology, this thesis provides an analysis of the volunteering experiences of 47 wheelchair-users. It challenges the traditional image of volunteering which tends to conceptualise non-disabled people as the instigators of voluntary action (the helpers) and disabled people as the recipients of volunteerism (the helped). It also begins to fill a notable gap in academic knowledge about the volunteering experiences of disabled people. The literature review showed that contemporary conceptualisations of disability were unsuitable for this thesis. Thus, an organising framework is proposed which acknowledges that disabled peoples’ experiences may be influenced by medically and socially constructed factors – or by a combination of both acting simultaneously (medical-social factors). Having conceptualised disability for the purposes of the study, the thesis then provides an account of the research methodology used. This is followed by a presentation of research findings. An analysis of the volunteers’ demographic, epidemiological and background characteristics is provided and their perceptions of the benefits of, and barriers to, volunteering highlighted. This is followed by an analysis of their volunteering experiences. Theory is developed in order to explain the volunteers’ experiences from the approach outlined within the organising framework. The final part of the thesis adopts a reflexive approach to contextualise the research processes from the writer’s own perspective as a disabled person conducting research into the lived experiences of other disabled people. The thesis concludes by highlighting the implications of the study for future social research.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish


  • Disabled volunteers
  • wheelchair-users

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