Volunteering is Possible, Even with a Physical Disability

Volunteering within our community helps us lift everyone around us while making us feel good about our impact in the world. It’s something that is open to anyone, regardless of ability.

These individuals with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy have proven that volunteering is indeed possible and doesn’t have to be physically intensive.

Leadership and volunteering

Adam Wechsler speaks at an ADA Celebration last year that was sponsored by the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council.

Adam Wechsler, a 27-year-old with Duchenne, has devoted himself to a life of service, something that was instilled in him early on through his mother and being an active member of his local Boy Scout troop, achieving the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

He currently serves on Vermont’s Statewide Independent Living Council, as the chair of the housing committee and vice chair of the council itself. In that role he advocates for housing needs for people with disabilities, creates requests for proposals for organizations that help people with disabilities, and interfaces with lawmakers.  

“I wanted to try and help the community and improve housing in some capacity so that people of all abilities can stay in their communities easier,” Wechsler said. “I have a concern for people who end up homeless who have disabilities themselves. Our state can do more to help people with disabilities find suitable housing, which is important to me.”

Wechsler discovered this role through a connection with his mother and then had to apply, first to the council, explaining his definition of independent living, then to the governor, who appointed Wechsler to the council.

Wechsler helps register people to vote at a local farmers market.

In addition to the independent living council, he is part of his county’s regional planning commission, sitting on the transportation advisory committee. Wechsler hears presentations from state workers on transportation projects and then approves it alongside other committee members.  

He’s also volunteered at a local food shelf, fire station, The Humane Society of the U.S., Ronald McDonald House, and Headcount, a non-partisan organization that registers people to vote at concerts and community events.

Adapting volunteering activities

Colleges, high schools, and churches offer opportunities to volunteer as well. Charlie Riesebeck, 24, has Becker, and discovered a volunteering niche through his fraternity at North Carolina State.

There, he helped people with intellectual disabilities play baseball. Because of his physical disability, volunteer work had to be slightly adapted. He was paired with individuals who were slower and directed them from home plate rather than running beside them.

“I have a disability so people with disabilities matter a lot to me and it’s also a fun thing to do and get to connect with some of these guys,” Riesebeck said.

But that wasn’t the only type of volunteer work he did. Sorting vegetables at a North Carolina food bank was also an achievable task for Riesebeck. If the bags got too heavy, one of his fraternity brothers would help. He also picked up trash on the city streets. The only real adaptation he used while picking up trash was taking breaks every now and then so he could catch up to his friends.

There are plenty of needs within each community that can be addressed with mental acuity rather than physical stamina. Volunteering with a disability like Duchenne or Becker can be accomplished with a bit of ingenuity and adaptation and it can reward you with the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.

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