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Voluntary Engagement of People with an Intellectual Disability

Background and aims

Worldwide, there are several thousand people with disabilities engaged on a voluntary basis. This engagement enables them to gain work experience, develop their social network and function actively in society. There have been very few scientific studies in this area in Europe and none whatsoever in Switzerland. General studies in the field of voluntary engagement indicate that adults with intellectual disabilities are less likely to be engaged on a voluntary basis than adults without a disability.

The aim of this study was to ascertain to what extent adults and older adults with intellectual disabilities are engaged as volunteers, the possibilities this engagement offers and the difficulties it poses. A training provision to support the voluntary engagement of people with intellectual disabilities has been developed on the basis of these findings.


Using an online questionnaire, recruiting companies and employing organisations will be questioned with regard to their experiences with volunteers with intellecutal disabilities. Additionally, adults with ID that offer their services on a voluntary basis, supervisors of voluntary work at employing organisations and their clients will all undergo questioning in guided interviews.


The results show that adults with intellectual disabilities in Switzerland have only limited access to placement offices and, generally speaking, limited possibilities to volunteer work. The key finding is: the persons doing volunteer work experience approval, respect and appreciation. These experiences represent an important counter-pole to the repeated disrespect and neglect incurred by adults with intellectual disabilities.

Consequences in practice

Improved access facilitation to placement offices for volunteers may provide a large number of fields of activity to adults with intellectual disabilities and, thus, new and positive experiences in acknowledgement and participation. Based on these findings, it would be sensible to widely inform about the positive effects of volunteer work of the examined group also in residential homes and sheltered workshops. By using the acquired data a follow-up project will now develop educational offerings to promote volunteer work of adults with intellectual disabilities.


  • Wicki, Monika T. & Meier, S. (2014). Anders begabt und freiwillig engagiert. Empfehlungen für die Praxis zur Unterstützung des freiwilligen Engagements von Erwachsenen mit einer intellektuellen Beeinträchtigung. Zürich: Seismo Verlag.



Project Management

Prof. Dr. phil.  Wicki


Project team


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe