Addressing the needs of LGBTQIA+ people with disability

LGBTQIA+ identifying people are present across most, if not all cultural and social groups in Australia. These people and the organisations that advocate for them continually highlight that increased consideration, understanding and acceptance of their identity and sexuality is essential to their wellbeing as a community. Individuals and organisations that work with LGBTQIA+ identifying people with a disability need to be aware of these considerations and the impact discrimination can have on the people they support.


What does LGBTQIA+ mean?


L.G.B.T.Q.I.A+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, and Asexual, sometimes simply referred to as “Queer”. The inclusive term is used to describe the diverse group of sexual preferences and orientations of people who do not identify as heterosexual (“straight”) and/or Cisgender (identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth).


How many LGBTIQ people live with a disability?


Roughly 1 in 5 Australians have a disability, but the latest census data reveals that sex and/or gender diverse people are twice as likely as the rest of the Australian population to require assistance with a disability. Queer people are also more likely than the average Australian to be a carer for a person with a disability.


Why is addressing the needs of LGBTQIA+ people important?


The NDIS released their LGBTQIA+ Strategy in June 2020 – in response to many people and organisations asking for change in the way LGBTQIA+ people with a disability were treated. The NDIS recognised that many barriers prevented people who identify as queer and who had NDIS plans from being fully supported.


Queer people commonly report that they experience fear of discrimination or violence and lack of respect or dignity when speaking about their sexuality and/or gender, as well as a lack of choice and control about the way their body is treated and described.


Many queer people still feel the need to hide evidence of their sexuality or gender from their carers and other people assisting them because they are afraid of being negatively judged or treated. These issues are partly responsible for the poorer health and wellbeing outcomes that queer people with a disability face when compared to other people on the NDIS.


What steps have been taken to address the needs of LGBTIQ+ people?


Thanks in large part to advocacy groups and social movements, queer people living with a disability now have improved mental and physical health and reduced cases of discrimination. More queer people’s stories have been heard by the NDIA, who responded by introducing LGBTQIA+ cultural inclusion training to more than 7,000 of their staff.


What work is still to come?


Although changes have helped improve the rights and outcomes of queer people with a disability, as a group they are still disadvantaged in many ways. A person who is a part of two minority groups often faces unique barriers in addition to the problems each group can experience separately. For example, LGBTQIA+ people find being understood and receiving adequate social and community support more difficult than the average person, which becomes even harder when the person needs assistance to access that community.


Discrimination towards queer disabled people’s gender and sexuality is also more likely to be ignored or go unnoticed due to the difficulties they can sometimes face in communicating their needs to the right people. For queer people with a disability to be adequately supported, their unique challenges and considerations need to be understood by those providing care.


How can a Support Coordinator help?


A Support Coordinator who is well-informed on the unique needs of queer people will be able to link you to supports that understand you and actively celebrate the LGBTIQIA+ community. They will also be able to take your voice and needs seriously and assist you with any unique challenges you may face.


A good Support Coordinator can provide you with specialised supports that help you feel comfortable and proud of your gender and sexuality, so that you don’t feel the need to hide your identity from others to feel safe or respected.


OnSide is committed to celebrating diversity and recognising the needs of queer people. As well as treating all people with respect, we celebrate diversity of gender and sexuality in our workforce, and actively work to increase awareness and understanding of all those we assist. If you’d like to get in touch with us to see how we can support you or someone you care for, contact OnSide to discuss.