In their opening statement at the ‘What LGBTIQA+ People with Disability are Saying in 2021’ event, peer researcher Ruby Mountford stressed the importance of participatory research in this field: “we’re more than our networks, we’re more than a problem to solve.”     

This March 4 event was hosted by Pride Foundation Australia and Deakin University, and included the launch of the More Than Ticking A Box report. The report’s research was led by Dr Amie O’Shea from Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation with funding from Pride Foundation Australia and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (Victoria).  The research team included Dr O’Shea, Dr J. R. Latham (Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation), Associate Professor Patsie Frawley (University of Waikato), and four peer researchers who self-identified as LGBTIQA+ and having a disability: Ms Sherrie Beaver, Mr Jake Lewis, Mx Ruby Mountford and Mellem Rose.

The event hosted politicians and policy-makers, community organisation representatives from both the LGBITQA+ and disability sectors, academics, and people with lived experience.  Each presentation highlighted how many health risk factors and access barriers both LGBTIQA+ people and people with disability face, including: poorer health outcomes, social exclusion, and increased experience of violence and abuse. Yet, as the ‘More Than Ticking a Box’ report reveals, there remains little research or policy about LGBTIQA+ people with disability. 

Dr O’Shea’s team asked the audience to view LGBTIQA+ people with disability through an intersectionality lens. Peer researchers reported ableist attitudes and barriers to participating in LGBTIQA+ communities. Victoria’s Gender and Equality Commissioner acknowledged that LGBTIQA+ communities have a “long way to go” in including people with disabilities. 

In accessing the disability and health sectors, peer researchers reported a lack of understanding and acceptance of their LGBTIQA+ identities, including inaccessible sexual health information and gatekeeping preventing participation in LGBTIQA+ activities.  LGBTIQA+ people with disability experience barriers accessing LGBTIQA+ services, disability services, and health services. This project made it clear that quality inclusion of people with lived experience is essential for change in policy, practice or research.

The More than ticking a box report outlines a series of important recommendations. A recording of the event is available, as is the academic article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Megan Walsh is a PhD student with the Disability and Inclusion team in the Institute for Health Transformation’s Determinants of Health research domain. Her research focuses on adolescents with complex communication needs and their experiences in conversations about sexuality, romance and gender.