Improving the health and wellbeing of Australian LGBTQ people with disability is the focus of a new project launched by ACON, NSW’s leading health organisation for people of diverse sexualities and genders. Launching today (3 December) on International Day for People with Disability, ACON’s LGBTQ People with Disability Project is a dedicated unit tasked with providing support, advocacy, skills-building and visibility to sexuality and gender diverse people with disabilities across the country . The launch will also unveil ACON’s Queerability Toolkit aimed at empowering and providing information to people wanting to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). In 2018-19 and in partnership with People with Disability Australia (PWDA), ACON was funded to develop the toolkit to enable LGBTQ people with disability to understand the NDIS and have the information they need to make decisions and choices, as well as have the skills and confidence to self-advocate for their individual needs. “We’re very excited to be launching this important work in supporting the members of sexuality and gender diverse communities who live with disabilities. We know there is a lack of research and information regarding LGBTQ people with disability in Australia, as well as tailored, community-led support,” said ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill. “Through what studies have been done, including a scoping study from ACON, we know there are many barriers that prevent LGBTQ people with disability from accessing and receiving the support they deserve and need to ensure their health and wellbeing.” Senior Policy Officer at PWDA, Giancarlo de Vera said: “PWDA is excited to partner with ACON on their inaugural disability project. The new Queer Ability Toolkit will make it easier for LGBTQA+ people with disability to access the NDIS. Access to NDIS supports will go a long way in ensuring LGBTQA+ people with disability can participate fully in the vibrant LGBTQA+ community, after being excluded for so long.” LGBTQ Disability Project Co-Design Advisory Group member, Finn O’Keefe said: "I'm proud to have been part of the co-design process that created this important resource for LGBTQ people with disability accessing the NDIS.” “Starting your NDIS journey can be daunting at first, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We wanted this toolkit to feel like a queer companion – a friend to help guide other LGBTQ people like us through the process. With access to information, tips and success stories, I hope that ACON's QueerAbility toolkit will help people stay resilient, fabulous and strong as they navigate the system and launch their own NDIS journey." A study released in 2018 from La Trobe University showed that when compared with the broader disability community, LGBTQ people with disability experience higher rates of discrimination, greater restrictions on freedom of sexual expression, reduced social support and connection, and reduced service access, in particular for transgender people. Parkhill added: “When engaging with disability support services, we know that due to previous negative experiences and perceptions of lack of compassion, apathy, and prejudice, this can lead to distrust of service providers and expectations of poor quality care. It can also result in an unwillingness to disclose sexuality and/or gender identity to care workers due to a fear of being rejected, stereotyped, stigmatised or being treated with a heteronormative bias.” “One of the challenges for LGBTQ people with disability is not knowing which service providers understand the nuances of LGBTQ care without prejudiced practices, or are able to offer a truly inclusive service. Further to this, sadly in Australia there is no comprehensive protection under anti-discrimination laws to prevent discrimination and a refusal of service from religiously-affiliated support services. This can lead LGBTQ people to be wary of religious-affiliated services of which there are many in the disability sector.” “Entering into disability work and support for our communities has been a long time coming for ACON. We know there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to ensure that LGBTQ people with disability are able to live their healthiest lives, as well as feel safe, included and engaged in the support they receive and the services who work with them,” Parkhill said. “We’re extremely proud to launch our disability support project and toolkit, and to work with, and for, all LGBTQ people with disability in NSW.” The online launch on 3 December from 12-1pm will showcase the new project and toolkit, with a preview of some of the films in the QueerAbility Toolkit. It will also include a panel discussion featuring LGBTQ people with disabilities who were involved in the development of the toolkit.