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LGBTQI Disability Sexuality Project Wins $10,000 Grant

9 May 2018 at 5:34 pm
Luke Michael
A research project aiming to give LGBTQI people with disability a voice in regards to their sexuality has won a $10,000 grant.

Luke Michael | 9 May 2018 at 5:34 pm


LGBTQI Disability Sexuality Project Wins $10,000 Grant
9 May 2018 at 5:34 pm

A research project aiming to give LGBTQI people with disability a voice in regards to their sexuality has won a $10,000 grant.       

Northcott Innovation’s Velvet Expressions project seeks to tackle “one of society’s last remaining taboos” – disability and sexuality.

The project aims to help LGBTQI people with disability overcome barriers to engaging in sexual activities, by listening to their lived experiences and working with them in the creation and design of possible solutions.

On Monday, the project was announced as the winner of LGBTQI giving circle The Channel’s Pride and Resilience Grant Round, after winning a members vote against two other shortlisted initiatives.

The Channel’s executive director Georgia Mathews, told Pro Bono News she was pleased to support Velvet Expressions.

“To have our 120 members vote to support this project is fantastic,” Mathews said.

“Disability and sexuality is still a taboo topic, so much so that one issue seldom comes into frame when we’re having conversations about the other. Learning more about the nature of this intersection from the people living it is such an important step.

“We hope this grant assists in breaking down the barriers to intimacy and pleasure that this group faces, and reminds us that many of us take access to these things for granted.”

Aleen Hekimian, the innovation officer at Northcott Innovation, told Pro Bono News her organisation was extremely pleased to be awarded the grant.

“I can’t even put into words how exciting it is for us, because this is an area that we have so much trouble trying to get funding for,” Hekimian said.

“It is ridiculously difficult to receive funding when it comes to sexuality and disability.”

Hekimian said LGBTQI people with disability faced serious barriers engaging in sexual activities.       

“We definitely know that they [struggle] to engage in sexual activities of their choosing. They face barriers, whether they be physical barriers, environmental barriers or social barriers,” she said.

“It doesn’t help that most people see people with disability as asexual – which essentially is that they do not have a sexuality or they don’t have choice – and many people don’t understand that people with disabilities are essentially just like everyone else on this Earth.”

Northcott Innovation will use the grant money to fund the two-part research project.

During stage one, Northcott Innovation will bring together a group of LGBTQI people with disability and listen to their stories and their first person accounts of their perspectives on disability and sexuality.

This will also involve speaking with carers, support workers and other people engaged in their lives to understand what LGBTQI people with disability go through.

Stage two will see Northcott Innovation apply a formal human centred design framework to analyse these findings.

“We are very much about ensuring there’s participation of the individual and a co-creation and co-design of the solution,” Hekimian said.

“When a lot of people and organisations think of a solution to a problem, they don’t actually involve [the stakeholders] within that, especially if the problem is affecting a certain group.

“But it’s important to include them in the co-design.”

At the completion of Velvet Expressions project, Northcott Innovation will undertake a range of targeted fundraising activities to implement the solutions created and designed by the project’s stakeholders.  

Avenues for this funding could include government grants, philanthropic donations, trusts and foundations.

Hekimian said there were a range of possible solutions.

“We might be able to collaborate with adult industry manufacturers, to maybe make some products – like sex toys – more accessible,” she said.

“Or we could partner with health services specific to the LGBTQI community, to be able to provide alternate formats of information that are more accessible.

“It’s also about empowerment of individuals, being able to express yourself, being a part of the design-led process, and just greater awareness and diversity. There’s a whole array of what success could look like for us.”

The project also will look to increase awareness of disability within the LGBTQI community, Hekimian said.

“It’s about creating more awareness of the fact that some members within [the LGBTQI community] also have a disability, and that disability can look like an array of things,” she said.

“Barriers for a physical disability would be very different to barriers for an intellectual one.

“Awareness around these things is what we’re trying to address.”   

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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One comment

  • Victoria says:

    As a former carer in the areas of both physical and intellectual disability, I found that the phuysically impaired had a greater voice, but the intellectually impaired were simply stopped from doing pretty much anything sexual, even masturbating. Housing workers need training to learn that their clients probably have the same needs as they do, but that they aren’t able to express this, so they end up engaging in what is looked upon as “bad” or “challenging” behaviours; worse still if 2 people in one facility find themselves attracted to each other and their sexual preferences are absolutley not considered.

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