QueerAF Partnership: Considering disabled accessibility is vital for rural LGBTQIA+ community members to take part

06 June 2024 | Inclusive Journalism Cymru

As someone who has lived in and around the South Wales Valleys most of my life, going anywhere is never quick. 

If you’re disabled and unable to drive this becomes even harder, especially if like me, the best you have is an hourly bus – if you’re lucky – to the nearest town. 

When most LGBTQIA+ groups are based in cities like Cardiff and Swansea being a disabled LGBTQIA+ person can feel isolating, particularly living in a more rural area. 

Although there are groups that are starting to focus on disabled LGBTQIA+ people, they are often targeted towards younger people and teenagers. There is an absence of social spaces available for disabled LGBTQIA+ people over 25 where we can build friendships and be a part of both communities. 

Even having access to a monthly outreach would give us a space to share our experiences with other disabled LGBTQIA+ people. It can also help to build support networks for people who otherwise may not have the chance to do this. 

Take LGBTQIA+ carers, where 7 in 10 have a disability or long-term health condition. They would also have a chance to feel less isolated and removed from the wider LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities, as being a carer may prevent them engaging on an individual level.

There are a variety of reasons why someone could find themselves becoming disabled in adulthood when they were not previously. 

One reason could be being diagnosed later in life and wanting to have a place to understand it better, such as being diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). 

Another person could become disabled in later life, such as becoming a wheelchair user due to an injury that has a long-term impact. It may also be that someone couldn’t engage with the LGBTQIA+ community when they were younger, either due to when they grew up or feeling comfortable as an adult

As someone whose ASD journey started at 31 I’ve spent a lot of time sifting through information, support, and apps aimed at helping young children.

Although social spaces for disabled and LGBTQIA+ people aim to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone, this doesn’t necessarily reflect the experiences.

"When most LGBTQIA+ groups are based in cities like Cardiff and Swansea being a disabled LGBTQIA+ person can feel isolating, particularly living in a more rural area. "

Sam Lewis


When I have attended groups for disabled or neurodivergent people previously, I have always felt that I couldn’t talk openly about being queer and non-binary. Because of this my stays in these groups were short-lived or resulted in me barely engaging with others.

In terms of attending LGBTQIA+ meet-ups and events in general, this can be difficult as someone who depends on public transport to get around, which can be either unreliable or have restricted hours. In my local area there was a group that met in an industrial estate cafe, which is almost impossible to get to with the Sunday bus timetable I’d need to rely on. Although I have been interested in attending groups or events, often the time or location in relation to public transport have been barriers to me going. 

When someone faces both these issues, particularly in less urban areas, it can lead to feeling isolated and separate from both communities. 

If support groups are designed with the attendance of disabled LGBTQIA+ people in mind, we can help those who currently feel isolated or unable to be as active in the community. This could also create representation of people  in local areas, rather than leaving so many disabled LGBTQIA+ feeling they need to get past the many barriers of going to the nearest city and navigating public transport. By considering the challenges faced by disabled LGBTQIA+ people in rural areas we can begin to create more accessible and varied venues for us to meet. 

This could be a local community hub, a coffee shop, or forming a team at a quiz night. When removing the barriers of using public transport, such as cost and travel time, people can feel more engaged and part of the wider community

When the only way you can get involved is by catching multiple buses and checking several timetables, it can get disheartening. But if people and organisations started to look outside the cities we, as disabled LGBTQIA+ people, could get more involved. We would feel genuinely included and be able to bring new ideas to the table, giving us a way to find our queer joy closer to home.

This article is part of a QueerAF and Inclusive Journalism Cymru partnership dedicated to uplifting Welsh LGBTQIA+ emerging and marginalised journalists. 

You can follow Sam on X and LinkedIn

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