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London's First-Ever 'ParaPride' Celebrates LGBTQ+ People With Disabilities

By Hugo Greenhalgh 

LONDON, Aug 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - LGBTQ+ people with disabilities called on the wider gay community to be more inclusive and address internal discrimination at the launch of London's first-ever ParaPride on Saturday.

Hosted at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London — listed as a historic building in 2015 because of its significance to the LGBTQ+ community — the event drew several hundred people to an afternoon of panel discussions and stage acts.

LGBTQ+ venues need to be more accessible and the gay, bisexual, and transgender community needs to address how it views people with disabilities, said former teacher Domenico Pasquariello.

"We want people to know that there are people within the LGBT community who are disabled and we don't want people to discriminate [against] disability within the community," Pasquariello, 49, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

Performance poet and disability activist Ruthie Adamson, who was performing at ParaPride as Wonky Wordsmith, said discrimination can take many forms.

Adamson, who has written about being born with "delightfully deformed digits" on her right hand, experienced what she termed "disablism" from a fellow partygoer at a recent evening event.

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"As soon as she walked in and saw me and saw my delightfully deformed digits, she sneeringly said, 'A lesbian with one hand?'," Adamson, 55, said.

"So yes, there was disablism coming from a queer comrade."

Government data estimates there are about 14 million people with disabilities in Britain — or more than 1 in every 5 people.

Leading LGBTQ+ rights organisation Stonewall estimates between 5% and 7% of the British population identifies as non-heterosexual, suggesting there might be as many as 700,000 to 980,000 LGBTQ+ people with disabilities in Britain.

Disability Pride events first started in the US city of Boston in 1990.

In Britain, Disability Pride Brighton was founded in 2017 by Jenny Skelton following an incident with her daughter with a disability.

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"We want to ensure that the experience for disabled LGBT people is fun, welcoming, and equal," said co-founder of ParaPride, Daniele Lul.

"We want to work with venues in order to make the spaces more inclusive for people with different types of disabilities."

NHS volunteer Melody Powell said part of the problem was lack of awareness that disability encompassed a range of issues.

"I often feel places don't remember people have different needs, especially within the LGBT community," she said.

"They already think they're being inclusive by saying, 'Yeah, we accept gay people, so we've ticked that box'."

(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh; editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org for more stories.)