The supporting sexualities and genders study: Improving personal support for young adults who employ personal assistants

Edmund Coleman-Fountain In progress  


Sexuality and gender are very important parts of who we are – our identity. This is true for disabled and non-disabled people. Sexuality and gender matter to disabled young adults’ as part of their identity or what might be called their ‘intimate rights’.

Disabled young adults may need support with this part of their lives. The sorts of support they may need might be intimate or personal. Some have personal assistants (PAs) to help with their care and support needs.

But this can be seen as a problem by others. For example, Personal Assistants (PAs) can see requests for support with sexual activity as outside of their job role, or may be uncomfortable in different situations (e.g. in LGBT+ venues). Disabled young adults may not know how to negotiate these issues with their PA, or how to manage PAs who respond negatively. To help improve social care for disabled young adults, it is important to find out about these experiences, and explore ways to ensure these important aspects of their lives are fulfilled.


The aims of this study are to:

  1. explore disabled young adults’ views and experiences on how the need for intimate support related to sexuality and gender affects their relationships with PAs;
  2. explore ways to make PAs and social care services more aware of the intimate and sexuality related support needs of disabled young adults;
  3. create information and support resources with disabled young adults and PAs that can help PAs in their role, and disabled young adults to manage their care and support arrangements.


The study comprises three work packages:

  • Work Package 1 (WP1) explores disabled young adults’ experiences around seeking sexuality-related support from their PA through interviews, facilitated by creative activities, to find out about their experiences
  • Work Package 2 (WP2) investigates PAs’ experiences and their advice and support needs around providing sexuality-related support through focus groups, interviews and online group discussions
  • Work Package 3 (WP3) uses the findings from WP1 and WP2 to create training and information resources for disabled young adults, adult social care services, PA support organisations and individual PAs.


Project website: