William Ward-Boas is on a mission.

The disability advocate and VALID Board Member has been invited to travel to New York to speak at the UN’s 17th Annual Conference of State Parties (COSP17) this June.

Having spent six years working in the disability rights and self-advocacy space, he is looking forward to networking with other advocates from around the world, and learning best practices to bring back to his work here in Australia.

He’ll be attending on behalf of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations on issues like accessibility in times of crisis and in digital information.

“I’m attending the UN because it has always been a dream to engage directly where global disability policies are shaped,” Ward-Boas said.

“This conference is a platform to bring international insights back to Australia and advance our local advocacy efforts.”
However, without financial grants available, Ward-Boas needs help to cover his travel expenses. He’s aiming to raise $12,000 by June 3 to make this opportunity a reality.

“The privilege to be offered such an opportunity, especially with the help of my mentors along the way – I couldn’t be more grateful,” he added.

Finding self-acceptance

Ward-Boas is autistic and a person with intellectual disability, and is also a proud First Nations and gay man.

He is positive about his identities now, but he said it wasn’t always that way.

“Through the exposure of this very complex space, and through the multiple amazing self-advocates I’ve had exposure to, and the amazing people I’ve worked with, I’ve really gotten to see what empowerment looks like,” Ward-Boas explained.

“They taught me how to love my identity. That’s how I began being proud. All of those identities slowly but surely came into focus as time went on and shaped who I am now.”

He said due to the intersectionality of his identities, his interactions with services initially weren’t always positive and he faced discrimination and barriers, especially in the mainstream employment market. But now, working within the human rights space, he feels confident in his ability to help the communities he is part of.

“I’ll bring my know-how into where I go and see how I can be of help or use to others facing the same issues I faced. This complex journey of self-advocacy has taught me to embrace and love my diverse identities,” he said.

Zeroing in on employment options

Ward-Boas’ journey is also a testament to overcoming personal and systemic barriers. As an autistic, intellectually disabled, First Nations, and gay man, he has navigated numerous challenges but now uses his experiences to advocate for others facing similar issues.

“It’s a journey that has come full circle, from me being mentored by more and more people and learning that I can use my experience to help others as I was helped,” he said.

During his time as an advocate for organisations like Amaze, Inclusion Australia and VALID, Ward-Boas has worked on projects promoting self-advocacy in people with intellectual disability and initiatives to explore employment options for people with disability. One of his biggest passions is advocating for equal and equitable employment.

He said he hopes to one day see tokenism “eradicated from existence” and people with disability “employed for their skills, their worth, their knowledge, their life experience, and for that to be utilised.”

“People need to be employed for their skills and their life experience, but not for the sake of ticking a box,” he added.

“Value us for us, and not for the sake of personal gain.”

Donate to Ward-Boas’ fundraiser here.

How You Can Help: Regrettably, there are no grants available to support William’s journey. He needs to raise $12,000 by June 3rd to cover his travel expenses. “I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity and for everyone who has supported me to reach this point,” he adds.
Support William’s Journey to the UN – donate here.

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