Seed funded projects

The Disability Innovation Institute carries out research funded by competitively awarded grants. In addition, members of UNSW who have a formal association with the Institute often have their own research projects which contribute to the disability research community of UNSW. You can see our projects here.

The Institute has also given seed funding to a number of research groups across different Faculties at UNSW to support interdisciplinary, disability-inclusive research.

Our seed funded projects are shown below. 

Gender barriers to accessing personalised disability funding schemes

The aim of this pilot project is to investigate gendered barriers to accessing personalised disability funding.

Using an inclusive mixed methods design, we seek to identify some of the barriers women face in accessing disability support in Australia, particularly the NDIS. Semi-structured interviews will be combined with a systems mapping exercise which helps participants create visual causal map diagrams of barriers and links between them.

The research questions that this study seeks to address are:

  1. What barriers do women face in accessing the NDIS?
  2. Are women accessing the NDIS receiving the supports they need? If not, what is the nature of this under-support and what reasons do they identify?

Seed funding year: 2020

Project team: Dr. Sophie Yates, Ms Eleanor Malbon, A/Prof. Gemma Carey, Ms Jen Hargrave

Partner organisations: Women with Disability ACT, Women with Disability Victoria


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Positioning and navigation for people who are blind or have low vision

This project uses the latest in indoor positioning technologies to research, construct and test a highly accurate (<10cm), robust, discreet, wearable, cost effective, wayfinding and navigation system for people who are blind or have low vision.

Seed funding year: 2020

Project team: Dr. Binghao Li, Prof. Sisi Zlatanova, Dr. Eduardo Benitez Sandoval, Mr Euan Ramsey-Stewart, Ms Megan Taylor


Photo by Eren Li from Pexels

Culturally responsive disability support with Chinese people in Sydney

This project examines how disability support organisations facilitate and support peer support groups for people with disability and their families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and how the support is related to organisational cultural responsiveness towards people with disability and their families.

Seed funding year: 2020

Project team: Dr. Qian Fang, Prof. Karen Fisher, Dr. Abner Weng Cheong Poon, Dr. Jung-Sook Lee, Prof. Bingqin Li, Ms Julie Duong, Mr David Yang, Ms Amy Chan


Photo by Celine Lityo on Unsplash

Self managing NDIS packages: promising practices for people left behind

This project conducts preliminary research to explore the conditions and resources conducive to self management in the interests of the person with disability. It scans the current conditions in Australia that facilitate or mitigate against self-management and what other resources show promise for including people traditionally left behind in the all-or-nothing approach to self management.

Seed funding year: 2020

Project team: Prof. Karen Fisher, Prof. Sally Robinson, Dr. Christiane Purcal, Dr. Megan Blaxland, Ms Rosemary Kayess, Ms Frances Quan Farrant



Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

What does it mean to have a good hospital experience? Participatory research with children with intellectual disability.

This project aims to develop and support young people and adults with lived experience of intellectual disability as co-researchers as part of research to explore good experiences of hospital care for children with intellectual disability.

Seed funding year: 2020

Project team; A/Prof. Reema Harrison, Ms Laurel Mimmo, A/Prof. Sue Woolfenden, Prof. Joanne Travagalla, Prof. Iva Strnadová, Dr. Michael Hodgins, A/Prof. Angela Dew, Ms Karen Phillips, Dr. Kate Oulton, Ms Debbie van Hoek, Ms Maya Tokutake, Mr Matthew van Hoek, Dr. Emma Nicholson, Dr. Éidín Ni She, Dr. Bronwyn Newman

Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

Disability employment and the fourth industrial revolution

This project is a comparative analysis of labour market exclusion of people with disability in Australia and China. It is background research to test the hypothesis that people who are excluded from paid work and formal economy are more likely to take up new opportunities in the informal sector and increase economic participation in the digital economy.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Associate Professor Bingqin LiProfessor Karen FisherAssociate Professor/Scientia Fellow Zhiming Cheng and Francis Farrant.

Pathways to preventive care for people with severe mental illness

People with severe mental illness (PWSMI) have poorer physical health and a shorter life expectancy than the general population. There is a need to improve their access to GPs to improve their physical health outcomes.

The project used qualitative methods to explore the experiences and perspectives of PWSMI and what helped them to have a positive relationship with a GP. We then facilitated a workshop with PWSMI, service providers and others to identify strategies to improve access. Participants identified navigation support, GP capacity building, and coordinated care as priorities for action.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Dr. Catherine Spooner, Dr. Peri O'Shea, Prof. Karen Fisher, Prof. Mark Harris, A/Prof. Ben Harris-Roxas, Conjoint A/Prof. Patrick Bolton, Ms Jane Taggart

This seeding grant contributed to successful funding applications:

  • Mindgardens funding to trial an online interactive care plan shared between the consumer, SESLHD mental health service clozapine clinic, GPs and other care team members. Find out more

  • NSW Health funding (Translational Research Grants Scheme) for a trial of an online interactive care plan shared between the consumer, SLHD mental health services, GPs and other care team members. Find out more

  • Mental Health Commission of NSW funding for mental health literacy training and education for the primary health workforce. Find out more

  • UNSW funding for a Scientia scholarship on Improving the physical health of people with severe mental illness. Find out more

The study also contributed to our supervision of a Master of Health Data Science to conduct a secondary analysis of MedicineInsight (National Prescribing Service) data to provide a profile of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in general practices in Australia. This is currently being written up for publication.

Mobile technology as a tool to increase social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

The researchers will investigate the use of mobile technology by people with intellectual disabilities, and its capacity to improve their social inclusion e.g., experiencing valued social roles; being recognised as an individual; belonging to a social network.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Prof. Iva StrnadováProf. Terry Cumming, Scientia Prof. Andrew Martin, Dr. Joanne Danker, Ms. Julie Loblinzk



Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Embodied experiences of Syrian and Iraqi refugees living with disability: Through a lived experience lens

This project used an Action Research framework to build the capacity of a person from a refugee background with lived experience of disability as a Bicultural Research Assistant to pilot a range of culturally appropriate arts-based research methods for use with people with disability from these backgrounds in order to understand their experiences.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Dr Ruth WellsProf. Katherine Boydell, Dr. Caroline Lenette A/Prof. Angela DewDr. Julia Lappin


Data governance and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

This project was to create a framework for future research mapping the structures, processes and accountabilities for gathering and using data in disability services and mainstream services accessed by NDIS participants, to identify the opportunities for data driven innovation to improve participant choice and control in the scheme.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Dr. Sue Olney, Dr. Karen Gardner, Prof. Pamela Hanrahan, A/Prof. Helen Dickinson, A/Prof. Gemma Carey, and Research Associates Jennifer Malbon, Georgia Katsikis and Pan Karanikolas


The project team has drawn on the findings of the seed funding project to varying degrees in the following publications and research

Book chapters:

Submissions and reports:

Related research in progress:

How do Disability Employment Services and the NDIS interact? (Alex Devine, Sue Olney, Georgia Katsikis, Pan Karanikolas)


Photo by Social Estate on Unsplash

Achieving best outcomes for children with autism: What will work for whom?

The aim of this research project is to pool and prepare the data from the Child and Family Outcomes Study dataset and undertake preliminary analysis. Based on the emerging findings the research team will work with families with a child receiving ASELCC services in NSW (KU Children’s Services in Western Sydney) and with policy makers and service providers on the co-design of a future much larger data linkage study.

Seed funding year: 2019

Project team: Prof. Valsamma Eapen, Dr. Anne Masi, Dr. Kylie-Ann Mallitt, Prof. Ilan Katz

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Harnessing virtual reality games for disability awareness

This project aimed to create and showcase Virtual Reality (VR) videos that tell authentic life stories of people with disability. People with disability are under-represented and misrepresented in mainstream media. Twenty-three people with disability were interviewed and they believe VR can amplify their voices and represent their lived experiences from their own perspective. The interviewees suggest that VR can facilitate empathy and perspective-taking, and contribute to positive social changes about disability. Furthermore, this project aimed to test the effectiveness of the VR videos in disability advocacy.

Project team: Dr. Veronica Zixi Jiang, Dr. Ariella Meltzer, Prof. Shan Pan, Xinyue Zhang (PhD student)

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash