Before we get into how you can support the people you work with, let’s start with a little bit of background information.
What is Sexuality?
Sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. Sexuality is not limited to just sex. Sexuality includes going on dates, setting boundaries, and taking care of your own body!
Sexuality looks different for everyone. Everyone embraces and expresses their sexuality in different ways. Not everyone chooses or wants to engage in every sexual and romantic activity there is.
People with Disabilities are Sexual Beings
Society often overlooks sexuality when it comes to people with disabilities! It is a common belief that people with disabilities do not desire or engage in sexual or romantic activity.
All individuals, including those with physical and mental limitations, “have a need for touch and intimacy” (Yarber & Sayad). People with disabilities go through puberty, experience sexual feelings, etc..
Disability & Sexuality
Disability may affect one’s ability or desire to engage in sexual behavior. However, sexual desire and activity still strongly persists among many people with disabilities! Here are just a few studies that reveal sexuality among different populations:
- 93% of men (51 out of 55) with “high functioning” autism reported they experienced sexual interest and desire in a questionnaire (Fernandes & Gillberg, 2016).
- Almost half of couples over 50 with a partner living with deafblindness (42.2%) disclosed they were currently sexually active with their partner and satisfied with their sex life (Lehane, C., Dammeyer, J., Hovaldt, H., & Elsass, P., 2017).
Sexuality in the Disability Community
Generally, society, educators, health professionals, and others fail to acknowledge the sexuality of people with disabilities.
“I get the feeling people think that because I am in a chair there is just a blank space down there” (Silverberg & Kaufman, 2007).
Below are a few videos that showcase some relationships of people with disabilities! (optional)
Sexuality is a Human Right
The disability rights movement revealed a list of rights regarding sexuality for people with disabilities:
- “The right to sexual expression
- The right to privacy
- The right to be informed about and have access to needed services, such as contraceptive counseling, medical care, genetic counseling, and sex counseling
- The right to choose one’s marital status
- The right to have or not have children
- The right to make one’s own decisions and develop to one’s full potential” (Yarber & Sayad, 2019).