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Sexual Education Resources for People with Disabilities - Antigonish Women's Resource Centre

Sexual Education Resources for People with Disabilities

About the Project

“Understanding the Gaps in Sexual Education for People with Disabilities” was a small research project conducted by Asia van Buuren in collaboration with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, funded by the Prevention Innovation Fund in 2016. The project’s main objective was to assess the climate in Antigonish and beyond that creates barriers to openly discussing disability and sexuality. Through dialogue with community organizations, self-advocates, and inclusion scholars, many of the challenges that our community faces became clear. The following list summarizes those challenges and corresponding calls to action:

Sexual Violence Support Services are not Inclusive:

  • People with disabilities are significantly more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetime, but this fact is not reflected by the support system structures that exist in communities.
  • There are inadequate training options to address this, and in particular, the fact that people with intellectual disabilities may require more time to communicate their experiences and/or build meaningful relationships.
  • CALL TO ACTION: For sexual violence support agencies to be inclusive, beyond being physically “accessible”, to be willing to take on women with a range of intellectual disabilities, and to seek training to do this in a meaningful way.

Lack of Adequate, Inclusive Sexual Education & Resources:

  • Online resources are available but people with intellectual disabilities often lack online literacy training and education.
  • Sexual education training and staff orientation in work places of those supporting people with disabilities directly is nonexistent. In schools, education is minimal and inadequately representative of the lived experiences of people with disabilities.
  • There is a lack of individuals doing inquiry/research in this area in Canada at the present time along with a lack of funding for projects seeking to address these gaps.
  • CALL TO ACTION: For sexual education programming in schools and/or organizations, given by teachers or external agencies, to reflect the lived experiences of students/people with disabilities, and for these students/people to be receiving education that reflects their needs.

Societal Barriers:

  • People with disabilities are often seen as asexual/infantilized making these conversations difficult to navigate without challenging ableist systems and assumptions people have first.
  • Often, parents exist as primary decision-makers for adults with intellectual disabilities, therefore, parents need to be allies in the education process.
  • CALL TO ACTION: For organizations that support adults with disabilities in the broader community to discuss sexual violence prevention and sexual education, to acknowledge that there is a problem, to be intentional in the ways they orient their staff to supporting people with disabilities in their sexuality.

Another call to action was for a resource library, accessible through the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre’s website, that would allow communities across Nova Scotia to begin with foundational resources, information, research, and practices to more adequately support people with disabilities in their sexuality. The following is a cohesive list for educators, self-advocates, families, or any community members interested in gaining knowledge in this area. It includes websites, academic articles, books, and mainstream reading on disability, sexuality, and disability politics.

Any questions about the list, the project or about folks that can provide further expertise in this area of work can be directed to Asia at asiavanb@gmail.com.

For Educators and Support Workers

Sexuality and Disability: an academic journal that publishes scholarly articles looking at the area of sexuality as it relates to a diverse range of disabilities and conditions.

The Circles Programan educational tool for youth with intellectual disabilities that can be purchased as an entire educational curriculum or as an app.

SHine SA (Sexual Health Information Networking & Education)a non-profit provider of services and education for sexual and relationship wellbeing in South Australia. They have compiled resources to support helping professionals in understanding the sexual rights and education needs of those living with disabilities.

CHANGE: Learning Disability Rights Charity: has a collection of award-winning, accessible resources (some of which are available for free) including a collection of sex and relationships booklets in easy-read format.

Sexuality and Disability: a website constructed as questions that women with disabilities may have about her body, sex, relationships, parenting, and much more. Includes incredible myth-busting resources!

SIECCAN: The Sex Information & Education Council of Canada: a charitable organization that works with health professionals, community, and educators to promote sexual and reproductive health. Two of their reports that are particularly relevant to sex and disability can be found below.

David Hingsburger Books & Resources:

  • “Just Say Know! Understanding and Reducing the Risk of Sexual Victimization of People with Developmental Disabilities”: written by David Hingsburger available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.
  • “Power Tools: Thoughts About Power & Control in Service to People with Developmental Disabilities”: written by David Hingsburger available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.
  • Personal Blog: “Of Battered Aspect”
  • Other books & resources available for purchase at: Diverse City Press Inc.

Family Planning NSW: a reproductive and sexual health advocacy organization that supports individuals living in New South Wales, Australia. You can find their disability page here.

For People with Disabilities

Books

“The Growing Up Guide for Girls: What Girls on the Autism Spectrum Need to Know”: written by Davida Hartman available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.

“The Growing Up Guide for Boys: What Boys on the Autism Spectrum Need to Know”written by Davida Hartman available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.

“The Autism Spectrum Guide to Sexuality and Relationships”written by Dr. Emma Goodall available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.

Online Resources

PleasureABLESexual Device Manual for People with Disabilities: a resource that discusses adapting sex toys for people with disabilities.

Ready, Sexy, Able: Sex and Disability Resources, Information & Supporta website/blog written by Robin Mandell. Robin is a sex educator and advocate based out of Washington, D.C. The website includes an incredible resource list (found here) that includes resources for helping and medical professionals.

A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilitiesa handbook completely available online that is accessible for women with disabilities. The handbook seeks to remove barriers that prevent women with disabilities from achieving good health by providing them with critical information on making healthcare disability friendly, bodies, mental health, pregnancy, and much more.

Disability Rights Ohioa non-profit advocating for the human, civil, and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio. Their resource page is designed for self-advocates, and their work is easily translatable to a Canadian context.

Take Charge! A Reproductive Health Guide for Women with Disabilities: written by The Empowered Fe Fes – a young women’s advocacy and peer support group at Access Living. The guide is geared toward women with disabilities, healthcare providers, parents, and community organizations. A description of the guide can be found here.

For Everyone

Books

“The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability”: written by Fran Odette and Miriam Kaufman available at the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.

“Hot, Wet, and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex”: written by Kaleigh Trace: a disabled, queer, sex educator. Available for purchase here.

“Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation”: written by Eli Clare: a writer, speaker, and activist who does work in disability and queerness. Available for purchase on Amazon.

Online Resources

Scope: About Disabilitya charity with the vision of making England a country where people with and without disabilities have equal opportunities. Similar to other disability rights organizations, their work translates well to a Canadian context.

  • A to Z of Sex and Disability: a fun and accessible tool seeking to debunk the myth that people with disabilities do not/cannot have fulfilling sex lives (NOTE: only appropriate for those over the age of 16 as outlined by the charity’s website).

Fact Sheet: Women with Disabilities and Violencewritten by the Disabled Women’s Network.

The Right to be Safe: a Resource Guide Addressing Violence Against People with Disabilities in your Community: written by the Canadian Association of Community Living.

Violence Against Women with Disabilities: Violence Prevention Review: written by the Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research.

The Disability Visibility Project (DVP)™: an online community dedicated to sharing disability stories and culture. An incredible compilation of essays, blog posts, and audio interviews!

LGBTQ & Disability:

  • This is What Dating is Like When You’re LGBT and Disabled: a BuzzFeed article looking at the intersections and complexities of LGBTQ people with disabilities.
  • Queerability: an LGBTQ and Disability Rights advocacy organization founded by Kris Guin that seeks to ensure the voices of LGBTQ people with disabilities are heard.
  • Transcript of Eli Clare’s Keynote from the 2002 Queerness & Disability Conference: Eli Clare is a writer, speaker, and activist who does work in disability and queerness (you can find his personal website here).

Consent & Disability:

Thank you to all the allies, mentors and self-advocates who made this work possible. In particular, to the Prevention Innovation Fund for funding this work and to the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre for their support.

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