Last week I visited London and a meeting with SHADA – The Sexual Health and Disability Alliance. It is a network of professionals in different fields working with sex and disability issues, coming together twice a year to share experiences, develop strategies and campaign for change. SHADA grew out of the Outsiders Club, a disabled people’s dating community.
I have known of SHADA for several years, using their Sexual Respect Tool Kit in my teaching with social work students and disability services professionals.
At last week’s meeting, I presented my research and asked for comments about how people experiences working with these issues. Other talks included, among others, Leonard Cheshire presenting their new sexuality and relationships policy, and Michelle Donald about her sex therapy practice aimed at people with spinal injury, of which she herself has experience.
It was great to hear about different things that are happening around sex and disability issues and very inspiring to meet with all the brilliant people who fight for disabled people’s sexual rights in various settings. I realised the importance of a network like this, to know that one is not alone in the fight and to have a place where it’s just natural to talk about these things – something that I missed in Sweden.
Photo of SHADA attendees in the pub
But it also got me thinking that one of the aims of my research project must be to get all these different organisations together; SHADA and the others that I’ve interviewed – because although they may have different ideologies or work in different ways, on some points it would be valuable to speak with one voice. We’ll see how it goes!