Sexual Health & Disability Alliance meeting in London

Last week I attended a meeting with the Sexual Health & Disability Alliance (SHADA), a UK-wide network of people working with sexuality and disability issues. They hold meetings twice a year and this was my second meeting after attending a year ago to present my research. It’s a great opportunity to meet with like-minded professionals and discuss how to overcome the difficulties we face in realising disabled people’s sexual rights.

After a round of introductions and updates on what everyone has been up to and/or wants to discuss, there are usually a couple of speakers. The first one was Helen Dunman from Chailey Heritage School where she works with bespoke sexuality and relationship education for disabled young people, as well as training to parents and teachers. She emphasised the importance of regarding sexuality not only as sex, but in terms of intimate relationships that can look different to everybody depending on their dis/abilities:

Everyone can have intimate relationships even if they are not able to consent to intercourse.

Professor Clare de Than gave a legal update. The recent Royal College of Nursing guidance is mostly good but contains some legal errors. In the government’s SRE guidance consultation disability is only mentioned ones and then as an exception. Claire also talked about her ongoing campaign on the ‘P case’ which has been reported in the media as ‘Carers pimped out my daughter’. Turns out she is a consenting adult living in a care home. This is a ‘denormalisation of normal behaviour because it’s about a disabled person’, said Claire.

Emma Buckett (pictured above), trustee and volunteer for Outsiders, tells her story: growing up with a degenerative condition, not being recognised by professionals as having social or sexual needs:

Sex is not like on TV – if you can’t do what the playbook says, make up your own moves!

Read more about Emma on her blog. There’s one great post about her experience with dating through the Outsiders club.

I was also very happy to finally meet Lorna Couldrick, OT, in person (we are pictured together below). We’ve been in touch for several years since during my PhD. Lorna has developed a new sexual health model of practice for use by physical disability teams: The Recognition Model, based on her doctoral research.

Just like at the SHADA meeting I attended a year ago I was inspired by the thoughts and experiences shared, and look forward to the next meeting in March when I will present the results from my research!