The sexuality of disabled people is a taboo subject in disability services, health care and in society as a whole. Additionally, physical inaccessibility, lack of social policy and failure by professionals to recognise disabled people as sexual can lead to unmet needs, misconduct and reproduction of prejudice about asexuality. In the findings from a participatory action research project that sought to identify future priorities for disability research, the issue of sexual facilitation was suggested as such a priority by Disabled People’s Organisations.
In many countries a new generation of service users are growing up with recognized human rights through strengthened disability policies and anti-discrimination laws, as well as European and global conventions – notwithstanding often only briefly mentioning the right to sexual expression on an abstract level. Differences in local policy contexts lead to different possibilities for disabled people to receive sexual facilitation.
Aims and objectives
This project seeks to explore how non-governmental organisations and policy makers work with issues related to sexual facilitation, that is, the professional support needed for some mobility impaired people to conduct their sexual activity as desired. This knowledge will be used to develop good practices together with the participating organisations, as well as to enhance the theoretical knowledge of issues regarding sexual citizenship for mobility impaired people.
Fieldwork will be carried out in England (the UK), The Netherlands and New South Wales (Australia). The project uses a mixed-method design, including analysis of policy documents, interviews with policy makers and representatives from disability rights organisations, and participatory workshops to develop good practices. The aim of this methodological approach is to allow for a qualitative insight into the policy processes as well as their consequences in practice.
With the knowledge gained from the interviews with organisations and policy makers, the researcher aims to identify both difficulties and good examples in the area of sexual facilitation for mobility impaired people. Thereby, it is hoped that the project will lead to new knowledge and enable development of better policies and practices in accordance with disabled people’s needs.
The project Sexual Citizenship and Disability: Implications for Theory, Practice and Policy is a 2 year postdoctoral research project conducted by Dr Julia Bahner, School of Sociology and Social Policy, Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds, UK. The research is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon2020 Research and Innovation Framework Program.