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Disability and sexuality: Laura is a blonde woman with long hair. She wears a sheer black top and a fabulous splash of leopard print. She is smiling at the camera and holding pink balloons

Pride month: sexuality, disability and finding the perfect balance

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

We ask the wonderful Laura Drummond to write about sexuality and disability. In February 2024, we held a large photoshoot in the middle of London and invite a load of gorgeous, sexy disabled people to join us. The shoot meant a lot to all of us that were there. Laura tells us what the Undressing Disability photoshoot meant to her.

Meet Laura

My name is Laura, and I am known as @powerchairqueen_zebedee on social media. I am a 44-year-old disabled woman, and I became disabled later in life. I have several chronic illnesses and I have struggled with my identity over the last few decades due to this change in my health status. I have done lots of work over the last few years trying to find out who I am now, and I am now fully embracing my disabled identity, proudly and unapologetically.  

Embracing disability and identity

One part of the process of coming to terms with chronic illness and my disabled identity was about my sexuality. I felt that I was no longer desirable or attractive because of my defective body. It took a long time to love the body that I am now in despite of what it can no longer do. I have achieved this through self-exploration and positive affirmations. I do not believe in ‘body positivity’ at all costs as this is just not realistic when you struggle with the symptoms that your body throws up. But I took part in a modelling competition where I sat and stood there in my underwear to show that disabled bodies are just like every other body.

I suppose that the difference with an invisible disability is that no-one around you necessarily knows that you are disabled. This can have its benefits but also doesn’t allow for any allowances for your restrictions. So, although this competition was incredibly empowering and did amazing things for my confidence and my body acceptance it showed how the modelling world especially is not built for people like me, disabled people.  

Undressing Disability photoshoot

When I was asked by Undressing Disability to take part in their photoshoot with other disabled people, to show that disabled people are just as sexual, desirable and fascinating as their non-disabled counterparts, I absolutely jumped at the chance. I was full of anticipation when I got there and felt no nerves whatsoever.

It meant so much to me as a woman in my 40’s to feel sexy and seductive in what I was wearing and the whole experience was a fantastic one for me. It has helped me to explore my own sexuality more and after knowing for my entire adult life that I found both women and men attractive I had the dawning realisation that I am bisexual. A bit a of revelation for me in my 40’s and married to a man. The outside appearance is one of heterosexuality and I must admit that there seems little point in ‘coming out’ as it will do nothing to change my marital status and relationship, but it feels good to have done this exploration.  

Disability and sex

Following the photoshoot I have worked further with Undressing Disability, and I have learned more about the amazing accessible sex toy range that they have launched with Rocks Off. The toys themselves are a revelation to me as someone who uses toys regularly and realising the impact that these can have on those people who have not been able to explore their own sexuality due to their disability. There is an overall assumption amongst society, a wrong one, that disabled people do not have sexual desires and are therefore what would the need be for them to explore this?

Shop the Quest range by clicking here to visit the Rocks Off Website.

Well, does that mean that when I became disabled that I no longer felt any desires or have any sexual appetite? No, it absolutely does not. This is not something that can be turned on or off and this toy range is accessible down to getting it out of the packaging. There is nothing more frustrating than having to ask someone for help with something that you don’t necessarily want them to know that you have bought! You can literally get the packaging open with one hand, and the charging points are easy too, magnetic and not fiddly at all. Everything has been thought about, down to the buttons which are also large and embossed for easy use.  

Working with Undressing Disability has been literally life changing for me and I feel so proud to be helping to promote a charity that is doing such a great job informing and educating. I feel freer, more sexy, more empowered, and have made some amazing connections with other beautiful disabled people all with the same mission to let the world know that we are out here, we are sexy, desirable and we aren’t going away.

We are just going to shout louder with the help of wonderful organisations like Undressing Disability.  

Donate to Undressing Disability by visiting our donation page and helping us to continue the good work we do.

Want to read more about sexuality and disability? Head to our blog page for more articles like this

Sex and pleasure for disabled women in Nigeria

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

In this interview, sexual rights activist and researcher Susie Jolly interviews Ejiro Sharon Okotie, development professional in gender, social inclusion and disability rights. Ejiro shares her trailblazing advocacy work supporting disabled women in Nigeria with their pleasure and sexual expression, and why the need for societal recognition of their sexual rights is more important than ever before.

Susie: Tell us more about your research and advocacy work. What is it all about and what was the motivation behind this work in the first place?

Ejiro: In 2017-2018, while I was running training for disabled people in Nigeria on sexual and reproductive health and rights, one of the participants who had a Spinal Cord Injury shared, “After my accident, my biggest worry was if I still could have sex, less so my injury. However, I was too ashamed to ask the doctors and lived with that anguish for four months”. 

Another participant asked “At what point does masturbation become unhealthy?” Pleasurable activities like masturbation had been demonised and disabled people who engaged in it, were regarded as corrupt, bad, spoilt etc.

Meeting such project beneficiaries and hearing their stories made me realise how narrow our project had been and the huge gap that existed around the subject of sexuality and pleasure, especially as it related to disabled women. I realised this was a gap in the inclusive Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) project I had worked on (implemented through a collaboration between the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) and the Journalists Against AIDS Nigeria (JAAIDS)). 

I became curious to delve deeper into this area of research, to understand if exploring sexuality and pleasure could contribute to the empowerment of disabled women in Nigeria. My advocacy seeks to enable healthy expression of sexuality and pleasure for disabled women, and societal recognition of the need for their ability to exercise their sexual rights.

Susie: What are you keen to highlight about the lived experience of disabled women in Nigeria?

Ejiro: Being a disabled woman myself, a common phrase I heard when I first began working in development was “disabled women get sex by chance and not by choice”. I want to highlight the fact that the narrative of disabled women only having negative experiences of sexuality such as rape, sexual abuse or assault is not the whole story. Disabled women also have positive, healthy romantic and sexual relationships and experiences, and possess agency in exercising their sexual rights. This was very evident in a documentary we produced as an offshoot from the research. 

Susie: How are you seeing prejudice and ableism affect disabled women in Nigeria when it comes to their sexual health and sexual expression?

Ejiro: In Nigeria, as in many other parts of the world, only a complete and functioning body is assumed to allow sexual expression or enjoyment of sexual rights and sexual health. The general perception is that disabled women do not, or should not, have sexual needs or desires, require sexual health information/services or even think about expressing their sexuality. 

These ideas typically come from the immediate families of these disabled women, and extend into society. This lack of recognition of the sexuality and sexual rights of disabled women continues to disempower them, and make them more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and ill-health.

Susie: What changes would you like to see happen to better support disabled Nigerian women with their sexual health and sexual expression? 

Ejiro: A key change must be intentionality from parents, care-givers and broader society in Nigeria on effectively engaging disabled women on their sexual health, providing avenues for healthy conversations around their sexuality, supporting their efforts at a healthy expression of their sexuality and sexual rights, and providing safe spaces for disabled women to share positive experiences and support other disabled women who are survivors of SGBV or other violations of their sexual rights. 

We need a more responsive, sensitive, and proactive Nigerian population (families, community members, duty bearers) to foster an inclusive environment for disabled women as it relates to their sexual health and sexual rights.

Susie: Tell us more about the organisation you are running for disabled and youth.

Ejiro: The Hope Inspired Foundation for Women and Youth with disabilities (HIFWYD), is a woman-led organisation, founded on 27th February 2015, and registered as an Organisation of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria. The Foundation was established to empower and amplify the voices of women and youth with disabilities, with a mission committed to promoting and protecting rights and inclusive development through advocacy, capacity-building, economic empowerment/livelihood support, and public engagement. 

HIFWYD envisions a society where everyone, regardless of disability or any circumstances, can realise their potential and live their dreams. HIFWYD has implemented several projects on entrepreneurship development for disabled women, as well as life-skills programs for disabled girls. 

More recently we have undertaken several projects to improve access to inclusive, comprehensive sexuality education, especially for disabled women/girls in rural communities, as well as building their capacities as self-advocates to realise their rights through better implementation of Disability laws in Nigeria. HIFWYD has been supported by several donor partners with the most recent being the Disability Rights Fund (DRF/DRAF) and World Connect.

About Ejiro

Ejiro Sharon Okotie, is a Development Professional focusing on Gender, Social Inclusion, Disability Rights and most recently, Sexuality. Currently she works as the Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist for the USAID State Accountability Transparency and Effectiveness (State2State) Activity, implemented by DAI Nigeria. She is a Chevening Alumnus with a Masters in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex. As the Founder of the Hope Inspired Foundation for Women and Youth with Disabilities (HIFWYD), a DPO in Nigeria, Ejiro works to empower women and youths with Disabilities for productive living and equal participation in society. 

For more information about The Inspired Foundation, check out their Instagram.

About Susie

Susie Jolly is a sexual rights activist and researcher, and Honorary Associate at the Institute of Development Studies. She previously led the Ford Foundation China portfolio on sexuality education, with a 2 million US dollar annual budget, developing the strategy ‘the marginalised educate the mainstream’. This included supporting disabled women and young people to organise and advocate, supporting disabled activists to work on sexuality, and sexuality educators to learn from disabled people’s organisations on how to become more inclusive.

Let’s talk about it: Consent, love and sex act terminology

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

When it comes to consent, there is so much more to consider than yes or a no. It is about ongoing communication, discussing boundaries and what you are comfortable with.

One area that we often don’t think about is the effect that terminology and language can have. In the age of social media, language and terminology can often mean new words or phrases are coined then discarded a month later. It can feel confusing and overwhelming to try and keep up.

However, if you do not understand what a sex act term means, can you really consent? The answer is no and it means that we can often find ourselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations as a result.

Here are six things to remember around consent

1 – Communication and respect

Consent is an ongoing process throughout sex between two people. It can be withdrawn at any stage and must be respected by the other person. Even if someone has consented at the start of whatever it is you happen to be into, you need to check in with them to make sure they are still okay during and afterwards. This is especially the case if you are changing activities, positions or introducing something new in the bedroom.

If someone looks uncomfortable, stop and ask if they are okay. Respect their decision to stop and reassure them that everything is fine. Making sure that someone feels safe and comfortable is key.

2- Confidence to ask

If you don’t understand a sex term – ask. There are hundreds of words out there for different sex acts from felching to cucking to shrimping. It can feel embarrassing to admit you aren’t sure or don’t know what something means but ultimately, you can’t consent to something you don’t understand fully.

A good partner will stop and explain what a sex term actually means or how they practice it. Don’t rely on a sneaky google to find out what something is because it could mean that your partner has a different understanding of it. Some acts especially those around pain or restriction require a good level of trust, respect and discussion around boundaries with partner/s ahead of time.

Want to learn more? We’ve filmed a series of videos with our resident S-expert Zoe Lloyd that can help explain different sex terms. Follow us on instagram by visiting our page to find out more.

3 – Disclosing health status

It’s important for someone to understand what they are consenting to. As well as understanding what different sex acts are and everything they entail, your partners do need to know your STD/I status too. This gives someone the opportunity to make an informed decision about birth control and their safety.

Regular testing for everyone involved is recommended and can be a quick proceedure at sexual health clinics or your GP surgery.

4 – Non verbal clues

There are lots of non-verbal ways that someone can send a signal that they are uncomfortable or want to stop. This could be anything from shaking their head, giving a thumbs down sign or holding their hands up in a stop gesture, pushing someone away, avoiding touch, moving away from you or maintaining closed body language. They may look upset, stay still or lie flat, tense up or go rigid as well as seemingly distracted or not present.

If you sense someone is uncomfortable or would like to stop then respect this and make sure you stop.

5- Drink and drugs

Someone cannot consent if they are too drunk or on drugs. That’s not to say you cannot drink and consent but if you are intoxicated then its a no. Consent can also not be given if someone is asleep or unconscious. If someone has been threatened or intimidated into having sex or performing a sex act then that is also not consent.

Unequal power dynamics are not consent either. This is when there is a uneven balance of power such as a student and a teacher. This also goes for someone underage too.

6- The importance of talking

Learning to talk about sex can help to improve the quality of sex that we have. As well as giving clear consent, discussing what sex acts you like or positions you fancy trying, it can also help us to communicate what we enjoy. The more you start to talk, the more talking about sex becomes normalised and easier to do.

Being open and honest with your partners means you can concentrate on having the type of sex you enjoy and you may find it can also be a turn on. It can also help your partner to learn what feels good and importantly, what didn’t so it can be avoided in the future.

Want to learn more about sex act terminology? why not visit our resource page to download our free guide to all the terms you may need to know. 

Want to read more about sex, consent and learning disabilities? Visit our Love Lounge page to learn more.

For help around sexual health and assault, visit the NHS support services page

Disability and dating: Two red heart shaped balloons floating in the air

The Dating Campaign: disability and accessible apps

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

We asked….and you delivered!

Earlier this year, we asked disabled people to tell us their stories of dating. In particular, around using dating apps as a disabled person. We received so many stories ranging from positive to negative, highlighting everything from app design to education needed, and how to disclose. 

 

Here are some of the stories we collected during the campaign:

Jo

“I’m going to tell you about a dating experience that I’ve had as someone who is visually impaired. I’ve had a few interesting experiences but a positive one that comes to mind was when I went on a date with a guy to the cinema. 

“At first, he was scared to ask if I wanted to go to the cinema because he didn’t understand why I would want to go to the cinema if I couldn’t see! But I like going to the cinema. He ended up being quite a cheap date because we had to pay for one ticket as we got a carer ticket for free.”

“I would say a lot of my dating stories have been quite similar. As a visually impaired woman, when I tell men that I have a disability their initial reaction is alright, that’s okay or if you need to hold my arm that’s fine. They don’t care so it’s been quite positive.”

John

“I decided early on to disclose my walking impairment on my profile to demonstrate honesty. However, I presented it playfully by saying, “I will still carry the drinks from the bar!” 

I avoided saying the actual medical condition as I did not want my potential match to jump down a Google rabbit hole and make assumptions.”

“When I did not disclose my disability I found when I did, I would be ghosted – which was not fun. I have received strange opening lines and two that will stick with me are “Do your lunges work properly?” and “I bet your disability increases attention.”  

“There is a lot of education and normalising of disability that’s required in this space.”

“One of the most important things to remember when dating with a disability is that dating is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find someone who is right for you. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your soulmate right away. It takes time and effort to find the right person. 

If you keep putting yourself out there, you’re sure to find someone who loves and accepts you for who you are. I know these are words that have been overused but the right person will be able to accept the disability and the person.”

Shreya

“I recently started casually dating again or at least I’m trying to. I did this before I was disabled but not since. I was prepared for some ableism but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of it.”

“I’ve had a lot of the classics: men telling me I’m sexy despite using a wheelchair, or people asking why I use crutches. I don’t use crutches as I use a walking stick. I’ve had people ask me about my medical history within the first five minutes of chatting.”

“I’ve had questions about whether I can have sex even though I am on a sex-orientated dating app. One time someone found out I was a wheelchair user and he made a joke. He said, if we met up and I didn’t know about you being a wheelchair user then I would have made a joke about you being a catfish.”

“From then on, I decided to have one picture with me in my wheelchair and one with my walking stick. I’ve had fewer matches but more intrusive questions. You just can’t win, why is it so hard?”

Dating and disability: A person using apps on a phone in one hand

Carrie

“As a neurodivergent person, I often find the apps a bit overwhelming in terms of their layout as it’s unclear what to press or how to tell someone you like them. I’ve sent way more superlikes than I intended as a result of this.”

“It’s hard to know when to tell someone I am neurodivergent as my disability is hidden. On most apps, there isn’t  an option or a space to do this. I tried joining a dating app for disabled people which listed autism but no other neurodivergent condition. I gave up.”

“I did join a dating site for autistic people which had a wonderful option to list your stims. First date nerves are the worst so I like that you can go in knowing that someone knows what your soothing sounds or behaviours are ahead of time. I also loved that you can connect using your common interests too.”

Alex

“This is a little story about one of my recent dating experiences. The person I went on a date with has a brother with a disability. It was easy to connect with them and focus on the date rather than anything else.”

“These topics do come up and sometimes you have to define your disability and walk someone through what you go through daily. Certain things might come up during the chat that make it a bit awkward or a bit draining for us as people with disabilities to talk about.”

“With this person, in particular, we had a lovely conversation which was very entertaining. We had some ice cream and walked around London. It was very cute.”

B

“I openly share that I am a wheelchair user on my dating app profile, usually with a joke, to prevent people from seeing it as a tragedy, but this isn’t always enough. One day, I received a note from a person that said “Everything happens for a reason, right?”. I immediately understood that they were referring to my disability. I accepted their message request and told them I didn’t understand why they would say that and that everything in life seemed very random to me.”

“They replied with a very long message. In summary, they just wanted to say one or two words because I had shared a “special” condition. They kept arguing that life works based on cause-and-effect relationships, that people always use this as an explanation for the things that happen to them, and that if they can be honest with themselves, they can have the right perspective on life.”

“They said that they were thankful that I was hopeful despite everything and assured me that I brought light to their day. Finally, they wished me lots of luck and said goodbye. They seemed very confused about how to see disabled people but I had a chance to explain what was wrong with their approach. In this instance, they reacted with extreme guilt, apologising over and over again. The problem was not my disability but their self-centeredness; and isn’t this always the case?”

 

WE WANT YOU

Were encouraging anyone with a story to comment, DM, tweet, or post using the hashtag #AppcessibleDating. We want all stories – positive or negative or both!

Well then take the feedback weve received to the dating apps themselves with a list of proposed changes and ways they can better support disabled people with their dating lives. 

 

Follow the Campaign

Follow our campaign by searching the hashtag #AppcessibleDating and join the conversation by connecting with us on Twitter @ETUKUndressing and on Instagram @UndressingDisability

Want to read more? Visit our blog on online dating as a disabled person

Dating campaign: two hands held together in the shape of a heart

The dating campaign: #appcessible dating for all

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

This Valentine’s Day, we’re launching our #AppcessibleDating Campaign. 

 

Let’s face it, dating can be difficult especially if you are disabled. While there are a lot of apps on the market, how many of them are really designed with accessibility at heart? 

From better accessibility features to better resources for  challenging stigma – we want the apps to give disabled people the best possible experience and chance at finding love. 

Why APPcessible love and dating?

There are many reasons that disabled people find dating apps difficult. Some of these could be how to navigate the actual app itself, overload of information, disclosing a disability, understanding social cues or reading the information. Not to mention the reactions from matches.

“I have received strange opening lines. Two that will stick with me for a long time are, “do your lungs work properly?” and “I bet your disability increases attention.” There is a lot of education and normalising of disability that’s required in this space”

What do we want from our dating campaign?

We asked our audience to get in touch with their stories about their experiences of dating with a disability. We were blown away by those who reached out but it became clear there were several common themes throughout the accounts.

“The apps need to realise that they aren’t great for those of us who are neurodiverse. I would love to see a simpler, quieter design and layout. I find opening an app  with too much information overwhelming and just want to shut it down.”

Lots of you said that the apps need to normalise disability and make it easier to be more visible on the apps. There needs to be more education and information available. 

We reached out to a few of the more popular apps in the hopes of opening a discussion on how they could adapt to be more accessible. Not one answered us. We hope to change this moving forward  as we will share our research, stories, videos, app audits and resources. 

“I went on a date with a guy to the cinema and at first he was scared to ask me if I wanted to go because obviously, he thought, she can’t see, why would she want to go to the cinema? 

“When I tell men that I have a disability, their initial reaction is alright, that’s fine or if youneed to hold my arm that’s fine, they don’t care. So yeah, it’s been quite positive.”

 

We want you

We’re encouraging anyone with a story to comment, DM, tweet, or post using the hashtag #AppcessibleDating. We want all stories – positive or negative or both!

We’ll then take the feedback we’ve received to the dating apps themselves with a list of proposed changes and ways they can better support disabled people with their dating lives. 


Follow the dating campaign

Follow our campaign by searching the hashtag #AppcessibleDating  and join the conversation by connecting with us on Twitter @ETUKUndressing and visiting our Instagram @UndressingDisability

 

Read more about loneliness and disability by visiting our blog

Cervical cancer testing: A ball of pink and purple cells

Researchers aim to improve access to cervical cancer screening for physically disabled people

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

Researchers aim to improve access to cervical cancer screening for physically disabled people

 

A team of researchers at Keele University that includes psychologists, GPs and nurses, are leading an innovative new study which aims to help physically disabled women better access smear tests. It is hoped that this will reduce cervical cancer rates.

The testing, which is also known as a smear test, can be really difficult for many people. It can be physically challenging for many people with a cervix and sometimes impossible. Not only that but misconceptions about disabled people can make access even harder.

Cervical cancer testing rates

There are more than 7 million disabled people in the UK who may be likely to have a higher risk of delayed diagnosis and dying from cancer due to lower screening uptake.

Removing these barriers could help ensure equal access to cervical cancer prevention. It could also mean early detection of cervical cell changes therefore reducing the number of deaths from cancer.

The study has been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). It is being conducted in collaboration with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and patient representatives. The study will involve interviews and surveys with people who have physical disabilities or conditions that make cervical screenings challenging. The team will also interview GPs, nurses and reception staff to gain an understanding of the barriers posed by the process which will help to highlight solutions.

We are very grateful to have received funding for such an important and largely overlooked issue and we look forward to working with stakeholders to improve the cervical screening experience for physically disabled women and people with a cervix, said Lead researcher Dr Sue Sherman, from Keele Universitys School of Psychology.

Everyone who is eligible for cervical screening should be able to access the test. Too often we hear from women who are unable to attend as a result of a disability or long-term condition, and this should not be the case. Were thrilled to be teaming up with Keele University to help identify and address some of the barriers and stigmas that exist and ensure more women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer,” added Samantha Dixon, Chief Executive of Jos Cervical Cancer Trust.

Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes changes to cells in the cervix. If this is left untreated, the HPV infection may turn into cervical cancer. Smear tests can help to determine treatment before cells turn cancerous if HPV is detected.

How to get involved with the cervical cancer study

Do you have a physical disability/ impairment or long-term physical condition? Does this mean that cervical screening is hard or impossible for you to take part in?

Would you like to join our project group? What does this involve?

  • This is a virtual study and will involve you attending a few online meetings throughout the project:
  • You will be reimbursed for your time.
  • The project is expected to last 2.5 years

If you are interested take in the road, please complete the following form/ scan QR code:

https://forms.office.com/e/bVJAmWveyb

Or

For further information an expression of interest, please e-mail doctor Emma Kemp (e.j.kemp@keele.ac.uk)

 

Read more on cervical cancer and Deaf awareness

Disability and loneliness: a hand holding one cup of coffee

Christmas and loneliness: how you can help someone feel less alone

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year but it can also be a really lonely one. Many disabled and neurodivergent people are more likely to struggle with loneliness – especially at a time of year that is renowned for family, friends, parties and social events. A lack of an emotional connection or people around at this time of year can make people feel depressed or anxious.

We conducted a survey in November 2021 which revealed that 47% of disabled people felt lonely frequently with 12% feeling lonely all the time. We need to recognise when people might be struggling or recognise the signs in ourselves.

Access our survey results by clicking here

It can be difficult to reach out to ask for help and our survey discovered just 20% had spoken to a professional about the impact their loneliness was having on them. However, 48% had reached out to family or friends to talk which is more positive.

In the survey, we asked people what they thought might help with 45% of disabled people reporting a hug or personal contact would be great. A further 38% suggested one-to-one time with friends also helped. Some thought that connecting with others in the disability community may help.

How can I help?

Reach out

We’ve all been there when things get busy at Christmas – not having enough mental or physical space to go for a coffee or drink with someone. It’s hard to stay in touch with people, especially during the festive season. If you haven’t seen someone in a while – why not text or call them?

Be there
Asking how someone is and taking the time to really listen is appreciated. Putting your phone down and asking questions means someone is more likely to open up. Don’t put pressure on someone to tell you what they are feeling if they can’t or don’t want to. Alternatively, make it clear that you are there for them if they want to talk or gently let them know you have concerns.

Set up an anti- loneliness Christmas event
Setting up group activities either online or offline can also help people to feel included. It might be fun to organise an online pub quiz or watch a film with someone as a way of staying connected. If someone is struggling, they may appreciate an activity which can get their mind off things.

Talk to other mates
Telling another friend of your concerns can be very helpful. A team approach to making sure someone isn’t feeling down or alone means there is less stress on one person.

Care for carers
It can be really hard to look after someone who isn’t well. The end of the year can be exhausting for everyone especially if you are providing care for a loved one or family member who isn’t well. Taking the time to reach out, ask how they are, take them for a coffee or offer to listen if they need it. Could you organise something fun for them or bring them a present to cheer them up?

Offer to decorate
Many disabled or chronically ill people may not feel well enough to decorate their homes. Can you offer to pop over and help them put up some decorations or take them down when they need to?

Invite someone for Christmas
Are you in a position to have someone over for Christmas? People can be on their own for multiple of reasons and may not feel comfortable asking to join your family for the day. If you suspect someone might be on their own – why not offer a seat at the table for dinner or offer to pop over afterwards?

If there are a group of you that are without a place to go for Christmas – why not organise a day together? You can split the responsibilities and the cost between you and it means that no one is on their own. It can also mean you discover a new Christmas tradition!

Click here to read more about loneliness and disability 

New Year’s Eve and loneliness

New Year’s Eve is another time when people may struggle as they don’t have family or friends around. Some may not feel up to going to crowded bars or may worry that pub or club is not accessible. Could you potentially hold a drinks evening or film night that evening at your house instead? Or offer to go to theirs armed with a cheeky prosecco and party poppers?

Check if a pub/nightclub is accessible
New Year is one of the biggest nights out of the year but it can be difficult to navigate for disabled people. If you are organising drinks or a night out, check ahead of time that the pub or club that you choose is accessible for people.

Not sure how to choose somewhere to go? Ask don’t assume someone’s access requirements and that will help you narrow down a few spots. It could be that someone needs a quieter pub because they are neurodivergent and may struggle with crowds or if someone is a wheelchair user then they may need step-free access.

Download our free resource on how to choose an accessible venue

If you are struggling with loneliness or just need a chat: here are some helplines or websites that may help you

Contact
Mind –  0300 123 3393 / info@mind.org.uk
Samaritans – 116 123 / jo@samaritans.org
Calm – 0800 58 58 58 /
Childline (under 19) – 0800 1111

Websites
Age UK
Marmalade Trust
WaveLength
Samaritans 

Love Lounge

All five of the incredible Quest sex toys from the new range

Introducing Quest: our new line of inclusive sex toys

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

We are beyond thrilled to introduce you to the Quest line of sex toys developed with our partners, Rocks Off. We’ve taken our time to get everything perfect and you know what they say….. good things come to those who wait.

We all have to start somewhere: workshops and focus groups

What a journey! Going on a Quest is always better in a group so with that in mind, we consulted with colleagues, friends, family and disability communities to find out what you really wanted.

We held ideation workshops, focus groups and meetings focused on discovering what people really need from their sex toys.

We realised that buying a toy is a journey which starts from the moment you think about potentially purchasing a new product. As a team we truly considered the experience for those with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments.

This meant examining how easily the toys could be bought, the packaging opened, the toy charged and the instructions understood. Of course, we also considered product use and enjoyment for those living independently and within support environments.

Shop the new range by clicking here

The Quest launch party in London

Features

When it came time for design, our focus groups and workshops had clear ideas of what we needed to include.

We’ve put this into practice by adding: remote controls for solo or couple play, Silicone straps, large tactile buttons, magnetic snap charging, visual and harpic feedback as settings change, easy operation, contrasting colours, Braille and QR codes for audio descriptions of product and pull tab packaging

But that’s not all.

We want to hear from you about the design. You can leave us reviews or let us know what you think.

the quest range pink wrist strap remote control

Features in focus:

Here are three of our favourite features in more focus.

Remotes and wrist straps

The design of the wrist strap and remote is ideal for anyone who may have mobility issues or different grip strengths. It allows you to take control, or your partner, for up to ten meters away for hands-free fun.

Bigger Buttons

Who has time for tricky buttons or small switches?

We’ve created large, raised buttons which are easy to access and ideal for users with visual impairments. It’s also great for neurodivergent people who may prefer to focus on sensations, not instruction manuals.

Sensory feedback

We’ve added LED lights and vibrations that can let you know when the product is turned on or off and charging. So you won’t be left in the dark about what your product is doing.

A Quest for accessible packaging

Packaging can be really tricky especially when you just want to get to your new favourite toy as quickly as possible.

We’ve designed the Quest boxes to allow access for those with visual impairments to neurodiversity to those with less dexterity. The boxes have a simple pull tab that can be used with a finger or mouth which allows the contents to glide out of the box.

The colour palette has been carefully selected along with font size and placement. There are also braille QR codes that load audio product descriptions.

Other features include:

  • Remote controls with silicone straps
  • Large tactile buttons
  • Magnetic snap charging
  • Both visual and haptic feedback as settings change
  • Easy operation and use

Want to learn more about the Quest line of toys then click here

Body safe materials

It’s important to make sure that when you are shopping for new toys, you stay safe. With this in mind, our partner, Rocks Off carries out rigorous lab testing which ensures the toys are produced in a sterile, clean environment.

When it comes to materials, we use ABS plastic which is non-porous, and durable along with medical-grade silicone which is non-allergenic. All toys use premium metals with no nasty nickels or cheap alloys.

Would you like to learn more about Rocks Off body safe material? You can click here to visit the Rocks Off page

Sustainability

Rocks Off has also thought about how to make the products as sustainable as possible. The packaging is recyclable, and biodegradable and has been certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Each product is packaged in cardboard covered in a biodegradable coating, all sourced from FSC-certified suppliers.

When it comes to the toys themselves, we used ABS plastic which can be recycled along with medical-grade silicone.

 

Interested in reading more about body safe sex toys and how to find them? You can read our detailed blog on what to look for and what to avoid!

Two women sitting in bed kiss while being lit up by fairly lights to highlight how ADHD may affect your sex life.

ADHD Awareness Month: can ADHD affect your sex life?

By Disability, Undressing Disability

October marks the start of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) Awareness Month but what does that actually mean for those of us who are diagnosed with it?

When it comes to ADHD, I can’t tell you the number of ways it affects me from my workplace to my travel to, unfortunately, my relationships. There is so little out there for adults with ADHD in terms of research, especially for those of us who are queer, transgender or non-binary. When it comes to sex, the information can leave a lot to be desired.

However embracing our sexuality, and our ADHD, is important. While ADHD can make things like choosing the right toy or reaching orgasm more difficult, it’s not impossible. Communication and education can go a long way.

Here are three of the biggest things I wish I had known about sex, my brain and ADHD.

1 – Focus

One of the biggest stereotypes about ADHD is that we can’t focus. In reality, it’s not quite that simple as ADHD-ers struggle with regulating focus- either too much or too little. We cannot get our brain to focus if we don’t want to or break focus if we are locked into something we find interesting.

In the bedroom, that lack of focus can be a libido killer in that it can make it hard for us to stay in the mood, maintain an erection or achieve orgasm. The results of that can be a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

The opposite is true sometimes in that we can be so focused on everything around us that we find it hard to make time for sex. Coupled with a lower sex drive, I find that I can get so lost in my work that I fail to notice the hours slip past before it’s too late and a partner is already asleep.

Read more: As a neurodivergent person, how do I recognise abuse in my relationship?

2- Overwhelming

When it comes to sex toys, I never really got the hype but I also never considered this may not be my fault. So few are designed with neurodiversity in mind that they often arrive with overly complicated instructions, flashing buttons and LED-what-the-hells!??! By the time I have navigated the box, I have little spare mental energy to engage with pairing it to my phone.

Overwhelm can lead to a lot of not-sexy emotions including frustration, anger and sadness. Many ADHD people will experience shutdowns or meltdowns which are exhausting and can cause someone to completely withdraw.

It’s not just about toys though as some lubricants or massage lotions can be too much for neurodivergent people. The smell or texture can be too overpowering or feel uncomfortable on the skin. If that happens, it can make people feel awkward, anxious, nauseated or panicked. It may also ruin the mood by being the only thing they can notice in the room.

3 – Risk

When we make a decision to have sex we calculate a risk. We make a decision to wear a condom, use lubricants that are safe with our toys or bodies or we choose our partners carefully based on a number of factors. Those of us with ADHD struggle with decision-making as we can be impulsive and look for the potential reward that comes with taking a risk.

The bad thing is that there isn’t always a reward. A study in 2017 revealed that teenage girls with ADHD are three times more likely to get pregnant accidentally while ADHD boys are twice as likely to get someone pregnant.

Another study on medicated and unmedicated ADHD patients revealed those without medication were three times as likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection. Interestingly, the same study showed that medication cut this risk by 40%.

Interested in ADHD? Here are more stories you might like to read:

Sally wearing a black dress smiling to the camera

Sallie’s experience living with a rare disease

By Disability

“I was born with a disability called Holt-Oram Syndrome.  It affects the bones and muscles in my entire upper body and causes Congenital Heart Disease. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it, no-one has – even doctors.  It’s really rare.”

This is the explanation that has unintentionally defined my life since I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder at the age of seven. A rehearsed statement that has to be delivered repeatedly in the hope of gaining acknowledgement, understanding and assistance.  A disease is deemed ‘rare’ if it affects fewer than 1 in 2,000 people. Holt-Oram Syndrome affects 1 in 100,000. Worldwide, there are millions of individuals with equally rare and unusual conditions.

 

Diagnosis

Pre-diagnosis, we didn’t have a name for it. I just had a sore Little Hand, an achy Big Hand, bony shoulders and a huge scar down my chest.  Getting diagnosed wasn’t at the forefront of the doctors’ minds. They casually asked when I was a child if we’d like to know the name of this weirdo genetic fault.  My mum and dad were eager – naturally, and it was eventually christened ‘Holt-Oram Syndrome’.  Mum remembers feeling relieved – we had a name! But in terms of my care – nothing changed significantly due to the lack of research regarding Holt-Oram.  We weren’t given much information by the medical professionals, either before or after my diagnosis. As far as the consultants were concerned, as soon as my heart was ‘fixed’ (spoiler alert: it didn’t stay fixed for long) it wouldn’t cause any further problems. They assumed my skeletal abnormalities shouldn’t affect me too much (despite experiencing chronic pain in my upper body since childhood).  How far from the truth that doctor’s blasé statements proved to be!

In fairness, the doctors didn’t know.  Holt-Oram is so rare, they couldn’t Google it in the nineties.  Holt-Oram isn’t the only misunderstood and under-researched condition, there are roughly 6000 other rare diseases, affecting an estimated 300 million people worldwide.

Sally wearing a black dress smiling to the cameraIn the past, if a doctor hasn’t heard of Holt-Oram they have generally blamed me by insisting that the symptoms I’m describing are psychological.  Due to such little knowledge, a lot of the paediatric doctors I met refused to accept that their awareness was limited.  This caused a huge neglect in my care, and worsened my symptoms as they remained untreated.  As I’ve got older, awareness has improved and I finally have a great team of specialists – but it’s taken years of fighting to get this far.

Daily life

When someone asks me what’s wrong, or a more specific question: “why don’t you have any thumbs?”, “what are those scars?”, “why do you need an adapted car?” I feel sheer panic at having to explain Holt-Oram and how it affects me.  Most people actually lose interest precisely 0.9 seconds after asking.  I feel as if I’m on a very bizarre quiz show with a buzzer about to go off as I’m quickly stumbling over my words in order to provide you with the knowledge you require.

Trying to explain a rare condition to someone is a stressful challenge, but it’s even more difficult when requiring assistance. If I’m struggling to pack shopping into a bag, I’ll hear myself saying “I’m sorry, I’ve got really useless hands”.  If I desperately need a seat on the train I’ll be trying to explain and apologise, “my spine is really wonky and painful” because it’s easier than giving a full medical description. I find myself apologising a lot, even though it isn’t my fault that I have a rare condition. If people haven’t heard of the condition they’re less likely to take me seriously. It’s hard enough explaining it to medical professionals, let alone the general public.

There are countless other medical conditions that are well known, such as Arthritis or Cerebral Palsy. Those with widely understood and researched conditions don’t experience the same barriers as people with rare diseases.  Even if people don’t exactly know about these conditions they’re aware that they legitimately exist. When I require assistance, I often find it much easier to say “I have heart disease” as this is an illness that everyone is aware of and many are affected by. Something well-known is instantly acknowledged, and I never feel the same need to apologise when explaining a condition like this.

Rare disease day

On 28th February 2022 it is Rare Disease Day.  This is an annual opportunity to raise awareness of overlooked and under-researched rare conditions. With the hope of improving medical representation and access to treatment. Research and awareness for rare diseases and their charities is crucial.  These charities find it more difficult to raise funds due to reduced awareness. Therefore, this causes a lack of medical research.

It is incredibly overwhelming to be aware of every single condition that exists – there’s thousands that I’ve never heard of.  But, you don’t need to be a medical genius to acknowledge that there are millions of people worldwide living with rare diseases. These quirky and unique conditions, and the individuals they affect, deserve recognition!

 

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