The conversation about people with disabilities and sex is rarely had. Many people think of people with disabilities as asexual or uninterested in sex, but the reality is that even though a person may have a visual disability, they are just as curious and needy as any other human would be. Often, wheelchair users will need assistance when it comes to sexual acts because their disability hinders them to move as freely as non-wheelchair users. The question is, “How do people with disabilities get off?” Some people will hire sex-workers to aid them in the act. Although most parts of the United States have criminalized unsolicited sex-workers, they are still out there, benefitting many people who would otherwise have a hard time finding someone that would sleep with them.
In Taiwan, there is an agency called Hand Angels, where volunteers help adults with disabilities achieve orgasms. In the Netherlands, people with disabilities receive public grants to use 12 times a year on sexual services. Maybe one day, the United States will come around. In these services, penetration is rarely practiced. Their practices are mostly caressing, hugging and kissing, and strictly “second-base” acts––hand jobs and “feeling up.”
The ideas for these agencies are not to exploit disabled people, but to show them a physical and emotional experience that they may not experience otherwise. You may be thinking that the volunteers of Hand Angels pity people with disabilities and therefore feel they are ‘burdened’ to help people out, but it’s exactly the opposite. The consensual acts are of respect and equality. Just because a person may have a disability, doesn’t mean their emotional and physical needs are any less than those of an able-bodied person.
Sexuality in the disability community is seldom talked about because of embarrassment, and because people have been raised to believe sex was a luxury of able-bodied people. Desires do not change based on a diagnosis, so ask yourself why you have never thought of people with disabilities as peers. Societal labels affect every aspect of a person’s life––even though they shouldn’t.
Since sex is a taboo topic as is, it may be hard to be mindful to people different than yourself having sexual desires. The fact is that most human beings have physical desires and desires to be loved, hugged and kissed. So why do we deny those desires to those wheelchair users or to physically handicapped persons? It comes from the segregation of able-bodied people from people with disabilities, which needs to become integration in order for equality and respect to be had for people different than us.
It’s time to start the conversation about people with disabilities and their desires. Special needs are still needs and should not be looked down upon because they are considered taboo. Instead, they should be embraced and advocated for. People are people, no matter their abilities.