It’s difficult for the majority of us to understand how difficult it can for people with disabilities to access the sexual intimacy they crave and need as a human. We all need it, but for those who are disabled or suffering an illness, the obstacles they, as a marginalised group face, are tremendous.
“The Conversation” as far back as 2015 reported that there was discussion within the government about potentially funding sexual services for the disabled through NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), but not a lot has been heard on this point since either in the media, or from the government. (1)
SBS’s Madeleine Knight recently wrote for their online forum ‘Insight’ an in-depth article about how the differing State Sex Work Laws impact on the disabled. (2) Abled bodied people or people without disabilities forget that such differing Australia-wide laws have an impact on how handicapped people can procure sex.
“Kelly Vincent MLC is a South Australia politician with the Dignity for Disability Party. She’s been advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work in the state, particularly to allow accessibility for people with disabilities”. (3)
‘Touching Base’ is a charitable organisation that works to make the process of obtaining sex workers for the disabled more accessible and to educate Sex Workers as well as carers. The organisation is based in Sydney, NSW and has been active since 2000. They share a list of Australian disability friendly service providers on their website as well. (4)
Their website states:
“’Touching Base’ developed out of the need to assist people with disability and sex workers to connect with each other, focusing on access, discrimination, human rights and legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that these two marginalised communities can face.” (5)
Kelly Vincent MLC who is herself is disabled, works tirelessly as an advocate for those with disabilities. She wrote an in-depth article for SBS’s Insight about her experiences with disability and sex and the difficulties those with disabilities face due to current societal and cultural thinking, that is generally stereotyped or prudish in nature. She writes:
“Unfortunately, even with the best intentions and much love, the community and even family carers of people with disability have a habit of viewing disabled people one of two ways: either as infantilised asexual beings, or hypersexual and incapable of understanding social norms around sex and relationships”. (6)
Perhaps we should be more like the Dutch who are well known for their Liberal attitudes towards sex. For example, in the Netherlands sex is viewed as fundamental human right and the Dutch offer government-subsidised prostitution, in particular, those who have disabilities. (8) Something needs to change, and society needs to get more advanced, and more thoughtful.
(6)Vincent, Kelly MLC, “’It’s time to make accessibility sexy’: disability advocate,” https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/article/2016/04/12/its-time-make-accessibility-sexy-disability-advocate?cid=inbody:sex-work-laws-around-australia-what-are-they-and-how-do-they-impact-disability (accessed 19th July, 2018)
(7)Lehmiller, Justin, “Sex Laws in the Netherlands,” https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2017/5/24/what-sex-laws-look-like-in-the-netherlands-nj6ja (accessed 19th July, 2018).
(1)Yao, Matthew, “Why the NDIS Should Cover the Services of Sex Workers,” The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/why-the-ndis-should-cover-the-services-of-sex-workers-12718 (accessed July 21st 2018).
(4)(5) Touching Base website,
https://www.touchingbase.org/wpcontent/2015/11/TBASE_UTS_Research_Factsheetfinal.pdf (accessed 19th July, 2018)
(2)(3)Madeleine, King, “Sex work laws around Australia: what are they, and how do they impact disability?,” https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/article/2016/04/12/sex-work-laws-around-australia-what-are-they-and-how-do-they-impact-disability (accessed 19th July, 2018)