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Exploring Sex and Disability

“We often look at accessibility in terms of the setup of an environment but forget to ask questions about accessibility in the realm of sexual activity.”

Written by: Isabella Burstin

“A central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desiresim, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships.”

(WHO, 2006).

Working as an occupational therapist (OT), my job is to support people to complete their roles and activities of daily living, namely tasks that they want to do, need to do or value doing in their lives. Specific examples may include supporting a person to independently shower, get dressed, go to work or be involved with their community. However, these are not the only tasks focused on by OTs. An OT can also support a person to engage with their sexuality and address any sexual health needs. These may range from being able to put on lipstick for a date, to using sex toys at home, to supporting a person’s engagement with sex workers for intimacy, sexual pleasure and release!

Many health professionals, including myself, have been guilty of dismissing the sexual needs of clients and not acknowledging that all people – regardless of age, gender or ability – have their own sexual needs, cravings and fantasies. We often look at accessibility in terms of the setup of an environment but forget to ask questions about accessibility in the realm of sexual activity. This revelation prompted me to explore further issues surrounding the lack of education for adolescents with disabilities on how to explore and express their sexuality appropriately. From these conversations, my partner and I started to talk about what was missing in the intersection of disability and sexuality, and explored our role in helping all people develop positive attitudes surrounding sexuality.

After many discussions with people with a range of disabilities and health conditions, we decided to create XES Products – an online sex toy store dedicated to providing premium, accessible products and resources for everyone. Our intention is to host a safe space that facilitates much-needed dialogue around sexual health topics and to debunk myths that exclude certain people from exploring their sexuality. We cater to all pleasure-seekers and focus on empowering individuals with physical, cognitive and sexual health conditions to engage their sexuality.

To ensure that our site is as accessible as possible, we have taken the following steps:

  • We have carefully considered and highlighted the accessible features of each product that may benefit different users, such as those with mobility issues or altered sensation.
  • We have added an accessibility button on all pages that allows the user to modify their site experience to their needs and wants.
  • We have included alternate text on all images for those that use screen readers.
  • In addition to the products sold on our site, we have created the XES Blog. Our aim is to facilitate much-needed dialogue and education surrounding sex, disability and health conditions. We are hoping that the blog will initiate educational conversations, inspire people with disabilities and health conditions and create a culture of inclusivity. In the future, our vision is for the blog to evolve to include a resource and education library for individuals, parents and health professionals alike. This library will promote healthy sex education for all and enable readers to find the resources that they need.

So, on this premise, we invite you to contribute to a culture of inclusivity and join the conversation around sexual health and pleasure.

Visit www.xesproducts.com.au to find out more.

Isabella is an occupational therapist with a love of supporting individuals of all ages and abilities to achieve their goals! Out of work, Isabella loves exercising, travelling and spending quality time with her loved ones. XES Products is Isabella and Gabriel's passion business. They believe that sexual health starts with the right education and feel that it is their goal to sweep it out from under the rug and promote much needed sex-positive conversations.

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