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Researcher looks at sexual barriers faced by people with disabilities

By Dale Johnson Posted: August 18, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Michelle Apps is writing an online guidebook for people to help those with disabilities overcome barriers in their sex lives.
Michelle Apps is writing an online guidebook for people to help those with disabilities overcome barriers in their sex lives. Photo: U of R Photography

A University of Regina student has wrapped up her research into what’s often considered a taboo subject – how disabilities affect a person’s sex life.

Michelle Apps, a social work master’s student, interviewed people with physical and intellectual disabilities, to find out about some of the barriers they face when it comes to sex.

“I hope this research helps to dispel the myth that people with disabilities are asexual beings,” Apps says.

“I think it’s important that non-disabled people hear that. People with disabilities already know that – and probably want to scream it from the rooftops,” she adds.

Among her findings:

  • people with physical disabilities often can’t go to places to socialize and meet people, such as bars and clubs, because they are not wheelchair accessible
  • people with intellectual disabilities may not have to same access to sex education as the general population
  • one of the biggest barriers is the attitude of the general population towards people with disabilities

She has presented her research findings in recent months at conferences in Calgary, China and Hawaii. She’s found that people are facing similar issues in other cultures.

Apps will be sending her thesis to the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies for consideration for publication.

Apps is currently working on a guidebook about sex and people with disabilities for Creative Options Regina, an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities through housing and programming.

She says the on-line guidebook may also be made available across Canada. Thanks to the findings of this U of R researcher, people with disabilities across the country may be able to overcome barriers so they can enjoy more complete sex lives.