Intimate assistive tech for people with disabilities
“At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has one,” said Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. One in four adults in the U.S. are living with a disability.
At Vespertine, we believe that everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, or disability, has a right to a fulfilling intimate life and we resolve to provide access to the products and education to help people achieve just that. However, we think that there is a void in this industry and what is missing from the conversation so often, are disabled people.
Assistive technology (AT) are “products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for persons with disabilities.” (www.atia.org) This kind of technology can look like everything from a high-tech wheelchair to a low-tech communication board or pointing device. What makes assistive technology so crucial is that it is not meant to fix or cure disabilities, but rather meet people where they are and provide ease and functionality.
Intimacy “toys” are not just play things for many in the disabled community, but rather powerful assistive technology. Intimate AT holds the power of not just destigmatizing pleasure, but helping everyone, especially disabled users, access intimate autonomy. For many disabled people, owning intimate assisted technology means not just access to pleasure, but also relief from chronic pain and other symptoms.
Disabled people are oftentimes seen through a medical lens and face desexualation and even infantilization. The Netflix show Sex Education is working to break these stigmas, but we still have a long way to go. The World Health Organization advocates for sexual pleasure and health as a human right — and for disabled folks, assistive intimate technology should also be included as a fundamental right.
Vespertine carries several books on intimacy and disability. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability provides readers with encouragement, support, and all the information they need to create an intimate life that works for them. Topics include building a positive sexual self-image, positions to minimize stress and maximize pleasure, dealing with fatigue or pain during sex, finding partners and talking with partners about sex and disability, adapting sex toys and more.
Intimate AT can be instrumental in helping anyone disabled achieve the things they want from their intimate lives but it can be challenging and intimidating to find the right tools to suit your needs. It can be challenging emotionally, as well as physically, if you struggle to communicate your needs and have them met. It can also be hard to know where to start if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
We realize that every person’s experience with disability is different so it would be impossible to create a guide that meets everyone’s individual needs, but if you would like any specific advice, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs with our experienced staff. We will work with individuals from our Vespertine Wellness Community (that includes doctors, OBGYNs, therapists, etc.) to find answers for you.