What You Should Know About Sex & Disability

Sex and intimacy are not just for the able-bodied. The need for physical and emotional touch, warmth, and connection is not just for the young and healthy.

Although most physicians understand sex and intimacy are an important part of their patients’ lives, few feel capable of addressing the issues.

Having worked with healthcare providers for more than 30 years, it is clear they have a desire to address their patients’ needs for sex and intimacy, but good resources are not available. Most available information seems to be directed toward young men who have experienced a spinal cord injury, even those resources are limited.

An often-overlooked option for physicians and their patients, is occupational therapy, an OT may be able to bridge the information and treatment gap.

Occupational Therapy can address sexuality in terms of remediation, adaptation, or the use of compensatory strategies. They can also address role identification and goal setting using creative problem-solving skills with the patient.  

The society and culture in which we live provides guidelines for femininity, masculinity, and gender identity that we must address when dealing with the disabled population as well.

In our weakest moments, whether physical, emotional, or financial, we need the connections to others most. Those connections remind us of the true social nature of being human, we NEED others. Love and intimacy are essential for moving forward in our lives.

TSA, Biscuits & the U-Haul

Friendship is not always something we consider when we think about intimacy; we think of sex and bedrooms and “marital aids” but we sometimes forget the beauty in longtime friendships. This post has nothing to do with sex, but it has everything to do with open hearts and laughter through the rough times.

I have a dear friend that I call family. Hopefully we are all lucky enough to have that special friend who we know would take us in if we were homeless, sick as a dog, or hitting rock bottom. My friend Susan is that friend. 

We recently flew up to Tennessee (Go Vols!) to clear out a storage unit, rent a U-Haul, and bring back a house-worth of stuff down to her home in Florida. 

Now, I need to mention that I have cerebral palsy and that I wear leg braces to keep me from falling on my face! Susan is dealing with long term fibromyalgia that leaves her muscles aching and cramping throughout her days. But her difficulties don’t show in how she approaches life or in her relationships. She tends to keep the pain of fibromyalgia to herself, keeping her focus on living, doing, and being there for her friends. 

If anyone has been to an airport or has gotten on a plane these past 2 decades, you know the stress of TSA… the sweating and sour stomach… do I have to take off my leg braces?! Will I be body searched by a TSA agent in training?! Yes, I SHOULD describe that incident as intimacy because no one had touched those girly parts in a long time… so much for wearing a dress!

Will the alarm sound as I go through security? Of course! And what about that battery-operated tooth brush snapping on as my bag is searched?! Have you ever been yelled at by a TSA agent to step away from the bag? I was in a wheelchair at the time and if he’d been politically correct, he would have said, roll away from the bag, but I digress.

Back to our recent TSA experience, not too shabby, not too embarrassing but I wasn’t aware that we’d be entering the plane from the ground and not just walk onto the plane from a concourse, but not to worry, instead of steps, I saw that the airline now uses a ramp switchback system so folks with wheeled luggage can get on a plane. I was pleased and relaxed… until I started up the ramp.

This innocuous ramp seemed to move into near vertical position as I moved forward. I had to use my arms to pull myself forward! I stopped to let others pass me (we know what that feels like, don’t we?!) saying, “I’m sorry, so sorry,” to those folks waiting patiently for me.

Tennesseans are gracious and kind, and never in a hurry, yay! I highly recommend a visit if you, dear reader, have never been.

Now, after hours in a plane seat, using 2 hands to lift one leg over the other while seated to decrease my lordosis and discomfort, Susan and I finally landed, got to our hotel, and each a horizontal surface… our respective beds!

Horizontal surfaces are our friends! Floors, beds, air mattresses, and futons… can you relate?!

Now, onto one of the highlights of our trip. After movers packed the U-Haul, my friend and I went to breakfast and I ordered heavenly biscuits, with sausage gravy! Dear God in heaven, thank you for sausage gravy.

This trip held a first for me; I’d never been in a U-Haul… hmmm… how would I get in? I pictured myself sitting on the floor and just climbing in on all fours, I’d manage somehow.

With a little leverage, lots of biceps and pectorals muscle strength to pull on the side handle (yes, I used triceps to stabilize too), I got in. What would happen when I need to get out?! Who knows?! 

Thank God for dear friends who worry about me getting up a ramp, give me an arm when there’s no curb cut, treat me to biscuits and gravy (I got biscuits with apple butter too!), share my joy in horizontal surfaces, and laugh with me as I get up in the cab of a U-Haul. Here’s to the next 28 years!

5 No-No's When Dealing with the Disabled

Photographer: Dan BO #unsplash

Photographer: Dan BO #unsplash

Although this post isn’t meant to be particularly humorous, it may draw a smile.

1)   All disabled folks are not alike.
Disability is a strange and limiting concept, attempting to describe something quite complex. Disabled may conjure up some visions of hunchback villains in fairy tales but a disability can be either temporary or permanent, can be physical, psychological, or intellectual, and can affect men or women, young or old. Disability can strike any one of us, at any point in our lives.

2) All disabled folks don’t know each other.
Just because your nephew Joe is in a wheelchair does not mean I know him! I am often humored by the assumption that I must know them because I have a disability as well.

3) Just because the disabled may have a physical issue does not mean there is an intellectual disability as well.
Having one disability does not automatically mean there is an additional disability. For instance, low vision does not mean my hearing is gone, too! Don’t shout at me because I’m blind, I can hear you.

4)  Some disabilities are hidden.
I may look fine and have good days, but I may be hurting and struggling to make it through the day. It is perfectly natural for me to put on a smile and get on with life.

 5) If you see someone struggling, that doesn’t particularly mean that they want (or need) your help.
Don’t assume we want help, just ask. It is not rude to ask if we want help, however it is rude to assume we do. Relax, we don’t bite… hard.