How do they have sex? Do they have the same needs as others? If they can’t see, how can they experience it? Do they have the same sexual desires as others? Is this even a requirement for them? Desperate, needy, child-like or non-sexual; what are they!
It is 2018 already and the world has come really far in many contexts. However, the understanding of people with disabilities and their needs still remains a cause of concern. The general perception about disability is skewed and plenty of misconceptions continue to pervade the minds of people everywhere. The ignorance about disability is so rampant that the able bodied individuals feel that they cannot have “normal” lives and are dependent on each other.
Sexuality for People with Special Needs – Still a taboo topic in India!
Several government welfare schemes and NGOs have helped drive employment and inclusiveness in the workplace for impaired persons and some progress has been made in bringing awareness about inclusion and diversity in general, yet not much has changed in terms of understanding or perceiving of sexuality for people with special needs.
Shruti Batra (name changed) a leading HR recruiter in an MNC, is a true testament to this age-old mindset of her colleagues. “I realized that while someone with visual impairment can be doing really well with their professional life, yet she somehow feels that her colleagues might never really have the urge or the understanding to try and find a match for her. They feel that I never really have the scope to set up a family. Deep down, I have realized that this is the general mindset of almost everyone who has a colleague with a certain special need!
Has There Been A Change In Mindsets With The Tag of Special Needs?
Some feel that using the tag special needs instead of disabled or handicapped is an ‘improvement,’ and yet the truth is that a tremendous change needs to happen to even get on par treatment when it comes to sexuality. People generally think that they are doing people with disabilities a favor by not highlighting issues like sexuality, love and relationships. Such archaic thoughts in the society results in discrimination and abuse of persons with disabilities.
The simplest way to put it is that a lot of people think that someone with special needs might not actually have in it in them to indulge in sexual activity. This is a popular view and there is a lot of stigma around accepting the sexuality needs of people with special needs as well. The idea that someone with a special need or impairment will not be able to have sex is morose and dehumanizing. From being perceived as desperate, to child-like to needy to mostly being perceived as non-sexual, wome:n with disability have been tagged in one of the types and left to fend for themselves mostly. Infact, they are considered limited to being as individuals restricted to wheelchairs or simply tied to their beds.
However, there a number of reasons that such a notion has arisen overtime. These reasons largely include:
- Lack of inclusive programs for people with disabilities.
- Lack of access to proper sexual education among the general public.
- Lack of clarity on topics related to special needs especially in terms of how to go ahead and handle their own reproductive health and sexual expressions/feelings.
Lack of awareness hinders the acceptance of differently-abled people as life partners!
A lot of coworkers of people with special needs believe that it comes as a surprise when someone goes on to have a healthy sexual relationship. (I have heard from a friend working in a school for the differently-abled.)
‘The Theory of Everything’ movie had a positive insight into how disability might not really come in the way of making a family or having a sexual life. However, the larger masses just choose to watch a movie and going back to preach in their older limited thoughts, without a care. With such movies comes a scope to educate viewers and change the mindset that often makes them believe how disabled people might even be asexual!
I thoroughly believe that these attitudes will change in times and with several online apps helping bring about awareness about the needs of the differently-abled. Nonetheless, a lot more needs to be done for sensitizing workers in the healthcare domain as well as those involved in sexuality education for disabled. Unless the authorities take things up with an iron hand, the greater masses will forever remain shrouded in a cloak of ignorance and false presumptions about the needs of people with disabilities.