Women’s disability advocacy organisation, Women with Disabilities Australian Capital Territory (WWDACT), have launched a new report painting a picture of women*, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disabilities and their understanding of their sexual and reproductive rights.
Information collected through a survey, completed by 27 respondents suggested greater education on sexuality, contraception, consent and respectful relationships in Year 11 and 12 students, development of sex education resources, further information on decision-making and support and education groups.
Chief Executive Officer of WWDACT, Clare Moore says the report highlights that education is essential for women with disabilities, professionals and the community.
“A few hours of general education in schools is not enough to promote, safe, respectful relationships and allow women with disabilities to access their full sexual and reproductive rights.
“This report gives us a snapshot of the current barriers to not only education but participation in advocacy and research.
“Usually if you think of women with disability and sexuality and safety, most people would think of women with more barriers. However, those women weren’t told about the survey by their service providers when asked by our researcher.
“The survey paints a pretty difficult picture for women who are mature and well educated - if they are finding this all really difficult what must that look like for the women whose stories weren't told.
“The report also showed us the diversity of issues for women with disabilities, from menopause, to gender identity, to safety from abuse. None of these are being adequately addressed in education and services,” Mx Moore explains.
Recommendations made within the report include:
Education on sexuality, contraception, consent and respectful relationships be continued and increased in college (Years 11 and 12).
Organisations developing resources for sex education consider having them available online whenever possible.
Alternative ways for General Practitioners (or other health professionals) to spend time with women* with disabilities be investigated and trialled.
Research conducted into why women* (including under 18’s) don’t feel comfortable asking teachers and support workers for sex education support and information.
Following research into the above reasons with relevant recommendations to increase the likelihood that teachers and support workers would be asked for sex education support and the advice provided is informed and appropriate.
Education and information about the various options for contraception be regularly updated and provided to women* with disabilities and to those providing sex education and support.
Education continues to be provided about safe sex and contraception, throughout a woman*’s life.
Further information on decision making and staying safe be developed and made easily available for women* with disabilities, including online.
Information should be provided in both plain English, and Easy Read visual versions with pictographs. Images should depict women* from a range of cultures, ages and gender identifications.
Information development should be itemised according to women’s* needs, e.g.: 1 Menopause, 2 Rights, 3 Sexual Health, 4 Sexuality and so on, so that it is easily searchable.
A suite of resources, including a website, should be developed jointly by relevant local ACT organisations which have appropriate expertise.
A “Health Passport” be considered for development.
Women* are educated and supported to use online dating in a safe and assertive manner.
Accessibility to mainstream social events is promoted and supported in the local community.
Sex education resources developed, including how to use existing funding and networks to support and explore sexuality and relationships.
Women* are supported to strengthen their ability to communicate and state their relationship and intercourse needs.
Health professionals are encouraged and educated to consider each woman’s* experience with pain, its impact on sexuality, and ways to manage its impact.
Health professionals are encouraged and supported to create and maintain an ongoing and open dialogue with women* with disabilities about sexual health, contraception and consent.
Actions are taken to raise public awareness of the rights of women* with disabilities to safe, sexual relationships.
The ACT Government continues to fund and increase funding for Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT to present SoSAFE to more women*.
The right of women* with disabilities to have sexual fulfilment and be satisfied is promoted.
Funding and other opportunities are available to ensure women* with disabilities can be effectively supported when needed.
All resources and websites recommended for development be promoted widely and women* with disabilities and other stakeholders be made aware of their availability.
Relevant organisations are encouraged to set up and run support and education groups for women* with disabilities.
Further research is undertaken to determine gaps in training for stakeholders, including family members and carers, health and education professionals, and support workers.
The report was launched at an event on Thursday 20 June, attended by the ACT Minister for Disability, Rachel Stephen-Smith, and many other organisations and stakeholders.
To read the full report click here.
The term *women mentioned in this report includes women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disabilities