Sexual healthcare is vital for anyone and everyone who’s sexually active, but, between inadequate research, inaccesible buildings and equipment, inexperienced and insensitive healthcare providers, and a whole bunch of other factors, most people with disabilities aren’t getting their sexual healthcare needs met. Before I read this article from the Disability Visibility Project, I knew that logically. It’s my job to know it.
Still, after reading, I’m left without words at the level of trauma and incompetence the writer’s doctors subjected her to. She wound up having major surgery that she might not have needed had she had the same level of access to preventive gynecological care that most nondisabled folks do. I’ll let you read the rest of her story yourself. I salute this woman’s bravery! She’s been through way too much!
And, she’s not the only one. Folks of all genders face these kinds of barriers to healthcare everyday. Biases against LGBQ or transgender folks, or racist attitudes or behaviours, or stigmas against folks who are homeless or unemployed – it all happens within the healthcare system (as well as everywhere else), and can mean the difference between getting quality or lackluster care, or even getting care at all.
Every day, people with disabilities aren’t getting the healthcare they need because the healthcare system isn’t set up to serve everyone’s physical needs, and providers aren’t being trained to recognize their own unconscious biases against disability so they can treat disabled patients with proficiency, and respect.
Ad our culture’s shame around anything sex-related, and prevailing beliefs that disabled people aren’t (or shouldn’t be) sexual, into the mix, and we have a sexual and reproductive healthcare system that is basically broken for people with disabilities.
We need to change this, to ensure that researchers and clinicians know about currently available resources, to inspire researchers to investigate best gynecological practices for all bodies, to make sure healthcare providers have training and experience before they leave school, again with all minds and bodies.