Category

Disability

Enhance the UK CEO awarded for her work with disabled people

By | Accessibility, Business, Disability, News, Workplace

CEO of charity named in the Shaw Trust Power 100 list

Jennie Williams, founder and CEO of Enhance the UK, a charity which aims to challenge perceptions of disability through its campaigning work and its disability awareness training has been named in the prestigious Shaw Trust Power 100 List. Now in its fifth year the Power 100 List celebrates the achievements of individuals who strive to break down barriers around disability to create a more inclusive world.

Jennie and her team of freelance disabled trainers’ campaign to change public perceptions of what disabled people can do by delivering insightful and confidence boosting disability awareness training for public and private sector organisations.

She said “One in five working people in the UK have a disability which is a fact that surprises many people. I’m a CEO and mum of two and whilst my degenerative hearing loss means I Skype instead of phone, and lip read instead of hear each word, it doesn’t stop me adding value to businesses I work with, the teams I lead or the community I live in. It’s wonderful to be recognised in the Shaw Trust Power 100 List as hopefully it challenges people’s perceptions of disability and highlights the need for more open conversations, training and inclusivity in business, education and communities.”

Working with organisations such as the BBC, Premier League Football Clubs, galleries, schools, Northern Rail and Members of Parliament Jennie believes that open discussion and tackling the issue head on is the key to overcoming unnecessary barriers and outdated thinking around disability.

Jennie set up Enhance The UK after working in the care sector and becoming frustrated with the lack of practical information and support available for people who wanted to know more about communicating with disabled people both professionally and personally.

Jennie explains:

 “People with a disability have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, from climbing the career ladder, to travelling the world or finding someone special to share their life with. The biggest barrier we face is poor communication and limited understanding but that shouldn’t stand in the way of achieving our ambitions. Let’s work together to share ideas and knowledge, learn from each other and together we can all benefit from living and working in an inclusive society.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. Enhance The UK is a charity run by disabled people. We want to change the way people view disability and for disabled people to be active and equal members of society. We do this by supporting businesses to be more inclusive by providing disability awareness training, as well as offering a number of other services and resources.
  2. For more information visit: www.enhancetheuk.org
  3. Photographs available on request
  4. Press enquiries: sam@enhancetheuk.org

About the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List

The Shaw Trust Power List is an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. Since its inception four years ago, the publication has gone from strength to strength. Over the years it has allowed Shaw Trust to encourage businesses, employers and other organisations to reflect on opportunities available for disabled people. The list plays a vital role in providing much needed encouragement to the young and talented leaders of tomorrow, allowing them to see that aspiration and ambition can be fulfilled regardless of disability or impairment.

For more information please visit: www.disabilitypower100.com

Love Lounge Top Tips – Deteriorating conditions and intimate care

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

It’s fair to say that there’s an element of care in all relationships (or there should be!) But, for many disabled people, the amount of care received from friends, parents and lovers is often a little more than would be expected in a relationship between non-disabled people. Whether it involves something as simple as standing to barricade a toilet cubicle door when a wheelchair using friend just ‘needs to go’ and an accessible loo isn’t available, or something a little more intimate like helping a lover to clean themselves and their surroundings up when their stoma bag bursts during sex, that care element is undeniable.

In many ways, this kindness and care that is required should be celebrated; it can build incredibly strong, intimate bonds, especially in a romantic relationship, when teamwork means so much more than just being able to put up a tent together at your local campsite! But it can be equally frustrating for both parties when things go wrong, or conditions worsen, and pressure, dependency and expectations rise.

So, what to do if you are concerned that your new, or deteriorating condition is affecting the amount of care you require, and perhaps the way your partner sees you, as a sexual being as well as one that requires support?

  1. Check in.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in our relationships, be they platonic or otherwise, is keeping our worries strictly internal and failing to discuss them.  Talk to your partner about your concerns and discuss the solutions together.  It might be that you need to think about bringing some external help in, so that you can concentrate on building on the passionate parts of your relationship, rather than the practical.  Maybe it’s just reassurance that you need – along with someone to show you how sexy you still are, and always have been to them.  But, sadly, we aren’t mind readers, and we are unable to solve problems for our loved ones that we never realised existed.  Talking, however difficult it may seem, is always the answer.

  • Adapt.

One great thing about us human beings? We are pretty versatile, adaptable and resilient creatures! Our impairments differ, adapt, worsen and improve, too, and it’s vital that we learn how to grow with them, rather than get overwhelmed by them.  If, for example, you now have a stoma bag and didn’t before, maybe its time to invest in some crotchless knickers that keep your bag in place whilst not deterring from the fun.  Need a hoist and feeling pretty rubbish about it? It can always be made into a sex swing… thank us later 😉

Regardless of what you’re going through, you’re still gorgeous.  Don’t forget that! 

Love Lounge top tips – Love languages

By | Disability, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

When it comes to relationships, we all have our checklist (whether we like to admit it or not!) Whether it’s someone to laugh us into bed, with an accent that’ll make us swoon, or a sharp style that will knock us off our feet (or send us head over wheels), every one of us is on the lookout for a particular something that floats our boat.  But, what about after we’ve got into said relationship? Don’t we still have preferences, needs, and even a particular way to communicate that might be different from someone else’s ‘checklist’? Absolutely we do! If you’re interested in finding out more about love languages, and even working out what yours are, keep reading!

  • The 5 Love Languages

There are five Love Languages, or ways that we communicate our love and commitment within relationships, and like our partners to communicate the same to us:

  1. Words of Affirmation – communicating our love verbally.  This might be by saying ‘I love you’, or telling our partner they look great in that outfit, for example.
  2. Acts of Service – When actions speak louder than words, whether that means cooking a delicious meal for your love, or booking a trip to their favourite European city.
  3. Receiving Gifts – Simple really – some people just love to be spoilt with a thoughtful pressie!
  4. Quality Time – Giving your partner love and attention in a way that’s special to the two of you.
  5. Physical Touch – A kiss and a cuddle, or something more.  For some people, nothing is more important than physical affection.

These Love Languages make a lot of sense and, in reading them, it’s probably quite obvious to you which of the Love Languages relate to you the most (it’s not unusual to have two main Love Languages that really ‘speak’ to you).  So when we have that knowledge, what do we do with it?

  • Remember: our Love Languages are rarely the same.

If you’ve discovered your Love Language, ask your partner to do a bit of research and find out what theirs is.  Your Love Language relates to how you feel best loved, and what your partner can do to best show you that they care.  So, it’s important that you’re also aware of your significant other’s Love Language(s) so that you can return the favour in a way that will really mean something to them. What does your partner most ask of you? For a cleaner home? More quality time together? More affection? If they are asking for something in particular, you’re probably not catering to a certain Love Language of theirs, so discuss it and be creative with how you show your love next time!

Wishing you the best of luck on your Love Language journey: may it help you to better understand your partner (as well as your own needs and desires!) and lead to a relationship that’s all the more wonderful for it!

Love Lounge Top Tips – Losing feeling and function

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

One question we often get asked at the Love Lounge revolves around how to still be sexy and sexual after losing the sensation, and sometimes function, in your genitals. Our Love Lounge non-expert sexpert, Mik, spoke at length about this just a few weeks ago with someone who wrote in to ask for his advice, and great advice he gave! So, we thought we would make a blog out of some of Mik’s top tips for when worries about feeling, function and all things sex get on top of you.

  • See a specialist

As Mik very rightly says, if you do start to lose feeling and/or function in your genital area, be sure to get it checked out.  It doesn’t always mean you’ve lost that sensation or ability for good – far from it – and something else might be going on with your body that requires attention. As Mik has experienced himself, sometimes spinal surgery is what is needed, and that can bring back much of the feeling and/or function that was deemed to be lost.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry and ensure that a medical expert has had a chance to give you their thoughts.

  • Remember what you’ve got

If you have lost feeling and/or function and aren’t going to regain it any time soon, please do remember what other tips and tricks you have up your sexual sleeve! Sadly, we live in a society that believes penetration is the be-all and end-all of everything sexual, and that is plainly and simply not true! Become an expert in other areas behind closed doors – magic fingers and tongues are JUST as good as penetration (even better, some may say!) And there’s a whole host of accessible and inclusive sex toys at your disposal now, so no excuse to not still be incredibly sexy.

  • Remapping zones

Still wanting to get all tingly and experience orgasm? One thing that Mik is a real advocate for is the ability to remap your erogenous zones so that you are able to orgasm from a certain part of your body being touched that is not necessarily your genitals.  We’ll let Mik tell you how it’s done: ‘Basically, you have to learn how to masturbate without touching yourself. Lie on your bed & think very dirty thoughts. Let your imagination run riot. As you feel more and more aroused keep going. With a few tries you’ll find you start to be able to orgasm without being touched. Lots of fun if you ever bored at the cinema eh?

Now you can do this, just as you’re about to orgasm touch yourself or get someone to touch you on a part of your body you already like being touched. Nipples for example. Doing this a few times makes you start to be able to orgasm in a different place to your genitals. It’s a different orgasm as it’s very head first rather than groin first. Trust me it works.’

Whilst scary and full of sadness for many at first, a lack or feeling and/or function does not at all have to mean a lack of sexiness. 

Untraditional proposals – Love Lounge Tips

By | Disability, Emily Yates, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Last week, I did something I never expected to do: I proposed to my boyfriend, and HE SAID YES! Women doing the proposing is still rare, and whilst it’s applauded by many, it still seems to sit uncomfortably with others.  Why did I do it? I’m a real planner, and get so much joy out of creating things for other people that I know they’ll love. I felt ready to take our relationship to the next stage and, instead of nudging and hinting for him to take action (which I don’t think is very fair), I started to think of all the things I could do for him, and everything seemed to fit into place!

  • An idea.

I first started to get really excited about proposing to my boyfriend, now fiancée, when I discussed a few potential proposal ideas with close friends that I knew he would firstly, love and secondly, never expect.  The initial plan was to hire out a lodge in Scotland, where we live, and create a personalised ‘escape room’ for him based on our relationship.  A few weeks down the line, and the logistics of that started to get on top of me (where was I going to post everything to so he wouldn’t see? How was I going to set it all up beforehand without him even knowing?) so, on the advice of a good friend, I changed my plans, kept the lodge, but set out on learning basic code from YouTube tutorials to make my gamer boyfriend a video game from scratch that he could star in, alongside me and our two cats, Buzz and Woody.  It took about 6 weeks, but the wacky idea soon became a reality.

  • Dealing with nay-sayers.

When you do something a bit unconventional, like this, you are bound to get a few people (sadly!) who don’t like the idea and/or think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people asked me if I’d just been waiting too long for him to propose and wanted to take matters into my own hands – not at all, we’ve been together for just over 2 years, not 10! Others were worried that I might be stealing my partner’s thunder by proposing to him – why? Because society says it should be him to do it?! Thankfully, my boyfriend was bowled over, loved the proposal and didn’t at all feel like I’d taken one of his ‘manly’ activities away from him..! If you want to propose to your partner and think it would be the right thing to do for the two of you, do it! Who cares what anyone else thinks?

  • Allowing a little bit of magic.

The most difficult decision throughout the whole proposal process was whether or not to ask for his parents’ blessing beforehand.  Even though my proposal was going to be untraditional, I still wanted to be respectful and talk to his family.  But in the end, I didn’t tell them about the proposal at all; if I had done, my now fiancée would not have had the magic of being able to share the excitement and surprise with them himself, something that he really enjoyed and appreciated I’d left for him.

This week’s blog is a little different, and one that’s very personal to me.  My partner does so much for me, from valeting my car to cleaning all the bits around the house I can’t reach from my wheelchair, and it was a total dream to be able to do something for him in return, that I hope he will remember for years to come.  

Thinking of a ‘road less travelled’ idea? Go for it, and good luck! X 

Losing sensitivity

By | Disability, Mik Scarlet, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Hey,

I’m a 40-something gentleman with Spina Bifida I’ve noticed over the last couple of years I’m slowly losing sensitivity in my penis, is there anything I can do about it? Any advice would be helpful.

M

Kind regards

Hi M


Regarding your question about losing sensation in your genitals, I should first ask have you been to see a GP or specialist? I’ve had a couple of times when sensation went strange and it transpired my spine wasn’t doing well so I needed surgery to make it stable. Well worth getting it checked as I know I found after the most recent operation I regained all the lost feeling plus some sensation I hadn’t had since my SCI in 1981.


If you have made sure it’s not a medical issue, don’t worry. Our society obsesses about willys. I’m not sure if you have erectile function but whichever the answer  you can use a technique developed to help people with SCI to develop orgasmic zones all over your body.


Basically you have to learn how to masturbate without touching yourself. Lie on your bed and think very dirty thoughts. Let your imagination run riot. As you feel more and more aroused keep going. With a few tries you’ll find you start to be able to orgasm without being touched. Lots of fun if you ever bored at the cinema eh?


Now you can do this, just as you’re about to orgasm touch yourself or get someone to touch you on a part of your body you already like being touched. Nipples for example. Doing this a few times makes you start to be able to orgasm in a different place to your genitals. It’s a different orgasm as it’s very head first rather than groin first. Trust me it works.


There are videos of me explaining the technique further online. 
While learning how to do this relocation of orgasmic zones is cool I’d definitely make sure everything is cool with your nerves first. Better safe than sorry eh?


I’ve seen guys and girls with zero sensation in their sex organs discover this technique and rediscover sex and their sexuality. If function goes too there’s still so much you can do. I did a video for the Love Lounge about this recently. You’ve still got your tongue, fingers and there’s a whole world of toys to play with. 


Hope this helps mate? I know how it can hurt your confidence. I remember waking up aged 15 to discover my SCI had changed my sexual function for life. Luckily I found it gave me a whole load of new options that everyone I’ve been with seemed to enjoy! 

Keep in touch and stay sexy, 


Mik

Love Lounge Top Tips – Trademarks and Confidence

By | Disability, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

When it comes to dating and relationships, confidence can be hard to find (not least for us disabled people). Regardless of how confident you are, or how comfortable with your impairment you may be, it can be extremely difficult not to blame a rejection on the fact that you’re disabled.  So, with this in mind, here are our tips for creating a confident trademark out of your features (including your impairment), and owning it!

A talking point.

Whilst no-one wants a thousand questions about their impairment or a particular aid the first time that they meet someone, this ‘see the person, not the disability’ rhetoric doesn’t really fly with us, either.  Come on, of course many impairments are visible, and that’s more than okay! We don’t have to pretend they don’t exist, they just don’t have to be an all-encompassing identifying factor, either.  If you’re confident about, or even proud of, your impairment, don’t be afraid to show how you feel it a way that fits with your style.  It can be a great feeling when someone comes up to you and says ‘Wow, I love what you’ve done with your wheelchair, that’s the coolest one I’ve ever seen!’ instead of crossing the street to avoid any interaction.

What about all those other gorgeous features?

We might sound like the Queer Eye team here (and trust us, we are MORE than okay with that!) but remember to focus on all of your other identifying factors that you love and not just the aids you use in everyday life.  Got a great smile? Wear some popping lipstick to show it off.  Love a certain style, pattern or colour when it comes to clothes? Wear them, and make that your trademark.  Perhaps piercings and tattoos are your thing, or suits and paisley shirts.  Whatever it is, make it ‘you’, and then people will have so much more to talk to you about than the elephant in the room (and it makes dating ice breakers a little easier, too!)

Inside always shows on the Outside

Ultimately, none of these tips are any good if you still feel shy, insular and unable to take action on the inside.  Wearing a colourful outfit means nothing if you don’t radiate positivity and an open, welcoming attitude.  This may sound a little strict (but we hope you know where we are coming from): If you want to be seen as more than a disabled guy or girl, you have to show those other facets to yourself in a loud and proud manner because, sadly, society is still waaaay behind in its perceptions of disability.  Let everything that you are shine through, and be proud of it, every single bit of it, ESPECIALLY the bits that are unique to you.

Sending love x 

Why do attraction sparks never go anywhere for me?

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Mik Scarlet, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Hi Mik and Emily,


I’m a full time wheeler with CP, degree educated, great friendships, a kind of job, stylish, friendly, funny and flirty if the mood is right. Thing is though every time there’s been sparks (three times in total, am in my 30s) it never goes any further. The first two I didn’t make a move. I was overweight, shy, studious and not really comfortable with my disability as an adult yet (Both times late teens to mid 20s) but they didn’t make a move either. The 3rd time, very recently, I asked a someone I know if they would like to do something at some point. Definitely a spark/connection. Timing not great, they recently out of a long term relationship. So unlikely to have gone anywhere anyway. However, the issue is, I didn’t get a response either way, so I’m left wondering: were they revolted that I asked? Embarrassed that a ‘pity flirt’ was taken serously? Don’t want to embarrass me, cause who wants to upset the girl in the chair, right? He knows I embarrass easily, but am hard to offend. I’d have preferred outright rejection, swift, painful for a day but certain.

Thing is though, I can’t shake the idea that the wheels and other stuff put guys off me. 

This causes me three issues:

1. If it’s true, then I’m obviously attracted to idiots and that’s a problem.

2. I’m only ever attracted to people I’ve got to know, because I have low body confidence, so if they don’t like my personality either, then what?

3. If it is the chair, I can’t change that, but if it’s not, but I think it is, then I’m driving myself cuckoo for no reason!

So in short, how can I stop thinking like this and relax?

Cheers and sorry for the ramble. 

Hi there, 


Thanks so much for writing in to us. There’s a lot to unpack here! But as a wheelchair user in her late twenties with CP, I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said here, so fingers crossed I can help a little.


Taking your most recent situation into consideration, perhaps you didn’t get a response for exactly the reasons you’ve mentioned. But it’s naturally easy for us disabled people to automatically think ‘Oh, it’s obviously about my impairment’ I’ve done that so many times, too.  The fact of the matter is, if it was because of that, they weren’t the right person for you anyway and there’s absolutely zero point in worrying about it because you can’t do anything to change it (as you say yourself! – Again, much easier said than done, I know haha!) Let’s be honest, sometimes it will be about the chair for some people, whilst others won’t be able to care less that you’re in a chair if they tried.  It’s just a shame that we can’t have a sixth sense to figure that out before we put ourselves forward and make a move, but that shouldn’t stop us trying because we’d be missing all the brilliant people, too.


Ultimately, you’ve got to think of it like this: the one and only time that you’ve made a move hasn’t gone your way, but it doesn’t mean the next time will have the same result.  As you say yourself, you’re smart, stylish, friendly, funny and flirty – all amazing qualities that a potential partner is looking for right now, but your own view of yourself, your body and your impairment is clouding your ability to go out and talk to them! One thing that really helped me like myself and my body a bit more is I started to make trademarks out of the bits I like about myself.  I’ve always had good hair, so dyed it pink and made it part of my image, I’ve got good teeth and a nice smile, and always wear bright, popping lipstick. I love colour and pattern and bright things make me happy, so my clothes and wheelchair are always colourful.  All of these things make me feel attractive, but they are also brilliant talking points.  It’s totally true that a potential partner is much more likely to make a move if you look welcoming (and feel confident on the inside!) And relationships develop from good conversation – it’s not always about one party making a move either – just loving yourself a little more, focusing on your beautiful features and qualities, and having the confidence to present yourself to the world in a more open way will make the world of difference 🙂


I hope this helps as a starting point, but do get back to us if we can support any further.


Em x 

Advice on lesbian sex and Cerebral Palsy

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Hey there! 

I’m a queer able-bodied woman and I’ve recently started seeing a woman with cerebral palsy (spastic diplegia). We haven’t had sex yet and I’m writing to ask for some advice.

I know that everybody knows their own body the best and knows their own sexual desires the best, and that just by using my normal communication skills during sex I’ll be able to learn what is comfortable and pleasurable for her. However, especially because she’s relatively inexperienced, I would appreciate any practical tips for positions or anything else. Or for knowing if there’s certain things I should ask which I might not think of. Again I know this is a conversation I should have with her and I fully intend to, but especially since she is inexperienced I’d like to have some ideas going in. 

THANKS! Also thanks for your website in general and for the work you do. 

Hi there,

Lovely to hear from you and thank you so much for writing in to us! 

I also have exactly the type of CP you’re talking about, so fingers crossed I can help a little.

First things first – if your partner is inexperienced (as I was up until a few years ago) she is going to want reassurance that this is more than okay, and that you’ll be patient and take things at her pace etc. I’m sure you already know this, but worth reiterating! 🙂


In terms of positioning, I can only speak from my experience as a straight woman with CP, but I struggle to straddle at all, so any ‘on top’ positions are out of the question for me due to my hip and groin muscles being too tight – so probably a good thing for you to be aware of. 


If you have a nice big bath, that could be a really good way to start foreplay and help to relax her leg muscles. She may get spasms in her legs – don’t let this worry you too much (it can be part of the condition) but of course check that she is okay/doesn’t want you to stop etc. 


As you very rightly alluded to in your email, communication is everything!!! Further down the line, when you know each other’s bodies better, you might want to look at liberator furniture (or making your own foam sex furniture – much cheaper!!!!) As these can be great for aiding different, more exciting positions without putting any extra pressure on the body.

Hope this helps and good luck!


If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us again!

Thanks!

Emily x

Love Lounge Top Tips – Relationship ebbs and flows

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Relationships, like life in general, have a habit of being incredible one minute, and pretty mediocre the next.  Depending on your personality type, you might be able to see through this cycle and plod along, waiting for the next wonderful moment, or you might find that pretty impossible to do and find yourself getting bored or feeling hugely unattractive when things aren’t at their best between you and your partner. Here are our top tips on dealing with the ebbs and flows, glorious and grimy times, when it comes to relationships.

This too, shall pass.

Ah, the infamous phrase ‘nothing lasts forever.’  When it comes to your relationship and its natural cycles, that is most certainly true. Our hormones, friendships, satisfaction at work, sex drives and fashion sense all change every now and again, so why shouldn’t our relationships? The trick is knowing how to live in the moment and appreciate things when they are good, as well as having the strength to know that things will get better if they aren’t going so well.  This is much easier to do when you’ve been in a relationship for a little while as you have hindsight on your side and can recognise cycle changes and work with your partner to make them not seem quite so dramatic when time goes on.  

This doesn’t mean ‘settle’.

We are not remotely saying that awful behaviour in relationships is okay because that’s part of its natural cycle, and it will get batter if you just sit and wait it out. No. Accepting unreasonable behaviour or bullying of any kind isn’t what you should be doing, and it’s more than okay to stop a relationship in its tracks if it’s not working for you and you feel threatened, unsafe or put down by your partner.  There’s a huge difference between getting itchy feet and working towards better times for both of you, and waiting for a partner that doesn’t deserve you to change their ways (which is very unlikely to happen, by the way).

But do let evolution take its course

If you are new to your relationship, do learn to sit back a little bit and allow yourselves to learn from each other in terms of how you communicate, what your love languages are and how you both fit into your relationship when it comes to preferences and roles.  As with anything new, there can be teething problems at the start, but give yourselves the chance to see the sunny side of each other, too.

Good luck!

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