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Emily Yates

International Day for People with Disabilities – 3rd December 2019

By | Emily Yates, News, Workplace

If we say December, which two colours come to mind?

There’s another colour that’s looking for a seat at the seasonal table, next to Red and Green. As some of you may know, Purple is associated with the financial power held by disabled people, in both their ability to contribute to society, and their desire to spend like anyone else. #PurpleLightUp is a global movement designed to draw attention to this, by encouraging businesses and organisations alike to light up their buildings in this powerful colour to show their allegiance to the economic autonomy of disabled people.

International Day for People with Disabilities

The 3rd of December is the International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD), and the #PurpleLightUp movement now coincides with this day, boosting the visibility and importance of those with impairments that little bit more. Over the past several years, Purple has made its presence known the world over, with Government buildings, entertainment venues, transport hubs and corporate offices all lighting up.

So. What can you do?

Well, you could join in and ask your employer if they’d consider a change in their building’s appearance for a day,  or you could use the IDPD to think of ways that you and those around you could be more inclusive, both professionally and personally.

One thing that we’d ask you not to do is simply join the movement for one day every year.  It might look good to have your building shining with violet hues, but tokenism never served anyone well in the long run.  Equally, if a #PurpleLightUp isn’t possible for you and your organisation, then you can still take steps towards further inclusivity in your own way. 

Here are a few examples.

Digital Accessibility

  1. Revamp your website to ensure it’s accessible to all, or update the settings on your twitter account so those with a visual impairment can access the images you share. This 45 second video explains how.

Diversity & Inclusion

2. Swot up on how to make your job adverts as inclusive as possible; after all, this is the stuff that really leaves a legacy disabled people are proud to be a part of.

Invest in Training

3. Or ask us about our fun and interactive disability awareness training, a British Sign Language workshop, or even a team to conduct an accessibility audit? You’ve come to the right place for that!

Let’s work together to make sure red and green are no longer the only colours associated with December.

Thanks for reading. If you found this article useful please share it with your network, and join our online community on twitter @EnhanceTheUK.

Why spikes aren’t the answer

By | Accessibility, Business, Disability, Emily Yates, Lifestyle, News, Workplace

If you’ve followed us for a while, you will know that, as a charity, we pride ourselves on facilitating communication and connection between disabled people and their non-disabled peers, through our disability awareness training, talks at conferences and helpful resource creation. As disabled people ourselves, we are fully aware that those who have little to no experience around areas of access and inclusion, or any disabled relatives or friends, don’t always get it right (and, sometimes, get it very, very wrong).  We’ve been shamed for using accessible bathrooms because we don’t ‘look’ physically disabled, patronised by people who have spoken to our parents or partners as they just assume that we are unable to contribute to a conversation ourselves, and we’ve even had to leave dates with very hot men on them because, quite frankly, regardless of how beautiful they were, they weren’t up to scratch when it came to empathy and awareness.

But, you know what? These more negative events are genuinely a drop in the ocean compared to the warmth and welcoming attitude of many we experience on a daily basis.  It’s not unusual for members of the public to be helpful and supportive when needed.  Just last week, a stranger got off the tube and waited for the next one to ensure that one of our colleagues was able to get herself and her bags onto the platform with ease.  Those we have trained have gone out of their way to contact us and let us know what a positive difference our training has made to how they are performing in their roles and, as well as hot but uneducated and absolutely-not-right dates, we’ve found partners who absolutely ‘get it’ and put those who don’t to shame. 

As far as we’re concerned, it’s human nature to mess up and make mistakes sometimes, but good intentions are everything when considering what you say and do around others.  That’s why we were saddened to read Spikes – and other ways disabled people combat unwanted touching.on the BBC website recently. It documents the experiences of several disabled people who have been touched without their consent by non-disabled members of the public, from bus drivers to fellow commuters, and gone to some pretty extreme lengths to discourage it, including placing spikes on the handles of their wheelchairs which, although not capable of puncturing the skin, are pretty clear in the vibe that they give off.

There’s been times when we’ve also wanted to use the #JustAskDontGrab hashtag: when taxi drivers have hauled us up dangerously steep ramps without our permission, for example.  We really do understand the frustration and fear that unwanted, and unnecessary, attention can cause. But we also regularly hear the stories of disabled people who are craving understanding and interaction, and of non-disabled people who want to learn and be educated.

Where’s the middle line, or the happy medium? Isn’t it a shame that a wheelchair user needs spikes to feel safe but, at the same time, is shutting off the opportunity to educate people whose behaviour she desperately wants to change? 

People don’t learn and alter their ways if they are never told that what they are doing, however well intentioned, could be done better. To spread kindness and understanding, shouldn’t we be displaying it ourselves? 

Both literally and metaphorically, maybe we should soften our spikes a little too.

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 – 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 

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!

Love Lounge Tips – Having a disabled partner: An education

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

This morning I was chatting to my boyfriend, who is non-disabled, about the misconceptions that he had about disability, relationships and sex before starting a relationship with me.  He said (and this is in-line with what most delegates say in our general disability awareness training sessions) that becoming a hinderance rather than a help was a concern of his, alongside saying and doing things that might be construed as offensive or patronising.  He’s glad that his friends and family have never ‘grilled’ him over having a disabled partner and have always been very accepting (which, of course, they should be. Sadly though, many aren’t).  He had far more positive than negative things to say when considering what he’s learnt from having a disabled partner, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how having a disabled partner can be a real education, and a good one!

Awkwardness and avoidance disappears

Before our relationship, my better half would avoid getting himself into any situation that would be deemed a little awkward (because he’s a nice guy and wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings!) Two years on, and he’s helped me get dressed on bad days, aided with personal care and toileting when needed, and we’ve discussed pretty much everything to do with disability and sex that you could imagine! It’s almost impossible to avoid those ‘real’ conversations and situations of vulnerability when you date a disabled person, and that’s no bad thing in our eyes.

It’s okay to want to help

In fact, it’s natural! The difference between being helpful and becoming a hinderance, in my opinion, is accepting when your disabled partner says no, or lets you know that they can manage independently.  No disabled person should expect a non-disabled partner to automatically understand every single aspect of their impairment and how it affects them, either, but once boundaries of support and offence have been identified, they shouldn’t need to be reaffirmed every week.  Listen to each other’s thoughts and limits and respect them.

Our community has gained another ally

The one thing I love the most about having a non-disabled partner is I feel that our disabled community has genuinely gained another ally.  Asking about accessibility is now second nature to my boyfriend, as is ensuring that it’s present in all the work he does.  As much as I’ve learnt from him and his experiences, it’s nice to know that he’s also learnt from me and mine. Society shies away from talking about disability and relationships, as those of us with impairments are sadly still seen as undesirable, but let’s spin that mindset on its head somewhat and appreciate the education that can come from intimacy with someone that doesn’t have your background, ability or belief system.

Love Lounge Top Tips – Inclusive Erotica

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

It’s no secret that disabled people aren’t represented nearly as much as they should be in the media,
education and employment, amongst many other areas. The same has often been said about the
sexual arena – how many wheelchair users do you see in mainstream porn or read about in steamy
stories? Very, very few. With thanks to several brilliant writers and activists, this is slowly changing,
with inclusive erotica for all to enjoy and be able to relate to now being available. So, if you’d like to
read a short sexy story or watch a film that includes disability and desire, carry on reading!

Tip 1: Writings to Warm you up at Night

We definitely need more disabled people to write erotica for both disabled and non-disabled
readers. Why? Well, because not only does it give disabled people something realistic and relatable
to get off to (as well as inspo for their own sexual relationships), it also helps non-disabled people to
see their disabled peers as desirable and sexual beings. Let’s be honest – many non-disabled people
view us as people that don’t, won’t and can’t have sex, and those who know this is absolutely untrue
can sometimes fetishise us against our will. Anything that makes disability and sex appear as normal
as it bloody well is is doing a great job! If you fancy reading some inclusive erotica by disabled
writers, have a look at Xan West, who’s recent publication ‘Nine of Swords, Reversed’ is described as
a dominant/submissive “romance novelette” with “autistic, disabled, chronic pain, PTSD and
depression representation.” Penelope Friday, a writer who sometimes uses a wheelchair due to ME,
is also worth a read. Her writings are often inspired by her own experiences, and in a recent
interview she did with Scope, she stated that “[I’m] treated like two different people depending on
whether I’m in my wheelchair or not.”

Tip 2: Disability, Visual Arts and Alternative Porn

If you’re wanting to watch something to get your juices flowing, there’s now several disabled
performers who are doing their utmost to ensure that inclusive porn and sex work gets the attention
and recognition it deserves. Just one example of these people for you to check out is performer
Daniel James, who has cerebral palsy, and told Queerty that “People develop this screwed up notion
in their mind that all individuals with disabilities are physically incapable of sex… Sex when you’re
disabled all comes down to the technique and thinking of ingenious ways to use the surroundings to
your advantage.”

These are just a few examples of the inclusive, sexy options that are out there to be enjoyed by both
disabled and non-disabled people. For more, continue reading this great article that taught us a lot,
too!

If you have any works that you’d like others to know about, please do get in touch with us! We’d be
happy to share them. Until then, enjoy these ��

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