Undressing Disability blog

You’ll find all sorts here, from our latest top tips to questions from the Love Lounge.
If you’ve got a question or topic you’d like us to cover get in touch below.

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 ��

Love Lounge Top Tips – Ideas for an accessible, romantic weekend away

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

Dare I say it, we’ve been having some pretty lovely weather recently (as I type this, I’m waiting for
the clouds to come in and ruin my introduction). When it’s as bright and beautiful as this, many of
us fancy a little weekend staycation to a part of the UK that we love, or are perhaps unfamiliar with
and would like to explore. But, as with everything to do with travel, planning a romantic weekend
away for you and your beau may require a bit more thought. So, we are here to help!
Here are three of our favourite spots for an inclusive break in the UK.

Tip 1: Glasgow
Scotland’s biggest city is known for it’s history, inclement weather and has been crowned as the
friendliest city in the world. If you’re fancying Glasgow as a destination for a romantic break, don’t
forget that Loch Lomond is only a 30 minute drive away! Lodges with hot tubs (many of them
accessible) are scattered along the banks, and country pubs with delicious food and phenomenal
views are never far away. For an accessible stay in the city centre, have a look at the CitizenM hotel.
It is as accessible as it is funky! A day out at the gorgeous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is also
a must. If you’re feeling peckish, or even thirsty, after all of that, the Hillhead Bookclub is a real
winner on both accounts.

Tip 2: Liverpool
Most definitely continuing with the friendly theme, party and glamour loving Liverpool is an amazing
destination if you’re a fan of shopping, museums, live music, being by the sea…. It has a bit of
everything! For any Beatles fan, the Hard Days Night hotel is an obvious, brilliant and very accessible
choice. The nearby Cavern Club might not look particularly accessible on first glance, but there is a
(not so glamourous) service entrance around the back. Trust me, it’s worth it once you’re in! For
food, drinks and a great view of the dock, why not treat yourself to a meal at the very impressive
MATOU?

Tip 3: London
I couldn’t really write this and not mention the capital. Whilst plenty of London still isn’t accessible
via the underground, certain pockets of it really are. Transport-wise, all 22,000 buses are fully
accessible, as are all the licensed black cabs around the city. I would always recommend staying in
the East End. Firstly, because you’ve got shopping galore on your doorstep with Westfield Stratford
and Spitalfield Market, but secondly because you’ve also got the Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
which is also 100% step-free. If you’re looking for a fun stay that won’t break the bank, Moxy
Stratford is a good shout. And you HAVE to take advantage of the incredible curries available on
Brick Lane! There’s so much to do, I can’t even mention it all, but Shakespeare’s Globe, the British
Museum and a walk around the Olympic Park are some of my favourites. Enjoy!
Here are only three of the many brilliant destinations you could choose for an accessible staycation
in the UK. Whatever you choose to do this summer, have a glorious time!

My Pregnancy and labour – Joy Addo

By | Disability, Lifestyle, My story

I found I was pregnant at work one afternoon and to say I was shocked would be an understatement. I remember it like it was yesterday, the fear and shock that I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I asked my  friend Lauren to take a walk to the pharmacy with me that day, I told her my period was late and just wanted to rule out pregnancy, so being the friend she is she said sure of course. When we got back to the office I remember telling her to go and continue working and I did the test on my own I’m the toilet. 

When I looked at the test I saw 2 lines, so I panicked and honestly thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. In fact I genuinely hoped that they were. I honestly cleaned my glasses a few times a kept looking back at the test but it wasn’t changing. I called Lauren and asked her come have a look as her vision is better than mine. She looked at the test and started nervous laughing, she confirmed it was 2 lines and I was like “Lauren this is not funny” 

When my manager got back from I went into her office and broke down in tears. I showed her the test and she let me go home. 

It was about week later when I starting feeling really sick and of course I assumed it was morning sickness, but for some reason I felt absolutely awful. I had seen programmes on pregnant woman before but I never saw or heard of anyone feeling as bad as I did with morning sickness. 

I finally got diagnosed with Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) which is extreme vomiting and sickness during pregnancy. I felt so weak while I was pregnant and I had to be admitted to hospital about 4-5 times because I was dehydrated.

To be honest I did not enjoy pregnancy at all I had never felt so weak on all my life. 

Having my 20 week scan and finding out I was expecting a girl really made a difference to me. I finally was able to get excited and imagine a mini me! (Which she definitely is) 

My labour was very quick, I wasn’t sure if I was having contractions at first and the hospital said to stay at home for as long as possible, so did. 

As they started to progress I was on my bedroom floor grunting and panting for my life. Not to mention I was actually doing several squats, which my body was not made to do at all! 

My mum called a cab and we made our way to the hospital. However as we turned into  the road of  the hospital my waters broke in the back of the mini cab. 

When my mum got out and went into reception to get help, the cab driver came to open the door for me and as I stood up I could feel my baby was literally coming so I laid back in cab and pushed. By the time my mum came back out she saw her grand daughter being held up by my knickers and the cab driver was lost for words. 

Everyone around me was panicking but I had heard my baby make a little cry and her hand grabbed my finger so I knew she was fine. 

They rushed us into to labour ward and apologised for making me stay at home for so long. But everything was fine, my daughter was born I didn’t need any form of after care not even a stitch so I was happy and we went home the very next day. 

About 2 weeks after Janelle was born I had a knock on the door from Tarick the cab driver. He came to her and asked me if she wanted to buy his car when she’s older as it was her birth place! 

 

A new born baby in a hospital crib

Janelle, just after being born

Love Lounge Top Tips – Managing frustration

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

With a new, or even an existing, partner, it can take some time to find a sexual ‘niche’ – where you both feel like you really fit and are giving and receiving pleasure in a way that suits you best.  Of course, for those of us with impairments, finding that groove and really feeling comfortable and confident in bed can sometimes feel like it’s taking even longer. Managing the frustration of this can turn out to be one of the best things you’ll ever learn in a relationship, because when frustration takes over, we often fail to communicate effectively at all.

Tip 1: Voice sooner rather than later.

If something isn’t feeling right sexually or romantically to you, whether it’s to do with your partner’s kissing technique, or their ability to get you off, it’s best to voice things sooner rather than later (bottling up feelings and frustrations so often only ends in negativity).  By voicing something, you don’t need to be unkind or start an argument; you might start by trying to guide your partner in a more effective way, or showing them exactly how you like to be touched by showing them yourself and asking them to watch. In fact, guiding and educating a lover can be a really sexy and fulfilling thing to do, and perhaps we need to stop viewing it as such a bad thing when a significant other doesn’t please us in the way we expect immediately.

Tip 2: Be open to education yourself.

As keen as you might be to school your partner in pleasure, be prepared to be educated yourself, and remember to keep asking if what you’re doing suits your significant other and what they’re into.  We often forget, as we get comfortable in relationships, that our preferences, fetishes and interests can change when it comes to sex.  A sex life that’s full of communication, understanding and an ability to be open and honest will always be a good one.

Tip 3:  Still frustrated? Shake it up!

If you’re still struggling to find a common love language between the two of you in the bedroom, why not mix things up, lose your inhibitions and try something totally new? If dressing up and role playing often makes you cringe, why not reset your sexual meter and just have a go? Failing to communicate and deliver sexually is often all in the mind rather than the body, and you or your partner might be lacking confidence, be stuck in a rut or have had a particularly stressful few months – and these are all things that stepping out of your comfort zone together, in a safe and strong manner with no judgement attached, can help with.

Sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and, although a bit of frustration can be healthy and leave you wanting more, it shouldn’t be making you want to leave.  We hope these tips help and, should you have any questions or concerns, please do get in touch with us.

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – Moving in

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

Picture the scene… the honeymoon period may technically be over in your relationship, but everything is still going swimmingly.  You’ve got through those awkward first dates and cringeworthy double-texting, and you still love being around each other.  You’ve met their relatives, they’ve met yours, and there’s even been the odd item of clothing or toothbrush left at each other’s places.  You decide it’s about time to have that first serious conversation – should you move in together?

Tip 1: Avoid assumptions and expectations

No doubt all of us have done this at some stage – got really excited and passionate about the possibility of something happening, only to be bitterly disappointed when someone doesn’t feel exactly the same way.  It’s no different with this conversation; try your best (where possible!) to start the conversation without judgement, assumption or expectations. Then you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment, your partner doesn’t feel a pressure to agree with your way of thinking and you can rest assured that you are getting their honest opinion on the matter.  If that opinion is the same as yours, perfect! If not, calmly ask them to explain how they’re feeling and work through the difference together in a positive and progressive way.

Tip 2: Accessible planning!

If you do agree to take the leap and move in together, fantastic! If one or both of you has a physical or sensory impairment, this may well be where the need for planning kicks in. Will you require a step free home, a larger bathroom to cater for personal aids, or even a dedicated space and garden for your guide dog to lounge and play? Often, it’s not just about the home itself, either; many disabled people would prefer to live near accessible bus stops or train stations, and nearby supermarkets or pharmacies can be particularly helpful if there is ever an emergency.  Once you do start planning, don’t be shy in asking for support with moving.  Call or email your local estate agents and see if they have any suitable properties to match your criteria, put your name on waiting lists with housing associations (many of whom have specific accessible housing available) and ask friends and family to help, too! This stage of moving in together can be stressful (and might even put a bit of strain on your relationship every now and again!) But the result is more than worth it.

Tip 3:  Enjoy all the good bits.

Once you’ve found the perfect place and moved in, it’s time to get on with all the more enjoyable parts of the process.  If you’re a Pinterest or Instagram fan, there’s nothing quite like searching for the perfect paint colour or most kooky furniture, and we’re sure we don’t need to even mention the joy of being able to have sex whenever you want, and wherever you want it..! Don’t forget to congratulate yourselves on taking the next step in your relationship, and we’re sure our invite to the house warming will be in the post soon 😉

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – Feeling Broody?

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

For many people, becoming a parent and having children someday is absolute #lifegoals, but it would be difficult for anyone to dispute that it is a BIG decision, not least for those of us who are disabled.  If you’re feeling broody, that’s not to say that it’s not possible to be a brilliant disabled mum or dad, but there might possibly be a few extra things to consider on your journey to becoming one.  If you see kids in your future, but don’t quite know where to start, this one is for you.

Tip 1: Have the conversation

First things first, if you are currently with a partner, do they feel the same way about having children? As scary as it may seem, having the conversation and knowing that you are both on the same wavelength, or have similar timelines in mind when it comes to parenting, can be really helpful and productive for both of you.  And it’s totally fine if you’re not ready, or the person you’re with isn’t, as long as you are both honest with each other and never make promises that you don’t have an intention of keeping.

Tip 2: Plan as well as you can

Let’s face it, parenting takes a lot of planning, and this is most definitely the case for us disabled people.  If you are a wheelchair user, you might want to think about how you are going to get your baby, a pram and your chair in the car, if your energy levels can get considerably low, it might be worth considering whether or not you will express milk and bottle feed your baby at night time, so your partner and you can share feeding responsibilities.  Find certain positions difficult and painful? You might want to make sure this information goes into your birth plan.  These are just a few examples, and there are plenty of things to think about, but just remember, whatever works for you is the best and correct decision, regardless of what anyone else around you is doing or suggesting.  There is never a perfect time to have a baby, but it is possible to plan and make it the best time for you.

Tip 3:  Hack your way through parenting life

When the baby does arrive, enjoy parenthood! It might be worth becoming a bit of a parenting engineer, too, and hacking your way through the first few months.  Perhaps picking your son or daughter out of their cot becomes tiring and tough, and you might find a way that’s much easier on your body by creating a side door on the cot, for example.  Maybe body slings will work much better for you than a bulky pram, or perhaps you’ll come up with an innovative way to be alerted to your baby’s cries at night if you are hard of hearing.  Whatever ends up working for you and your child, please share the information with the communities around you, on or offline.  There is sadly still a taboo and fear around disabled parenting, with many people being desperate to be a mum or dad, but worrying quite how they will manage or whether they will be good enough.  Knowledge is power, as they say, and let’s remember that sharing a hacking success might empower someone else to take the beautiful leap to becoming a disabled parent.

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – Taking the next step

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

Whether we’re going on a first date, sleeping together for the first time, proposing, getting married or having children, we can often feel a distinct amount of pressure when it comes to taking the next big steps in our relationships, and the amount of pressure is definitely no less for disabled people! Whether you’ve got to plan ahead for an accessible date, discuss painless sexual positions with your partner, or think about the practicalities of becoming a disabled parent, there’s undoubtedly plenty to consider! Here are our top tips for taking those next steps – good luck, and enjoy!

Tip 1: Ensure you are comfortable

This first tip might sound a little obvious, but peer pressure and societal pressure play a big part in the direction that many of us take our relationships in, and the speed in which we develop them.  Whatever you do, don’t take a leap into commitment because that’s what all your friends are doing, because you’re at the age where you ‘should’ be doing these things, or because a family member has told you to hold on to the non-disabled ‘saint’ your partner is often viewed as.  There is no right or wrong way to move through a relationship, and certainly no right or wrong time to do it.  As long as you feel utterly comfortable and confident in your decisions, you will know that you are doing the right thing for you.

Tip 2: Research your Support Network

If you still live in the same town as your supportive parents and long-term friends, that’s brilliant; you might have all the support network you need.  But, for a lot of disabled people wanting to live independently or have children, a bit of extra support has got to be found, especially if you live somewhere different to where you grew up. If you think you might require personal care when living alone, or the help of a nanny or child minder when you take the next step of having children, make sure you do your research and are happy with the choices you find.  There is no shame at all in asking for help, especially when that help is going to ensure your own safety and care!

Tip 3:  Don’t get so caught up in planning that you don’t enjoy the ride.

As disabled people, most of us are real planners.  Let’s face it, we’ve had to be from a young age, and everything from driving to going on holiday and getting work has taken extended time and effort.  When it comes to making big decisions in your relationship, though, make sure that you save some time to enjoy yourself, too! Planning an accessible wedding or an amazingly romantic weekend away is great, but is it really any fun if you spend all your time worrying rather than marvelling in the next step that you and your partner have taken together? Remember, all the best journeys are ones that you can look back on with love for every single step.

Love Lounge Top Tips – Accessible sex positions

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

 

It’s no secret that not everyone can master every single position in the Karma Sutra, but there’s no reason why us disabled people can’t create our own! Whether you’re looking for inclusive tips for the first time you’re getting down and dirty with a disabled partner, or you’re a disabled person looking to spice up your sex life in a more accessible way for you both – we’ve got you covered.  If you like the idea of adding another position or two to your repertoire, in the most stress and pain free ways possible, let us introduce you to our pick of accessible sex positions.  You can thank us later.

Tip 1: Accessible Oral

Oral sex sadly gets left out of far too many sexual experiences, but it’s really pretty easy to make accessible for all! Having a go at a 69 is a great place to start – there’s an opportunity to lie flat or go on top, depending on your strengths, and who doesn’t like receiving pleasure whilst they’re giving it?!  Wheelchair users can also give oral whilst staying seated (and receive it too!) If your partner is able to, just make sure that they’re positioned in a way that works for you.

Tip 2: Spooning and Cowgirls

Sex whilst spooning can be really great; you can use the bed or sofa to stabilise yourself, and don’t be afraid to try different entry angles before you start getting into it – 90 degree spoon sex (whilst not technically involving any spooning anymore) feels amazing! For those of you who are desperate to be cowgirls, but can’t quite straddle far enough with tight leg muscles, have you tried the crouching reverse cowgirl position? It’s like the reverse cowgirl, but you can put your legs under your partner’s, rather than having to straddle them.  Leaning forward so your head is in line with your partner’s feet, you can then ease yourself back onto them, strain and pressure free! And if you struggle to muster up the strength to ‘bounce’ up and down, and your partner to help by grabbing a hold of your hips.  Try it, it’s a real game-changer.

Tip 3:  Using the Resources around you

We’ve mentioned this before in previous Love Lounge articles, but don’t forget to keep up to date with the inclusive sex toys that are on the market – they can make a sex position you’ve been doing for years all the more exciting – how about trying doggy with a bullet on your clit, or missionary with a butt plug in? Great sex doesn’t mean having to totally change up everything you know and love, it just means thinking about positions differently and maybe even stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Here’s to satisfying and fulfilling sex for us all, regardless of ability or preference. Enjoy, and do please let us know if you have an inclusive position that works for you; it might just change someone else’s experience behind closed doors (or in front of them!)

 

Love Lounge Top Tips – The fine line between lover and carer

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

It’s been a hot topic in the news recently: when does a partner become a carer, and is it okay for that boundary to be crossed? For those of us who are disabled, this issue can feel difficult to address, and even raw at times.  We want romantic and sexual relationships just like anyone else, but we’d also be fooling ourselves if we didn’t admit that we need a little extra help with the more practical side of things too, sometimes.  If this is a subject you’d like to bring up in your relationship, but you’re not quite sure how to, please do read on and we will do our best to advise.

Tip 1: Be practical

Before starting any conversation with an existing (or potential) significant other, it’s important to be honest with yourself and consider what assistance you require that might be classed as outside of the ‘relationship realm’ of duties.  Perhaps it’s help vacuuming the floors, tying your shoe laces, or getting dressed and eating in the morning.  Do these needs change depending on your changing impairment, and how confident do you feel asking for help when it’s required? All of these factors are ones that you need to be knowledgeable about before discussing them with a partner; it’s much easier for anyone to get on board with something that they can clearly understand.

Tip 2: Set boundaries

It’s important, when thinking about this lover/carer dynamic, to remember what qualities and support you can provide in a relationship.  You might be a magician when it comes to emotionally supporting or encouraging your partner, or you might be a total whizz with budgeting, bills and finances.  Make sure to set boundaries with one another, though, so that you don’t each forget to lend a hand in other areas of your relationship when you can.  There’s nothing wrong with agreeing to openly ask for help when it’s required, and even explaining if too much assistance ever becomes a hinderance.  As long as those boundaries are there and understood by both parties, it will be difficult for either one of you to take advantage of the other (something that’s vital in any partnership, whether you’re disabled or not!)

Tip 3:  Check in

Conversations about a dynamic as fragile and as difficult to navigate as this aren’t ones that you have once every three years.  However difficult it may be, it’s so important that you both check in with each other on a regular basis.  Ask if your partner is happy with the responsibilities they have in your relationship, and if there’s anything they’d like to change.  If anything significant happens, such as a big change in your needs or a new job for your partner, for example, discuss your options as both lovers and carers.  Perhaps it might be time to hire someone to help with dressing and feeding duties in the morning, or maybe your partner can start work a little later to allow for you both to still have that time together.  Whatever works for you both is the right way to do things, but communication, as always, really is key.

 

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