People with disabilities are often not brought into critical discussions about LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, however, this is something the Wits Disability Rights Unit (DRU) wants to change.  

Sexuality, gender and access to health services for people with disabilities were all up for discussion at the DRU’s first event for disability awareness month. 

The webinar was held on Friday, July 21 and was centred around the harmful consequences of the prevalent stereotype that people with disabilities are not sexual beings, who experience desire like everybody else.  

The month of July marks disability pride month and presents an opportunity to honour the experiences, histories and struggles of people with disabilities. 

Tish Morpheus Geddes, senior administrator at the DRU, was especially proud of the panelists, as it brought together “people who work in sexual and reproductive health sectors, people doing research into disability and sexuality and members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as people with disabilities. We have a unique perspective.”. 

Facilitator, Siya Hlongwa said: “Stereotypes become a benchmark for discrimination in healthcare services.” Geddes added that people with disabilities are viewed as asexual beings and so, “health care providers think this is not a group that must be considered” therefore limiting access to lifesaving sexual and reproductive health resources.  

Thato Mphuti, the founding director of the organisation, Enabled Enlightenment said, “[The conversation the DRU has started] speaks to the work that we do” in trying to destigmatise sexual education with the parents and caregivers of people with disabilities, “there is no parenting manual and often parents are the biggest barriers when it comes to accessing sexual and reproductive health services.” 

 Geddes said that one of the central goals of the webinar was to have a truly accessible conversation. This was done through accessible marketing on social media, “you’ll notice that all of our posts have image descriptions.” In addition, the webinar was translated live into South African Sign Language as well as transcribed into text.  

Sesona Buyeye, an attendee to the webinar and communications assistant for Ibis reproductive health, said, “Iit was such a great discussion with great insights shared, especially during disability awareness month.”  

Similar events will be hosted by the unit throughout July, details available on their social media pages.  

FEATURED IMAGE: A Wits student enters the Wits Disability Rights Unit on Wits main campus. Photo: Kimberley Kersten