Feel the Vibe: Lifting the lid on disability and sexuality

By Kate Reid, 6 April 2018 , Comments

There are very few places where the subject of disability and sexuality is openly discussed. Northcott aims to change that with our flagship event Feel the Vibe.

Since the first Feel the Vibe expo in 2014, Northcott has earned a reputation for providing high quality services around disability and sexuality, so much so that in 2017 the event was recognised as finalists in the Disability Industry Innovation Awards.

Come Thursday 3 May Feel the Vibe will makes its return at Burwood RSL Club. The one day, two-part event includes a forum targeted towards disability professionals, parents and carers, and an expo targeted towards people with disability.

The forum runs from 10:00am to 12:30pm and offers attendees the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in the field through a range of sexuality and disability presentations. The expo runs from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and will include exhibitor stalls, entertainment, adult product displays and topic talks hosted by exhibitors.

To get a taste of what Feel the Vibe has to offer, and delve into the world of sexuality and disability, we spoke to Touching Base Inc. President Saul Isbister.

What is Touching Base Inc?

 Touching Base Inc. began in 2000 in response to people with disability wanting to access disability-friendly sex workers and sex workers wanting to get more training and awareness of how to provide better services for their clients with disability.

Why is it important for people with disability to be able to access sex worker services?

It’s important because it allows people with disability to achieve equal rights with other members of the community. Any adult in NSW who is able to provide consent is able to consent to accessing a sex worker. When Touching Base Inc. started some of the larger disability service providers had policies that didn’t permit their support staff to support their customers to access sex workers. Overturning those policies has been a significant achievement.

Why did Touching Base Inc want to be involved with Feel the Vibe?

It’s important that people with disability are provided with all the choices and opportunities that are available to them and the broader community. Touching Base Inc. has always enjoyed being a part of Feel the Vibe so that we can share our information with people who are interested in exploring their options.

What can people expect from your Feel the Vibe forum presentation ‘Touching base with the oldest profession’?

We will be looking at what information is available about accessing sex workers, including special resources that Touching Base Inc. has developed for people with disability. People with intellectual disability can see social stories that describe the experience of accessing a sex worker and we will also be available to answer any questions that attendees might like to ask.

What are some of the barriers that people with disability experience in relation to relationships and sexuality?

I think broader access to the built environment is still the major obstacle in many ways. If places where people meet are not fully accessible, then it denies opportunity for people with disability to meet like-minded people or potential partners. This is made worse when it comes to the premises of commercial sex services because local councils often prohibit them from being at ground level. It’s a totally unnecessary barrier enacted by people who are not taking into account the sexuality of people with disability.

What advice can you offer for people with disability, or their carers, around accessing sex worker services?

Check out the Touching Base Inc. website. We have a frequently asked questions page in the client section of our website that will help to explain what sorts of things are involved and what sort of services might be available.

What would you say to people who may hold negative views towards sex work?

In our training for service providers we encourage them to understand that seeing a sex worker is no different from accessing other services in the community, like going to a dentist or getting a massage. As much as people have the right to say no to sex, they also have the right to say yes. Other people seem to think it’s okay to say no to someone else’s sex life, when really it’s none of their business.

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To register for Feel the Vibe, visit our events page.


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