Sexuality and Disability
Stanley Ducharme and Kathleen M. Gill
For people with disabilities, the acceptance of sexuality as a justifiable and sanctioned area of rehabilitation has been controversial. Not surprisingly, people with disabilities often receive little or no information in the area of sexuality. In fact, they have generally been perceived as being nonsexual and incapable of achieving an intimate and sexual relationship with another person. This misperception has persisted in the general population and has been prevalent in the medical community as well.
Despite the fact that 10 percent of the general population is estimated to be homosexual, what limited information is provided to people with disabilities assumes heterosexuality, making the availability of sexual education and counseling services even more limited for gay men and lesbians with disabilities.
The history of sexuality services for people with disabilities dates back only to the mid-1970s when Theodore and Sandra Cole began their Sexual Attitude Reassessment Seminars at the University of Minnesota ( Cole Chilgren & Rosenberg 1973). The focus of these early workshops was on values clarification and communication. Their purpose was to increase the practitioner's level of comfort with and awareness of sexual issues among people with disabilities. To some extent, the idea of sexual education for people with disabilities was academic. People in rehabilitation were beginning to recognize the need for sexuality services, but there was little agreement as to how and when these services should be provided. Furthermore, for persons who had a disability and were