Working with people with disabilities
SHine SA believes that people with disabilities have the right to:
- experience satisfying and safe relationships
- explore and express their sexuality
- control decisions which affect their sexual health, with support where required
Many people with a disability get little support in building friendships and intimate relationships and some are ‘protected’ from accurate and sensitive information about sexual matters completely. This may result in confusion or in behaviours which are disturbing to others. Lack of information and guidance can increase vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Minimising vulnerability may involve improving knowledge and support regarding rules and rights about private body parts, sexual behaviours, or the right to say ‘No’ to anybody.
Parents, siblings, teachers and support workers are usually responsible for the relationships and sexual health education of people with disabilities. SHine SA aims to build the ability of these people to provide effective education and support.
All services for clients are confidential.
Referrals of people with disabilities toSHine SA for any service need to be with the client’s informed consent.
Clients have the right to withdraw from the service at any time..
Consultancy and advocacy
Support workers, family members and teachers sometimes contact SHine SA to discuss the details of a particular issue they are facing. Consultancy and advocacy in these cases may include:
- supporting the caller to explore the matter from a different angle
- providing sexual health information and referral
- identifying and recommending basic interventions
- meeting with family members or workers to discuss the matter further and introducing them to approaches or resources which they can use
- assisting in the planning of education programs
- debriefing people about their work and making suggestions for future programs
- identifying areas for policy and practice change in agencies and households and making recommendations for future action
Books and resources
SHine SA’s Library & Resource Centre at Woodville has a specialist collection of books, journals and teaching kits which can be used to help communicate effectively and which provide permission and encouragement to people with a range of disabilities. Visual, tactile, video and audio resources are available.
Individual education and assessment
While SHine SA generally is not in a position to provide an intervention for individuals, on some occasions individualised assessment and education services may be negotiated with the closest SHine SA team.
SHine SA encourages a partnership approach in which family, carers or workers can be involved so that information and messages can be consistently reinforced in the home or work environment. Sometimes assessment and education may be needed to achieve informed consent for a voluntary clinical service.
Group education programs
Evidence shows benefits in learning about sexual and relationship matters in a group setting. It gives social permission to communicate about sexuality matters and can be great fun. SHine SA recommends that disability support agencies develop their own sexual health programs and build the skill and confidence of their workers in leading these activities as a part of their duty of care. SHine SA may be able to assist with developing programs. Contact the closest SHine SA team to discuss.
SHine SA aims to provide access to clinical sexual health services for anyone with a disability. Services offered include:
- contraception services
- pregnancy testing, counselling and referral
- information on safer sex and sexuality issues
- screening for breast changes and Pap smears
- STI testing, management and referral
- women’s and men’s health issues
SHine SA clinics are not suitable for ongoing individual education sessions.
When appointments are made, please provide all information about special needs that may require a longer appointment time.
Only some clinics have adjustable examination beds. SHine SA has a ‘no lifting’ policy for its staff, so if the client needs assistance transferring to an examination bed, they will need to be accompanied by people who can do this.
A list of hospitals and health centres that provide adjustable beds is available from the SA Cervix Screening Program:
Tel: 8226 8181 or 13 15 56 (country callers)
SHine SA offers a limited therapeutic counselling service, provided by professional sexual health counsellors. This service is available to people living with a disability. People living with some disabilities will not benefit from sexual health counselling (and the service should not be used as a substitute for basic sexual education or case work). Counselling is provided for concerns such as: different levels of sexual desire, sexual identity, sexual issues related to disability, or those arising from sexual assault or child sexual abuse. Clients can come alone, with a support person or a partner. Rural clients can phone to arrange for a telephone counselling appointment.
SHine SA’s FRESH Course is a nationally recognised course which prepares workers to provide sexual and reproductive health and relationships education to their client communities. This course has a stream for disability workers. Students who successfully complete an assessment module will attain a sexual health competency towards either the Certificate III or the Diploma in Community Services.
Special education teachers may participate in the teacher training which is available to all teachers. A workshop specifically for teachers in special education is offered at times in response to requests. These sessions will explore a curriculum framework and introduce teachers to some disability focused resources.
Rules about sex: getting them right is a CD-based resource which aims to support workers to tailor basic verbal and visual messages about sexual rights and responsibilities to their clients’ needs. A half-day training module is necessary to access and use this resource.
Tailored training for specific agencies or groups of agencies can be negotiated.
Forums and seminars are also held from time to time. Anyone can ask to join the free Sexuality and Disability Email Network to receive new information as it becomes available.
For more information about training opportunities see Disability workers.
See SHine SA Fees for current clinic and counselling consultation fees.
Library membership is free. Resource Centre membership is $100 annually for organisations.
Fees for training vary according to the program provided.
Information and resources
Friendships and dating booklet: Information about relationships for parents, carers and young people with a disability.
Friendships and dating DVD: The DVD can be used with the Friendships and dating booklet. To purchase please complete the SHine SA resources order form.
Life Out Loud Pilot Project: Evaluation Report Executive Summary: A copy of the full report is available by contacting Ralph Brew at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (08) 8300 5318.
A range of books and DVDs on sexual health and relationships for people with disabilities is available from the SHine SA Library.
SHine SA produces a range of resources including leaflets, booklets, fact sheets, manuals and posters. To view and order these resources see the SHine SA resources section.