Education is a major gap in relation to sexuality and relationships for people with a disability.  People in the general community also need to be better informed about the needs of those with a disability. Some key facts regarding this vulnerable group include:

  • 50% of all physically disabled adolescents did not receive school sex education. Of those who did, less than 20% received information pertinent to their disability.[i]
  • People with disabilities most often do not have the same opportunities to learn about sexuality and sexual behaviour as the general population—they are commonly viewed as sexually ‘immoral’ or as ‘sexless’. [ii]
  • Lack of sexual knowledge, relationship experience, and protection skills may increase risk of abuse and impair ability to recognize an experience as abusive. [iii]
  • Society cannot demand sexually responsible behaviour from people with intellectual disability if they have never been taught what constitutes sexually responsible behaviour. [iv]
  • Teaching people with intellectual disability self-regulation of their sexual and social behaviour is an essential ingredient to successfully integrate people with intellectual disability into the general community. [v]

The SH&FPA Disability Special Interest Group (DSIG) exists to analyse best practice and to identify current gaps in research, policy, professional development, workforce capacity and practice in relation to people with a disability and their sexual and reproductive health.

Download their report on Improving Sexual and Reproductive Health for People with Disability.



[i] Blum, R.W., Reswick, M.D., Nelson, R., Germaine, A. (1991): Family and peer issues among adolescents with spina-bifida and cerebral palsy Pediatrics 1991; 88:2 280-285

[ii] Johnson, K, Hillier, L, Harrison, L & Frawley, P 2001, Living safer sexual lives: final report, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC.

[iii] Eastgate, G., Scheermeyer, E., van Driel, M L., Lennox, N. Intellectual disability, sexuality and sexual abuse prevention, a study of family members and support workers, Australian Family Physician, Vol. 41, No 3, March 2012

[iv] Kempton, W 1978 Sex education for the mentally handicapped. Sexuality and disability 1:2 137-146

[v] Page, A C. ,1991, Teaching developmentally disabled people self regulation in sexual behaviour. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities.1991 17:1, 81-88