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People with Disabilities and Their Access to Sex Workers

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(UNCRPD) (2008) defines disability as including “those who have long-term physical, mental,
intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their
full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

The Legal Standpoint

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) affirms the obligations governments have in ensuring that people with disabilities have the capability to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life equal to others in society. This was ratified by the Australian government in 2008.

In the landmark case – National Disability Insurance Agency v WRMFC – the Federal Court unanimously ruled against the the NDIA, finding that NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funds could be used to access sex worker services and specialist sex therapy. It was successfully argued that access to sexual services was “reasonable and necessary” to support people with disabilities in enjoying a rich and fulfilling life (inline with the UNCRPD).

The court case upheld a previous ruling by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) who also ruled in favour of the applicant, identified as WRMFC. 

This case highlighted people with disabilities rights to sexual expression and exploration along with their right to access sexual services.

People with disability have the same right as other members of Australian society to realise their potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. – National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Section 4)

The Personal Standpoint

The rights of people with disabilities and in particular, their right to access intimate services, has been a rather contentious issue with the general public. It has been erroneously supposed that people with disabilities are incapable of sexual expression, sexually dysfunctional or either asexual or hypersexual.

These views have been shown repeatedly to be false. Many people with disabilities desire to live a rich and fulfilling life with the ability for sexual expression and exploration, just like the rest of the community.

The push for inhibiting people with disabilities to seek services from sexual services is a highly discriminatory concept, one which denies the autonomy and sexual development of an already marginalised group.

Also, it is worth mentioning that not all people with disabilities under the NDIS require or even wish to seek services from sex workers which is entirely their prerogative. However their ability and access to do so should not be inhibited, in accordance with the UNCRPD.

Objectors to people with disabilities seeking sexual services should note that alternate options may not exist for certain individuals. Many report discrimination and disappointment with traditional dating options, some do not even have the ability to pursuit these options entirely – both of which have a negative impact on both self-confidence and self-image.

Traditional therapists and even sex therapists are bound by codes of conduct and ethics and are unable to touch their patients. Sex workers may be the only source of intimate affection and pleasure that some people may experience their entire lives.

A few members of the public view funding sexual services to not be ‘appropriate’, ‘essential’ or ‘worthy’ enough for NDIS funding. This begs the question of if we, as a greater community, consider people with disabilities to be worthy of a fulfilling and enriching life, to have the ability and access to things most of society take for granted – like sexual exploration. By denying the ability to explore and experience a more rounded life, we relegate people with disabilities to a life of mere existence instead of one where they can live to the fullest extent.

Sexual expression is acknowledged as a normal part of development, and people are supported to develop healthy self-esteem and self-respect. – NSW Family & Community Services (Disability Resource Hub) “Sexuality and Relationship Guidelines”

The Advocacy and Support Group Standpoint

Joint Position Statement: A call for the rights-based framework for sexuality in the NDIS.

The position of a large list of national organisations and individuals is made emphatically in the joint statement, viewable by following the link above.

People without disability have many different opportunities in society to satisfy their sexual desires and needs, either through masturbation or through finding sexual partners. Some people with disability do not enjoy the same degree of opportunities to either masturbate or to find a sexual partner. – People With Disability Australia (Sex Work and the NDIS – FAQ)

People With Disabilities & Discreet

We are pleased to say that Discreet has been offering services to clients with disabilities for many years.

We wish to take the time to thank all of our clients with disabilities and hope you are doing well and in good health during these difficult times. We look forward to providing services once again, as soon as it is safe enough to do so.

I’m a support worker/carer and don’t know where to start?

Give us a call. We receive many calls and emails from support workers, carers and parents of people with disabilities. It’s okay to be nervous and not know what to do. We will explain the entire process and after hearing more about the clients needs and disabilities will advise on the best options. You are under no obligation to book and can get back in contact with us at a later date should you wish to proceed or can book in advance.

Do all ladies at discreet offer services to clients with disabilities?

Like with any service requested, not all of our ladies are experienced or comfortable in fulfilling requests. This is for a myriad of reasons: lack of experience, a prior bad experience, lack of confidence or for a variety of personal reasons. The best way to see a lady is to call us and find out what your options are. Our main goal is to connect you with the right lady for you, so that you have the best experience – one that is both fulfilling and pleasurable.

Do you support all disabilities?

At Discreet we have a non-discriminatory policy. That said, our top priority is the health and safety of our clients and ladies. In certain cases we may advise an “outcall” (where the lady comes to you) is a more appropriate option, this is usually due to safety concerns including navigating corridors, showers, bathrooms, falls risks, access to specific medical equipment, etc. As duty of care to our clients (and ladies) we must also be able to determine the capability for informed consent, the ability to withdraw consent at any time during service, the ability to understand the transaction taking place, etc (our policy and procedure on this is based on the Touching Base organisation guidelines).

Is the venue wheelchair accessible?

There is a small step (about an inch or two high) to enter the vestibule before our front door. We have been looking at options to make this more wheelchair friendly however the vestibule itself and space between the two doors is quite awkward to manoeuvre with larger wheelchairs. Call us in advance and we can discuss your options if this is a concern.

Where can I find more information about the ndis / seeking sex workers?

The organisation Touching Base has a lot of information on the topic on their website. The founder has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and has been working tirelessly, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and their right for sexual expression and exploration. Also worth reading is her thesis on sex workers who provide services to clients with disability in New South Wales, Australia.

The current NDIS workforce and wider disability sector is not yet equipped to provide consistent, quality sexuality and relationship support to all people with disability in NSW, leaving people with disability at risk of poorer reproductive and sexual health outcomes. There is a need for systemic change to improve education,
organisational policies and provide guidance about the services available under the NDIS to better support people with disability. The NDIA should prioritise supporting the NDIS workforce and wider disability sector to provide sexuality and relationship support to people with disability through the provision of funding for training, the development of an NDIA sexuality policy and increasing the NDIS sexuality and relationship
services available in regional and remote areas. – Submission of Family Planning NSW – National Disability Insurance Scheme Workforce (2020)

More Work To Be Done

Following the unanimous decision from the Federal Court in the NDIA v WRMFC case, the Australian Minister for National Disability at the time, Stuart Robert, publicly suggested changes to legislation to circumvent the decision were an option the government will take.

In a move that surprised no-one, following this were derogatory statements made by the minister which were insulting to both sex workers and the people with disabilities seeking their services.

Thankfully, reforms to the NDIS proposed by the Minister were abandoned, which also included compulsory independent assessment.

The joint statement from the disability sector regarding the reforms is viewable in the link below:

Disability sector statement on the Australian Government’s planned reforms to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Worth keeping an eye on is the next NDIS Commission findings which are due 31st December 2021. Ms Samantha Taylor, the acting NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner, noted “[this] will provide, for the first time, a national overview of the experience of people with disability who rely on supports in the NDIS”.

The NDIS Commission 12-monthly activity report: July 2020 – June 2021 pdf can be found by clicking the link.

At the time of writing, the current Minister for National Disability is Linda Reynolds.

It is worth noting that the withdrawal of the NDIS reforms, in particular that of compulsory  independent assessments, was not instigated by NDIS Minister Reynolds but was forced by states and territories to abandon the plan.

Ways to ensure the protection of the people with disabilities within our community: contacting the Minister for National Disability directly, getting involved with disability support organisations and keeping up to date with proposed legislation regarding the treatment and care of people with disabilities.

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