Attitudes and perceptions towards disability and sexuality

Disabil Rehabil. 2010;32(14):1148-55. doi: 10.3109/09638280903419277.


Purpose: To describe current societal perceptions and attitudes towards sexuality and disability and how social stigma differs between individuals living with visible and invisible disabilities.

Method: A qualitative approach was used to explore attitudes and perceptions towards sexuality and disability. Focus groups were conducted with the following groups: service providers, people with visible disabilities, people with invisible disabilities and the general public. The focus group participants viewed 'Sexability' a documentary film on sexuality and disability to stimulate discussion midway through the session.

Results: Findings suggest that individuals with disabilities are commonly viewed as asexual due to a predominant heteronormative idea of sex and what is considered natural. A lack of information and education on sexuality and disability was felt to be a major contributing factors towards the stigma attached to disability and sexuality.

Conclusions: Stigma can lead individuals to internalise concepts of asexuality and may negatively impact confidence, desire and ability to find a partner while distorting one's overall sexual self-concept. Societal attitudes and perceptions are driven by education and knowledge, if there is no exposure to sexuality and disability, it follows suit that society would have a narrow understanding of these issues. Further research should focus on how best to educate and inform all members of society.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice
  • Public Opinion*
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Young Adult