TV doc explores sex and disability
Can people in wheelchairs have sex? Rudy and Donna Cornet say yes. Donna has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair to get around. Her husband has brain damage after getting hit by a van in 1988.
“You think that because you’re in a wheelchair or you’re disabled that your sex life’s over—not true,” says Ron. The couple is featured on SexAbility, a one-hour documentary that Shaniff Esmail, a University of Alberta professor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, helped put together alongside Kelly Falardeau, burn survivor and best-selling author. The documentary aired Dec. 6 on AMI’s The Accessible Channel–TACtv.
Esmail, from the Department of Occupational Therapy, is a sexual health expert and was a consultant for the documentary. “When looking at someone with a disability and their sexuality, I think it’s important to look at it from the context of an able-bodied person without a disability,” says Esmail. “Just because you have a disability does not mean that you’re asexual or that you don’t think about sex.”
SexAbility chronicles the sex lives of people with disabilities and the lengths to which they go to enjoy something the rest of us take for granted. Esmail says there is a social stigma surrounding sex and disability that must be broken.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he says. “Couples who really want to have sex and are interested in resuming sexual activity—they will. But a lot of time they need a little bit of a push. They just need someone to tell them that it’s OK to be sexual. Unfortunately, our society tends to look at individuals with disabilities as asexual. It’s a stigma and it’s wrong.”
Donna says the stigma makes her feel awful. “Ron and I are normal human beings and we love each other with all our hearts,” she says. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to express our love in a physical way. We’ve been on our honeymoon for 20 years now.”