Alan Martino, an assistant professor of community health sciences from the University of Calgary said it’s a good opportunity to highlight a topic that is taboo in society.
“What I see with talking to people with disabilities is that they want to have relationships, they want to have that intimate experience,” he said.
Martino was the keynote speaker at the conference, but the allure of it was the panel of speakers who have had experiences while living with intellectual disabilities.
Heather Hind was one of the speakers, and she is not letting anything stop her from living her life to the fullest.
“Well the boyfriend I have right now, it’s kind of rocky some days, we kind of, like get into arguments, but I had a daughter with him and she’s eight already,” Hind told CTV.
Speaking on the panel with four other members, she spoke about inclusivity, sex health, and her own learning experiences.
Speaking to the room of over 100 people, she said she first learned about sex education in elementary school, but said she could have learned a lot more, especially when it comes to feelings.
Taking a 10 week sexual health and wellness program put on by Creative Options Regina called ‘Tell it like it is,’ Hind was able to express herself, and talk about feelings associated with romantic relationships and sex.
“Had you had a chance to talk about your feelings like that before?” asked Natalya Mason, panel host and one of the events organizers.
“Not really, no,” Hind responded.
When Mason asked Brad, another panelist, if he thought people with disabilities are interested in sex and relationships, has response was an elated, ‘For sure!’
The panelists themselves gave advice from their own experiences, like getting to know someone before you ask them out and wearing condoms to protect from pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted diseases.
Those hosting the conference said it’s important for people living with intellectual disabilities to be educated on the topic, but also those who care for them.
“I think it’s really critical that they themselves, but also people who support them, family members, caregivers, have access to information that’s relevant, that’s up to date and that’s engaging,” said Mason.
Moreover, she said conferences like this allow the stigma around sex and relationships for those individuals to be put to bed.
“Love, intimacy, it doesn’t come with a guide, so we kind of learn as we go, and I think that right, that opportunity should be granted to people with disabilities as well,” said Martino.
Mason could not agree more.
“At the end of the day, everyone has the literal human right to relationships, to love, to privacy to inclusion. One thing I always say is pleasure is a human right, so it’s really, really critical that everyone has the opportunity to be involved in these conversations.