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Halifax project set to create accessible sex toys for people with disabilities

Education coordinator at Venus Envy, Rachele Manett, who works with Tetra Society on the "Adaptations for Accessible Sex Practices Project.". Rachele Manett

Sex should be part of any conversation and it’s already happening around people with disabilities, said the Atlantic regional coordinator of Tetra Society of North America.

“It’s a subject that is kind of seen as taboo,” said Andrew Jantzen, whose organization is working with Venus Envy on a project focusing on creating accessible sex toys for people with disabilities in Halifax.

The project is called “Adaptations for Accessible Sex Practices Project.”

Andrew Jantzen of Tetra Society.

“Sex toys are not designed for people with disabilities, just like most other things that exist out there, so it’s trying to fill that gap,” said Jantzen.

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“And out there, people are talking about it. People want this to happen. So I’m just saying, how can we adapt things? How can we use some of the the handy skills that come with Tetra volunteers to be able to fill this gap?”

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The purpose of Tetra is to recruit skilled volunteer engineers and technicians to create assistive devices for people with disabilities, and creating adaptive and innovative equipment for sexual practices is just one of their many projects.

The education coordinator at Venus Envy, a sex shop and bookstore, said that the first phase of the project is to interview a group of people from the disabled community who want to talk about their sex lives, and to test out some of the devices that the project will be making.

“A lot of sex toys up until sort of five, 10 years ago were made for like straight penetrative sex. It’s not just disabled bodies that are being left out of kind of the thoughts around sex toys. It’s a lot of bodies,” said Rachele Manett.

Read more: Young people with disabilities aren’t being taught sex-ed — and it’s putting them in danger

She said certain kinds of sex toys are just not working for people with disabilities.

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“Sometimes they’re too heavy. Buttons don’t work specifically when it comes to certain kinds of mobility limitations,” said Manett.

This is why she said the first phase of the project will look into what kind of sex toys people have access to that have made things better or more difficult, so that in the second phase the team of engineers and design specialists will have the information they need to create the equipment.

Manett said 40 people have applied as participants in just three weeks since the project has been announced.

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She said they’re now in the process of creating a diverse group of participants to interview for the project.

“We’re trying to create a group of people that is quite diverse in the types of disabilities (they have), but also in terms of identities. We are looking to prioritize people with intersecting marginalized identities. So really making sure that we’re including voices who are sort of often left on the margins,” said Manett.

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She said that as a society, “we have very much infantilized people with disability and we treat them like children.”

“It’s really easy for us to say, well, that means disabled people aren’t having sex, which is not true … or that disabled people have more important things to worry about than sex,” Manett added.

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But that’s not what the project is all about, she said.

“We already know that people with disabilities are having sex and want to be having sex. That’s the part that we’re not exploring,” said Manett.

“What we’re literally saying is how can we make sex better or more accessible or more inclusive and how can we as sort of a society, change our views instead of sort of asking more questions?”

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Tetra Society is asking anyone who would like to volunteer for the project to complete the online volunteer intake application here.