Sex and Disability

This is a very general overview of adapting sex toys. There is so much to say about the topic and so many ideas, that we hope you'll consider this page a place to get some basic ideas to work with. A lot of this information comes from our over ten years of working with folks living with disabilities who have been adapting sex toys. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability is published by Cleis Press (which is co-written by one of our founding worker-owners, Cory Silverberg) and has a much more detailed chapter on sex toys.

Making Sex Toys Accessible

All the suggestions have been taken from customers, friends, and focus groups we've attended over the years. We love ideas, and if you have any suggestions or experiences (good or bad) that you want to share with others please e-mail us. We'll post your suggestion with or without your name (as you request).

It's very important to remember that we're all different, both in how we respond sexually and what our needs are, and it's impossible to generalize about making toys accessible. We've found the two most important things in making toys accessible are common sense and a sense of fun and humour.

Because people ask, we have made specific product suggestions below, but again we encourage you to think about what might work for you. Remember that homemade adaptations (using grab bars, reachers, foam, tape, gloves, etc.) are always less expensive and just as good as what the manufacturers produce. If possible we recommend shopping for sex toys in person. Being able to actually feel the switch, smell the material, etc. is very helpful. Unfortunately most sex stores are not fully accessible and there are lots of towns with no sex toy stores at all.

Research Before Adapting Sex Toys

We love sex toys, and we get really angry when people (who usually want to sell you something very expensive!) tell you that this toy is bad, or that one is a big joke and you should never try it.

Everyone has an opinion, but we think that as long as something is safe, and you know the drawbacks of trying it, everyone has the right to explore in their own way and on their own budget. That said, we want to remind you that most sex toys are poorly made. They tend to be inexpensive products because they aren't made to last.

We carry a wide range of products because we believe in offering things that will be accessible to as many people as possible (many of us can't afford a $90.00 silicone dildo). But we want everyone to know the limitations of toys. An inexpensive vibrator may last a few months or a few years.

If you have questions about making adaptations for toys that might not last that long, just email us and ask.

Adapting Toys For Decreased Sensation

Sex toys can help you explore sensations on all parts of your body. Don't assume that if one part of your body feels a certain way everywhere else in that general area will feel the same way. There is variation in how sensation is experienced, but having reduced sensitivity doesn't have to mean reduced sexual response, In areas of reduced sensation, toys that produce a light touch won't be very useful, while a vibrator can provide needed strength and stimulation.

Many people explore sensation toys like floggers, paddles and crops, which provide a more substantial sensation. Keep an eye on the area you are stimulating with decreased sensation it is easier to injure yourself with excessive pressure or rubbing without feeling it.

Adapting Toys For Increased Sensation

Most people with hypersensitivity find vibrators to be very unpleasant. They just provide too much stimulation. Remember that sex toys are just toys, and are a matter of taste and preference. With hypersensitivity it is best to get a toy whose movements you control. For example the non-vibrating insertion toys for penises can provide intense stimulation just from having them around the penis.

Homemade toys can be tailored to provide just the amount of stimulation you need. Paintbrushes are ideal sex toys as they come in different shapes, sizes and textures, are easy to use, can be held in a hand, mouth or foot, are inexpensive and easy to clean.

Adapting Toys For Mobility And Motor Control

Mobility and motor control can have an impact both on the sort of toy you can hold, but also getting the toy to touch yourself (or a partner, or partners) where you want it.

First consider what you want to do with the toy? What movement do you have that you can use to manipulate a toy? Where would you want the toy to touch, and can you reach there? If you are thinking about using a vibrator, can you also press it against your body in addition to holding it? If you're interested in a dildo, can you manipulate it for penetration? Remember, even if the answer is "no" to many of these questions, there are always solutions.

Here are a few basic ones:
  • There is an entire category of wearable vibrators that can be affixed to almost any body part. 
  • There are wearable remote control toys like the We-Vibe and the Lelo Tiani that can be inserted vaginally for g-spot stimulation but also stimulate the clitoris. While you may need to get help getting the toys on, and turning them on, many of them will stay on your body, so you can still play alone if you want. Pillows are also helpful for positioning to play with a toy.
  • If you can hold a toy and press it against your body but you tend to drop things as a result of spasms, there are finger vibrators that you can fit on your hand or finger. These are light weight but surprisingly powerful vibrators that fit on the finger. This is particularly useful if you drop things a lot as you don't have to keep picking it up.
  • There are all sorts of inexpensive ways to start experimenting with these ideas. The cheapest thing to do is purchase a basic mini vibrator and use it in a glove or something else you use to hold things in place. Some people put these vibrators inside sponges and wrap tape around the sponge for an easy handle. Again, the trick is not to think that there is one right way to use sex toys.
  • For some people mobility means reaching is an issue. There are some toys that are light-weight but have long flexible shafts that help with reaching areas. You may also be able to incorporate whatever assistive devices you use for reaching, with a sex toy.
  • With dildos, using strap-on harnesses greatly reduces the amount of movement required. There are harnesses that you can affix a dildo to a bed or chair or person and can then play with the dildo without having to hold it.
  • You can also buy dildos that have suction cups on the base. Usually these are not strong enough to hold the dildo to a wall, but they will keep it grounded on the floor (or a chair) and keep it erect.
  • Handles and switches on sex toys are often terrible, and you may need to get a handle built up, or a switch adapted.

Adapting Sex Toys For Privacy

Another consideration in adapting toys is the kind of privacy you have when using a toy. This will depend in part on whether you are using a toy with a partner or by yourself, and if you are using a toy with a partner what they can do with the toy.

Two major considerations when choosing a toy that will be accessible to you is the noise and the cleaning of the toy. Both wand style electric vibrators and hard plastic battery powered vibrators can be noisy. This could be an issue if you are living with people and you don't want them knowing exactly what you are doing. If you are concerned about noise, consider a soft silicone vibrator, or a rechargeable vibrator would be a better bet.

The second major consideration is about the ease with which you can clean the toy. If it's possible, cleaning your own sex toys will obviously give you more privacy. Some toys are easier to clean than others. For example, waterproof vibrators can be fully immersed in water and cleaned while you are bathing or taking a shower. A non-waterproof vibrator is more difficult to clean because if you get any water near the cap it will probably damage it.

If you can get a condom onto a toy it will extend its life and make clean up easier. Some insertion toys (like PPAs and sleeves) are hollow all the way through and very easy to clean just by running a wet cloth through the toy a few times. Others have one end open but the other closed. These are harder to get completely clean as you need to get a cloth in the end of the tube somehow.

Adapting Sex Toys For Fatigue

When thinking about toys, fatigue becomes an issue mostly in the weight of a toy, and the way you might have to hold a toy. We list the dimensions of our toys and you can usually use some point of comparison that you're familiar with to get an idea of how good a toy will be for you to use. Get something that you can easily put down if you need a break. There are often lightweight versions of vibrators, dildos, and other toys.

If you are looking for strong vibration but know you won't be able to hold a heavy electric vibrator long enough, you can use some pillows or specially designed sex furniture to hold a wand vibrator against you, or to prop yourself into a position that allows you to lean into a vibrator. You may need some help setting this up but if you have controls that allow you turn the toy on and off, you can play in privacy. You can also have a wand type vibrator placed between your legs if you are sitting up. Because the vibrator stimulates a large area, even if it isn't resting exactly where you're most sensitive, the vibration is often more than enough for a good time. These vibrators are great for lying beside or placing between you and a partner if you want to use it during sex with someone else. One safety concern is that if the motor is completely covered all vibrators will over-heat and can burn. You need to make sure you won't roll over onto the toy, or if you will that you have someone around who can help.

If you're considering a vibrator or anything else with a motor in it, be aware that if you accidentally fall asleep with an electric vibrator on you or in you, it can pose a serious burn risk.

 Learn how to choose your first sex toy or view all sex toy categories.

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