Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) is developing a toolkit for special education instructors to provide comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to youth with disabilities in India. Through culturally relevant educational materials, the toolkit includes information about human development, gender, relationships, personal values and skills, sexual behavior, and sexual health. The goals of the toolkit are to challenge taboos and stereotypes about the sexual and reproductive health of youth with disabilities and provide access to quality information and education on sexual and reproductive health to youth with disabilities. It also aims to build the capacity of educators and trainers to provide CSE to youth with disabilities and raise awareness among stakeholders (parents, educators, health professionals, community members) on the sexual and reproductive health needs of youth with disabilities. Ultimately, they aim to improve the quality of CSE available to youth with disabilities in India.
We believe that [the toolkit] should be accessible and private for youth with disabilities. […] We wanted it to be collaborative with partners and equal participants. We engage partners together in design and delivery and raise awareness about youth with disabilities.
—FAT Staff Member
In India, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is not yet fully embedded into the education system. Existing curricula focus on able-bodied youth and there is limited information focused on the sexual and reproductive health needs of youth with disabilities. This project aims to develop quality CSE materials and interventions for youth with disabilities so that they have more autonomy over their own body and reproductive health decisions.
- Partnerships with research institutions, community-based organizations, and service providers ensure that products are high-quality, culturally relevant, and audience-appropriate. Although initially it was difficult to find partners willing to work on sexual and reproductive health issues for youth with disabilities (because of the stigma associated with the topic and/or lack of experience working with youth with disabilities), FAT now has an active and committed advisory committee comprised of disability experts, advocates, and academics. These partners work with individuals and organizations to connect youth with disabilities with educators who will use the sex education toolkit.
- Youth with disabilities have wide-ranging needs, and it is important to tailor toolkit information to specific disabilities because their specific needs can be so different. Instead of focusing on locomotor, hearing and speech, and visual disabilities, which would require the development three different toolkits, FAT decided to develop one toolkit for youth one type of disability (locomotor) because youth with living with locomotor disabilities have the least amount of resources available to them. Once the toolkit for this population is developed, FAT will explore adapting the toolkit to youth living with other types of disabilities.
- Conducting a needs assessment in the product development phase ensures that products are useful and relevant to the intended target audience, ensuring that products are high quality. Youth who participated in a needs assessment had low levels of reading and writing and facility with basic technology, including phone, computer, and internet technologies, despite having formal education. The needs assessment further revealed that stigma contributed to educators and youth being reluctant to discuss sexual and reproductive health with each other. In order to serve youth with disabilities operating in the cultural environment, FAT intends to develop the toolkit in new modalities of information delivery that can be accessed relatively privately and are engaging, such as comic books, games, videos, and podcasts.