Designed for ‘the disabled’.
I’ve had an itch in the back of my mind for the past few months, and today it developed into a full-blown scratch. The reason? I received an email a couple of months ago, and I’ve been unable to reply. I’ve been exhausted the past few months, and my tolerance for ‘teaching others about disability’ is low. So, here’s my response.
I’ve worked with a number of companies in regard to testing sex toys. Most companies aren’t aware that I’m disabled, so I will always tell them, and state that my reviews primarily to look at the accessibility of a product.
In my reviews, I try to mention features that others might not think of. That’s not a put-down, it’s just a realty. Within everyday life, I have a different way of engaging with materials to able-bodied people, and it’s especially true with sex. Because of these reviews naturally included accessibility in some shape or form, I couldn’t write a review without it, so I include it.
We’re in an era now where people are slowly starting to think of accessibility within sex toys, and the sex-positive narrative, which is great! I’ve had some awesome companies like E-Stim talk to me about accessibility in their toys. I’ve had others that have reached out after a review, and want to learn how they can do better. This is what companies should be aiming for when they’re designing or thinking about sex toys, and sex toy promotion. Ideally, they should be aiming for inclusivity, and accessibility from the conception of the product, but it’s progress.
That’s what companies should be doing. Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that companies shouldn’t be doing when it comes to accessibility, but there are two that really stand out to me, especially when I’m being asked to review something.
It’s not ‘the disabled’, it’s disabled people, and it’s really not ‘the disabled’ when you’re talking with a disabled person that identifies as a disabled person. As I said, I’m aware that some people don’t know I’m disabled, but if you’re coming to me to ask for a review you should have at least glanced at my bio. If I’ve then told you I’m disabled, please respect how I refer to myself.
Now, I’ve not replied to the email that stated this, so I’ve not given them a chance to change, and I realise that. But this isn’t the first time this has happened, and going forward I can’t be the teacher every single time, I simply don’t have the energy.
Funnily enough, I read on twitter the other day that when you’re disabled you don’t choose to become an activist, it just happens, and it’s true.
Being Scared of a Negative Review
Because I’m disabled I will always include accessibility in my review. When you get an email stating that your product will be reviewed by a disabled person and that person will include accessibility in the review – not stating which accessibility points will be covered, you might have an ‘I don’t want this person to review it because my product might fail’ thought. That thought is the number one reason why someone should review your product. It’s the same reason that people should use sensitivity readers if they’re writing about a topic they’re unfamiliar with. The second thing you should do is to NEVER send that thought in any way shape or form to the person you’re talking to.
If you sent me this email, and you’re reading this, I don’t have anything against you. I do have plenty against the culture that led to this email is written. I also want to say that you’re not alone, a lot of people have the same opinions, say the wrong thing, and only realise when they’ve been brought upon it.
Please don’t take this as a personal attack, instead, learn, and realise you can do better with your communication. A lot of times offense happens because there’s miscommunication or a misunderstanding.
If I review your product, I’m not necessarily going to give it a bad review because I can’t do something with it. I know my limitations. I will most likely state that due to my physical limitations I can’t do x, y, and z, and will sometimes ask my partner to try what I can’t do if possible. If he can’t, I will state that. I don’t start out wanting to write a bad review, believe it or not.
Nearly every toy I’ve come across has not been designed with accessibility in mind. Whilst we’re slowly getting there, we’re not there yet. So trust me when I say reviewers, especially disabled and chronically ill reviewers and users are aware of that.
I want to end this with one final reflection. If you’ve developed a product, I know it’s your pride and joy, heck I have that feeling about Parlour Talk. You want people to know about it, get people to engage with it, and have people review it. Wonderful!
It might be upsetting for you to receive a negative product review, or for the reviewer to point out where you’ve gone wrong, and/or can improve your product. However, trust me when I say it’s even more upsetting to receive an email where you’re being told your review, which you haven’t written yet, will be a negative one because you’re disabled.
It might be that you didn’t mean for your email to come across that way, but that’s another reason to really read emails, and take a minute before you send them.