Netporn, Sexuality and the Politics of Disability

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People with disability are just that, people. People who happen to have differing capabilities and limitations. Anything which applies to people, in general, also applies to people with disability. So, since many people in the broader community choose to access, consume and participate in netporn, it follows that many people with disability (being a subset of the community) also wish to be afforded the same opportunities.

Netporn, Sexuality and the Politics of Disability:
A Catalyst for Access, Inclusion and Acceptance?

By: Tim Noonan


There are very few treatments of netporn that recognize the specific characteristics, issues, and cultures of Internet users with disabilities. Nevertheless, there is a significant impact that netporn is having on people with disability, including issues of access, inclusion, consumption and changing social attitudes towards both disability and sexuality.

In a chapter describing the effects of pornography on attitudes towards sexuality, McKee concludes: “For many Australians it seems that pornography has helped their ‘participation in society’ by raising self-esteem, confirming identity and confidence, and building communities” (2005, p. 130). People with disabilities were not the subject of this study, but it seems logical to suggest that similar positive outcomes would be reported by disabled consumers of pornographic material.

Classical paper-based porn formats can be very difficult or downright impossible for many people with disability to access independently. For this reason, access to online porn resources is even more crucial and significant for people with disability, often being THE ONLY – rather than ONE of SEVERAL options for consumption and participation. For online access to information to be viable, awareness of the specific access needs and options for people with disability by netporn producers and designers is paramount, but regularly overlooked.

Historically, people with disability have been largely sheltered from all manner of sexual knowledge, material and even opportunities for healthy socio-sexual expression and engagements. Content which may be considered as very mildly erotic by a person who has had longer-term access to a rich range of sexual content, could in fact be powerfully exciting and arousing for another, less exposed person. Accordingly, I don’t try to categorise or label netporn content in terms of art, erotica or porn, my focus is on equivalent levels of access for all across the gamut of sexual material from sex information and sexuality awareness, through to erotica and what might be termed hard porn.

This focus is supported at points in the article by anecdotal experiences from people with various disabilities and their challenges and successes with online erotic/pornographic consumption/engagements. The anecdotal data were gathered from various discussions and email correspondence I’ve had with a variety of people with disability, including some first-hand experiences of my own as a blind person. They throw light on various elements of people’s personal sexual lives, their sexual desires and experiences, the channels they use for accessing and consuming content, and their subjective reporting of the impact of such technologies in their day-to-day lives. All case study references, including mine are anonymized, but all reflect real-life experiences and responses of the people who have so generously shared their personal experiences.

A variety of different disabilities are covered, but the greater focus is on netporn and people who are blind or vision impaired. One reason for this is because I believe that insufficient justice is given to the various non-visual aspects of porn and netporn, and certainly compared with physical disability, too little information exists which explores issues of blindness and sexuality. Finally, I feel it’s particularly appropriate to write about material with which I have direct experience, rather than predominantly recycling existing theoretical concepts which exist elsewhere.

Disability and Impairment, Modern Disability Theory1

Disability has largely been thought of as a deficient or terrible loss. The biomedical model of disability revolves around an image of people with disabilities as having bodies that need to be cured, fixed or at least treated and rehabilitated, by the expert and professional efforts of medical and health professionals, who – though they themselves usually do not have a disability – all-too-often believe they ‘know best’. While the charitable approach to disability is gradually changing it still is quite powerful, more often than not positioning people with disabilities as individuals deserving of pity, who should be assisted by caring, well-intentioned benefactors.

More contemporary approaches to disability significantly challenge these dominant and dominating classical understandings. Informed by the movement of people with disabilities that has arisen since the 1970s, disability is considered a socio-political process. This understanding of disability draws upon the ideas and work of what has been variously called ‘new’ or ‘critical’ disability studies. The central tenet of these studies is to radically call into question the fixed idea of disability and its location in ‘deviant’, disabled individuals. In the British disability movement, activists and scholars such as sociologists have famously proposed a binary opposition between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’. They suggest that impairment is the material, bodily dimension – the ‘objective’ sensory condition of blindness, for instance – as opposed to disability, which is what society makes of vision impairment.

The proponents of the social model point out that many of the difficulties and barriers people face are people-made and socially constructed. For example, if information technology is not designed with the desires and capabilities of people with disabilities in mind, then it can be disabling. Disability does not reside with, or is not the fault of, the person with disability; it is something brought about by an inequitable and even oppressive and careless set of social relations. This perspective is documented in a study entitled Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media (Goggin and Newell 2003). The study looks at how, time and time again, much vaunted ‘new’ technology is needlessly inaccessible to people with disabilities. The social model has been critiqued by a range of theorists who have pointed out the shifting and complex relationships between body and society, matter and idea, nature and culture that are not well explained by a fastidious adherence to this disability/impairment couplet (Corker and Shakespeare 2002).

Disability and Sexuality

There is a small, but growing, body of literature examining disability and sexuality issues. This subject, with a focus on sexual access for people with disability, is explored in the fall 2002 issue of Disability Studies Quarterly. It is interesting to note that the focus for requested submissions was largely on issues such as facilitated sex, sexual surrogacy, sex work and the access opportunities of those disabled people residing in institutions and more structured living environments. Sensory disabilities (such as blindness and deafness) and access to online information were not strongly reflected in the journal.

The introduction of the Quarterly explains the problem well:

“Obstacles interfering with access to sexual expression and sexual relationships are often quite similar to those barriers faced in attempting to integrate into the majority society. That is, attitudinal constraints, lack of monetary and/or programmatic access to personal assistance services, physical barriers, and communication issues and transportation difficulties can all contribute towards the prevention of full expression of sexuality. Unique to sexuality, however, are the cultural meanings of sexual attractiveness and desirability, which often combine with other barriers to compound the problem of sexual access for disabled people. By sexual access we do not mean access to physical intimacy per se. Rather, we mean access to the psychological, social and cultural contexts and supports that acknowledge, nurture and promote sexuality in general or disabled people’s sexuality specifically.” (Shuttleworth and Mona 2002)

In a written keynote closing speech for the Queerness and Disability Conference 2002, Eli Clare says: “On my bookshelves, you can find Best Transgender Erotica, Bearotica, and Zaftig: Well Rounded erotica, all fiercely asserting the sexuality of people whose sexualities have been marginalized. And now it’s time for queer crips to join this line up, time for tantalizing tales about queer crip sex. And if we don’t write them, then who will?” (Clare 2002)

Google searches on the internet glean a growing variety of educational materials and resources relating to disability and sexuality, ranging from handbooks on “Safeguarding People who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication” (for example those people using speech synthesizers to speak, as does Stephen Hawking) 2; to the articles found on the Good Vibrations website which explore the what and how of sex involving people with disabilities [3]; and to dating sites such as “For disables singles is a place to meet single adult men and women who share your challenge, handicap, disability or condition. Visit the chat room to chat with members or visit the forums to read the discussions on love and sex – two subjects of interest to singles of any ability, as well as more serious discussions on disability health and other topics relevant to disabled women and men of adult age” [4].

Disability, Sexuality and Technology

It has been said that for every application of technology, a sexual application is found. “Observers say porn and technology work together so well because each meets the needs of the other” (Arlidge 2002). It can also be said that for every netporn development, there will be people with disability who will wish to participate in, or consume. This is because people with disability are a sub-set of the broader community, being made of all people. Disability (or impairment) may hinder what people with disability are able to do with independence or privacy, but it doesn’t change the needs, wishes and desires of this group. Whether people with disability can do so in practice is one of the core themes explored in this article.

Accessibility of Netporn vs. Classical Porn

“The major difference between Internet and other forms of pornography (magazines, videos and so on) is accessibility. It is no longer necessary to go in to a newsagent or join a mailing list in order to access pornographic images” (McKee 2005, p. 120). McKee is speaking of accessibility from the perspective of added convenience and timeliness. For people with disability the term accessibility has largely to do with whether the service can be accessed with independence. Therefore, access is one of the key issues for people with disability. Depending on the nature of the person’s disability, access barriers can take one or both of at least two forms: access to the physical (built) environment and access to information.

Access barriers in the physical environment may include steps, things out of reach range, narrow or confined spaces, or objects which are difficult to manipulate e.g. buttons and controls on self-service point of sale devices, manipulating or turning the pages of a book etc.

Information access barriers are commonly experienced by people with sensory disabilities – blindness or deafness and by people with intellectual disability or cognitive impairments. For people who are blind or vision impaired, online developments coupled with developments in computer access allow fuller participation. Textual information, which would normally be rendered to the computer screen, can be converted into synthetic speech, presented in large print on the display or accessed via hardware, generating real-time braille output. Web-based services can be designed to be more (or less) accessible, depending upon the conventions adopted, such as the World Wide Web’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 5.

A quite enlightening but completely satirical article about the online porn site implications of the UK’s recent Disability Discrimination Act highlights the challenge of true accessibility of the internet, particularly considering how it is one of the few significantly profitable aspects of the web: “All the webmasters we spoke to remain unconvinced that there is any technology that would allow them to make images of ‘cum-slurping sluts’ accessible to the blind” 6.

Social Exclusion

People with disability may also experience increased social isolation, or lessened opportunities for diverse social engagement as well as not finding suitable opportunities for meeting casual or longer-term sexual partners. People with disability still can be, and certainly have been, sheltered from and have reduced exposure to sexual education and sexual content. This may be due to their decreased independence or the ‘caring’ environment they find themselves in, which results in reliance on others for daily activities.

Many people with disability are often treated as though they are not sexual beings. This is a fact, not an assertion. A disability doesn’t remove an individual’s curiosity about their own body and what it can be used for, nor does it limit imagination. Too frequently an unbalanced power dynamic involving the carer/institution is created with the individual who is the recipient, whether due to fears, projection of values, codes of ethical and professional conduct, or simply ignorance. Irrespective of the reasons for greater social exclusion and certainly acknowledging that societal attitudes do appear to be gradually changing for the better, it’s these social and even unconscious practices which are the issue. I strongly argue that the paradigm shift from traditional porn distribution models, over to the openness of the internet has the potential to be profoundly empowering, enlivening and satisfying for people with disability in general and particularly so for those who are still being socially disenfranchised and protected. The internet, circumventing classical information gate-keepers as it does, is truly emancipating people with disabilities, socially, sexually and indeed in all aspects of daily life.

Netporn has the potential to enable many groups of people with disability to consume and engage in ways that were never possible or viable through classic porn forms. But in order for this to be achieved, thought and consideration of the access needs of a wider range of potential consumers – including people with disability – must become a key part of design, implementation and marketing for all relevant technologies and services.

Interactive Online Participation

There is now considerable literature examining gender and gender representation on the internet: “If the Internet is a hostile environment for women, why are women one of the fastest growing sectors of the population joining and participating in the Internet? Gender issues exist in all areas of computing. However, women have devised certain strategies in order to overcome many of the Internet’s previous barriers” 7.

I would argue that similar parallels can be drawn between women and with people with disability on the web, even though their presence may not be that directly obvious. There are very few good estimates of the uptake of the internet for people with disability, but in more developed countries technology and disability is an ever-expanding industry. Just as gender is less visible via the internet, so too is disability. People with disability can decide how and when to expose their personal situation and behind their computers, they can and usually are appearing the same as everyone else. So, depending on the context and the medium, do they opt to explicitly disclose their disability or do they opt to ‘pass’ implicitly or explicitly as a person without a disability? Just as there were many women who via their computer assumed a male persona and vice versa, so too there are a vast number of people with disability who, largely through a marvellously telling assumption by others, would appear to in fact be non-disabled. In fact, while online, such people are indeed temporarily abled!

Dorian says, “I’ve been in three significant long-term relationships, and each of them started online. What I most liked about this kind of getting to know people was that I could have time off from my disability, and people got to know my personality, and my values, before they got to know about my disability. It wasn’t that I hid it, but rather as is the case with my homosexuality, I could choose when and how to reveal it. I can’t say whether these relationships would have developed and turned into real life ones, if I had been blind, at first contact, – but I suspect that perhaps they would not have. Still, the downside was that I had to ‘come out’ about my blindness at some point, too early and I feared they would be scared off; too late, and they would feel inappropriately deceived! Nowadays, I bring it up earlier and earlier, perhaps because now I have a, so I am told, more cool photograph of myself where I don’t particularly look blind, and I guess I’m just much less scared of rejection these days.” [Conversations with the author, August 2005]

Jen is considered to be very attractive and gets a great buzz using her webcam to have erotic engagements with guys, not letting them know that she is almost totally blind. “I love the excitement and challenge of bluffing the body postures and presenting body language so well, that the guys don’t realize it. I can see just enough to have some confidence I’m looking towards the camera. I think it also improves my self-confidence that in spite of being blind, guys find me appealing, and that my disability is only a small part of me. I’m also a bit addicted to voice chat over the computer, and it [their voice] gives me a much better sense about the men I’m connecting with.” [Conversations with the author, March 2002]

Jen touches on a concept of portraying oneself online as the person one would aspire to be. In attempting to display more natural body language, mannerisms, head angle etc, she is actually learning and practicing a more natural involvement in social activities. Because many people with disability may have had less comfortable social experiences when growing up, and because (if blind) they don’t have visual observation to model from, online communication, whether dialogue through typing, voice or cameras, can lead to increased confidence and effectiveness in social engagements online, and inevitably in real life.

Dorian relates a situation in the late 80’s where he was text-chatting online with a guy for a couple of weeks, and had noted some slightly unusual linguistic constructs in the other’s language, calling into question whether the guy was as old as he purported to be. “One day I asked him what kind of music he was into, only for him to say to me (a blind guy), ‘Oh, well actually I’m deaf, I’d rather chat about what movies you are interested in?’ We met later and he thought ‘he can’t read my lips; I can’t understand a word he is saying.’ I thought ‘God, he stinks, and ‘everyone’ knows blind people have sensitive noses!’ “. [Extracted from MSN chat transcript with the author, September 2005] Interestingly, the computer had acted to diminish and largely overcome each person’s respective disability, and allowed an interaction to develop which could never have, and indeed did not, work face-to-face.

Participation in text-based virtual environments like Lambda.moo allows the user to develop an online persona in the virtual environment. That persona can truly reflect the person, as they perceive themselves, or it can present the kind of person they would like to be or to become. Text-based virtual reality environments are somewhat like a cross between multi-user chat, and text-based adventure games. People who are connected can either interact with (type messages to) others currently connected, or they can manipulate virtual objects through special commands in the virtual space. Such text-based virtual reality environments are used for any or all of the following purposes: they can present environments for online collaboration and learning, facilitate learning about programming objects in the environment, for developing and sharpening social, communications and writing skills. In particular, they are locations where one can meet and engage with one or more people who may share interests. Such meetings may involve social or technical chat, can lead to fostering romance, or – very common on some of the environments – act as virtual venues for engaging in virtual sex (often termed netsex or tiny sex).

To get a sense of how environments such as lambda work, as well as some perspectives on virtual reality, object permanence, online addiction and ‘net sex’, the lambda moo transcript as saved by Colin McCalmac (Samiam on Lambda) is a good starting point 8. For an example transcript of a net sex interaction between three members from an online community, and an anthropological deconstruction of the interaction, see Marshall (2003).

Cotton (his Lambda identity in the early-to-mid 90s) writes, “I spent a ridiculous number of hours on Lambda. I chatted, explored, and searched for virtual sex partners. The cool thing was that on Lambda you even could have virtual clothes, and could Emote actions, as well as just speaking. As well as making some good friends, from all over, I also ‘virtually’ dated, snogged and got off virtually with several people in the lambda community. It was pretty cool, particularly because I could follow the lead of people more experienced with dating and courting rituals, and all the (normally visual) actions were described in text. In real life, as a blind teenager, I had no romance, a bit of faltering play, but none of those first base, second base third base things, necking kissing, all of that stuff you see in the movies. Lambda was helping me regain a lost past, a past where my disability seemed to preclude everyday social/sexual experiences. I met a couple of my lambda friends in real life, sometime later, and was pleasantly surprised how they mostly matched my mental image of them.” (Conversation with the author, August 2005)

Over the last fifteen or so years, some blind people and people with other disabilities have become regular users of telephone chat or so-called phone-dating services. This is partly because of the anonymity such services offer, and more particularly for blind people, because the human voice is a very natural medium to express themselves and through which to read the temperament of others. Now, some of these systems are also moving online, merging audio from PC users with existing telephone users, or offering streaming video as well as audio. These telephone services are covered in this article both because they are still one domain of network-based sexual engagement for people who can’t afford or easily use a computer, and because they are essentially employing the ubiquitous telephone as an interactive voice response terminal driven by significantly advanced computer software to pass voice messages from user to user, in a near real-time fashion.

Emma says, “I’ve found phone lines great for me, I’ve chatted to some really interesting guys, and I’ve also worked as a phone-sex girl. I loved that! They never knew I couldn’t see, they didn’t need to, and I was a lot better than most of the other girls at knowing exactly where the guy was up to just from his voice and breathing. I kind of read body language through their voice, that’s a great asset in this line of work!” [Conversations with the author, 2004]

People with physical disabilities, who have reduced mobility, for example those who use wheelchairs, can experience major access challenges in independently and/or privately getting to bookshops, libraries and other locations where pornographic and erotic materials are available. In Australia, certainly, adult bookshops are secreted away often at the top of stairs or located in areas where sidewalks are potentially less well maintained. For this group parcels and mail are often collected by friends or family so there is less privacy, even for mail-order options. With motor skills reduced some people find it difficult or impossible to hold a physical book, or to turn its pages. Others find inserting and removing videocassettes can be problematic.

In the last twenty or so years, technology, and software and hardware options for enabling people with restricted motor control to interact with such technology have become quite well utilized. Alternatives to the computer ‘mouse’ and keyboards have allowed many people to engage with computers independently. Netporn offerings available online have allowed this group to find and select images, streaming video, interact with others through webcams and text/voice chat etc, privately and independently.

David uses a wheelchair and is a frequent user of telephone chat services. “I’m in a sort of ok [real life] relationship, but it is a bit unsatisfactory on the sexual side. Because it’s not really cheating, I like the phone lines – I like to talk to other guys about sex, have phone sex, and fantasise about meeting up, but never have. It’s inconvenient for me to travel places, and because of my disability on one hand, and my seriously gym-built upper body, on the other, I am very memorable and well known around the place, so the anonymity of online chat is the best way for me to be discrete and no one is getting hurt. Because I never plan to really meet them, I don’t see why I need tell them that I am six feet tall (only when out of my wheelchair). And the other thing is that it’s nice to have some anonymity, some privacy, a break from all the endless questions about ‘how do you do this’ etc which I often get.” [Phone conversation with the author, 1994]

People who are Blind or who have Reduced Vision

A colleague of mine was providing computer access training assistance to a man in his thirties who had recently lost his sight through an accident. One of the first questions he privately asked her was: “So, are there any porn sites online for the blind?” He then told her that seeing women, intimacy, sex and girly magazines were the things he missed and wanted most since his vision loss. While he will not be able to see images and actions on videos, he will be able to use his computer to access a variety of materials, formerly only available in print. Erotic stories, online chat, dating sites and net sex will all be options he can consume, and as we have already heard, this could lead to a real-life connection. People who are blind are arguably one of the groups most enabled by online netporn developments, certainly textual and voice-based ones, as compared to past options for access. Though porn is classically associated with visual still or moving images, it does have many other forms, and with anticipated developments in virtual reality, audio description and voice, its enablement could continue to increase for people who cannot see.

Erotica, Sexual Content and Censorship

Implicit and explicit censorship has long been a concern to people who are blind. This largely stemmed from the nature of the people or organizations who transcribed printed material into braille or who made it available in audio. The large majority of these people were well intentioned but sometimes biased volunteers, donating their time to make ‘important’ information available to the blind. Religious material, classics, and educational materials were the most commonly produced. Romances and family-friendly adventure titles are also very popular.

Take a book like Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal, two recorded versions: One studio read and complete, the other read by an older volunteer in Tasmania Australia (which somehow had five paragraphs missing, to do with a (relatively tame by today’s standards) passionate night of lovemaking). An extraordinary coincidence, perhaps, but not uncommon for the time.

The Braille edition of Playboy (produced by the National Library Service of the Library of Congress) was discontinued in the sixties due to ‘funding cuts’ until complaints lead to its reinstatement. It was commonly believed at the time that this was a moral, not a funding decision. Of course, only the articles were Brailled, the pictures not really being possible to produce in accessible and meaningful form.

Transcription and Description of Pornographic Content

While tactile diagrams have been produced for anatomy texts and sex education materials, the kinds of images found in erotic and pornographic materials are not really expressible in tactile form, nor would the subtleties be necessarily understood in the tactile medium.

Technologies, such as SMIL, and other multimedia standards for film production now exist so that audio description and text captioning can appear along-side the visual and regular audio tracks of online and DVD movies. While these technologies could be used to add extra value to netporn materials, I am not, however, aware of any porn equipped with descriptive soundtracks for people who are blind. Moaning, screaming and distorted deep breathing don’t really tell the entire story, especially when they often are not even synchronized with the ‘action’ on screen. With regards to an audio described porn movie, the closest I’ve personally got to experience one was at an unplanned after-dinner viewing of a new porn DVD, where two – not entirely sober – dinner-guests did quite an admirable job of bringing the quieter parts of the action to life, with their magnificently expansive and colourful verbal descriptions of the stars, their assets and their antics. This real-time live audio description was certainly considerably more informative and pleasant on the ear than was the monotone narration from the main star, who was obviously selected for something other than his talent for narration!

Erotic literature in print form was difficult or impossible for blind people to access historically, unless they could find a person who was prepared to read the material to them. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) estimates that only 3-5 percent of printed information is ever made available in formats accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired. (Kavanagh 2002) and of this, it is a certainty that only a minuscule fraction of a percent of all the erotic literature in print is made available.

Computer-Mediated Information Access

The internet has indeed opened a world to people who are blind containing vast quantities of textual erotica, whether from newsgroups dedicated to the subject, special interest archives like, or found on some commercial sites. This material is diverse, and ranges from light reading, through to very specific fetishes and genres.

In recent decades, print-scanning optical character recognition technology, when combined with text-to-speech synthesizers has meant that hither-to unavailable printed material can be scanned, converted to text, and read in Braille or spoken aloud by a synthetic voice.

Erotica, as I am sure you can imagine, is not something that is brought most fully to life when read by a robotic computer voice, where the pace of reading and the inflections are perfectly consistent throughout. But, erotically enlightened blind people will tell you the world-over, when compared to no erotic material being available at all the synthetic speech versions can do pretty damn well, when no better alternatives are available. Nevertheless, it takes some time for listeners to initially acclimatize themselves to the nuances of their computer’s synthetic voice. However, over time, for most listeners, the voices’ unnatural characteristics move further into the shadows, much like a speaker’s accent becomes less noticeable as familiarity by the listener increases. That is to say, the message conveyed in the words, progressively becomes less tainted by the constraints of the medium of a synthetic voice.

If, curious reader, you want to ‘see’ porn as I do, then I invite you to listen to a short erotic story read out via synthetic speech with permission by the author, Agave. Proudly and sizzlingly read out loud by IBM’s ViaVoice speech synthesiser. Listen to the story here

More recently, particularly with the flourishing area of Podcasting and audio on the web, there is erotica available in the spoken word form, read by real people, which adds a whole new dimension to the listening experience. One highly popular example is some of the erotica readings by Violet Blue, as found on her Tiny Nibbles website, even enhanced with occasional sound-effects such as locking of chains and ‘bottom-smacking’ as heard in her podcast open source sex 04.mp3 9.

In recent months an erotica exchange list serve has recently been set up for people who are blind at and the following message was recently posted to my blindness and technology list-serve, vip-l: “Erotica for the Sight Impaired. We are a company which produces tasteful, non-violent erotica. We would like to correspond with sight-impaired people who have an interest in this area to help us plan a new web site. Questions we have include: What is out there now for the sight impaired? How can it be improved? What conventional erotica is there which interests the sight impaired? What is erotic for you in your sphere of senses? If you are interested send an email to”


To date, netporn has had a significant impact on people with disability and particularly people who are blind or vision impaired. That impact has been on the one hand unplanned and largely unthought-of inclusion and on the other often unnecessary and even careless exclusion from participation. We can’t change the past but we do have an opportunity to architect a more inclusive and participatory online future for everyone.

But as long as researchers, entrepreneurs, designers and marketers of netporn persist in thinking of people with disability as a group set-apart from everyone else, those in the netporn industry will remain destined to design sites and services which are unnecessarily crippled, myopic and flawed.

Adherence to open standards, accessibility guidelines, and interoperability, all contribute to services which are more likely to be accessible. It’s not just a case of specially designing for specific disabilities; it’s more about designing content and services which are accessible to a diverse range of people, with diverse capabilities and limitations. I am not particularly advocating creating ‘special services for The Disabled’; but rather am encouraging the development of well-designed services for all, as broadly as possible.

More research – both industry and academic – is clearly called for in the emerging and flourishing domain we term netporn; research into the needs, desires and interests of people with disability with respect to access and participation in erotic and pornographic content. This will not only serve those of us with disability, it will – just as importantly – enhance both the quality and the usability of netporn services for us all!

By: Tim Noonan
Professional Speaking:

Access Consulting:


Tim Noonan has been instrumental in providing blind and vision impaired Australians timely access to daily newspapers and other information over the standard telephone and other channels. He is a member of two Standards Australia committees as well as having been involved with the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium). Tim is a professional speaker and is a frequent guest on radio and TV where he engagingly examines issues of social inclusion and access to emerging technologies. Tim has a B.A. majoring in cognitive psychology and special education, and holds a diploma in Therapeutic Massage. He has more than 20 years professional experience in issues of accessibility and the disability field with a special focus on technology.


1 The following three paragraphs are based on collaborative writing between Dr. Gerard Goggin and the author. They are part of a chapter for a book examining blogging and disability.
2 See
[3] See…../
[4] See
5 Available from
6 See
7 **See…./
Available on…/
9 From


Arlidge, J., “The Dirty Secret that Drives New Technology: It’s Porn”, The Observer, Sunday March 3 (2002),…../.
Clare, E., “Sex, Celebration, and Justice: A Keynote for the Queerness and Disability Conference 2002”, Scarlet Letters: Sex, Celebration, and Justice (2002),…../.
Corker, M., and T. Shakespeare, Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory, London: Continuum, 2002.
Goggin, G., and C. Newell, Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.
Goggin, G., and T. Noonan, “Blogging Disability: The Interface Between New Cultural Movements and Internet Technology”, A. Bruns and J. Jacobs (eds.), Uses of Blogs, New York: Peter Lang.
Kavanagh, R., “The Erosion of Equitable Library Services for Print Disabled Canadians'”, CNIB Library (2005),…../.
Marshall, J., “The Sexual Life of Cyber-Savants”, Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 14, no. 2 (2003), p. 229- 248. Also available at:
McCabe, M.P., and G. Taleporos, “Sexual Esteem, Sexual Satisfaction, and Sexual Behavior among People with Physical Disability”,_ Archives of Sexual Behavior_, vol. 32, no. 4 (2003), p. 359-369.
McKee, A., “The Effects of Pornography on Attitudes towards Sexuality: Implications for Policy Approaches to Internet Censorship in Australia”, G. Goggin (ed.), Virtual Nation: The Internet in Australia, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2005.
Shuttleworth, R., and L. Mona, “Introduction”, Special Issue on ‘Focus on Sexual Access for Disabled People’,_ Disability Studies Quarterly_, vol. 22, no. 4 (2002).

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