OpEd – The Importance of Gaining Proper Sex Education for People with Disabilities

by Maggie Rudnicki

Sex education is an incredibly important part of any child’s education and will shape their beliefs and experiences going into sexual maturity. The urge to reproduce is one of our most basic biological imperatives that goes back to Darwinian evolution – we are driven to survive and reproduce. It is, therefore, of great importance for everyone to understand how their bodies work and how to take care of them. Sex education should be place for young people to learn about puberty, reproduction, gender, sexuality, sex, the benefits and risks of sex, reproductive health, and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, many people across the country do not have access to comprehensive sex education. Individuals with disabilities are particularly affected by this. Society has trouble viewing people with disabilities as sexual and thus excludes them from sex education. When people with disabilities do receive sex education it is often an inaccessible curriculum that doesn’t fit their learning style or body. Better sex education for people with disabilities can have numerous benefits such as protection from sexual assault; better hygiene, social skills, and body positivity; and a more fulfilling sex life.

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Gastrointestinal Health Technologies

by Owen Baylosis

What is an Ostomy?

An ostomy is a surgery performed to redirect stool or urine  out of the body

  • Reasons
    • Rectum/ Colon cancer
    • Intestinal injury
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Obstruction
    • Diverticulitis
  • Through this surgery, part of the intestine is rerouted through the abdominal wall to create a stoma
    • A stoma is a piece  of intestine that protrudes through the abdominal wall and is used to release waste
    • People with an ostomy will wear an ostomy pouch on the stoma to collect intestinal contents
    • Stomas do not have muscles, so intestinal contents pass into the pouch


Skin barrier being removed from a stoma. The stoma is bright red and roughly the size of a bottle cap. It is right to the left of the ostomate’s naval.

Photo of a healthy stoma. It is bright red and roughly the diameter of a quarter. The ostomate is caucasian.

Types of Ostomies

  • ColostomyDiagram of colostomy in human abdomen; "transverse colon", "descending colon", "ascending colon", "ileum", "end colostomy", "caecum", "sigmoid colon", "rectum", "anus" are labeled
    • Stoma is made from large intestine(colon)
    • May be temporary or permanent
    • May be performed for rectal cancer, diverticulitis, or fecal incontinence


Diagram of where an ileostomy is placed. The ileum and ileostomy are labeled

  • Ileostomy
    • Stoma is made from small intestine(ileum)
    • May be temporary or permanent
    • May be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease or rectal cancer


  • UrostomyDiagram of urostomy in human abdomen; "urostomy" and "piece of ileium used to fashion urostomy" labelled.
    • Ureters are redirected to stoma made from small intestine(ileal conduit)
    • Permanent
    • May be used to treat bladder cancer or urinary incontinence

Non-pouch Procedures

  • Ileoanal Reservoir(J Pouch)Diagram indicates that colon has been removed; ileum(labeled) has been stitched near the anus(labeled) to create an ileoanal reservoir(labeled)Colon and rectum are removed
    • Ileum is connected directly to anus, and reservoir collects stool
    • Used to treat polyps in the colon



  • Continent Ileostomy(Kock Pouch)Diagram shows the colon(labeled) and rectum(labeled) have been removed. The ileum(labeled) is connect to an internal kock pouch(labeled) which is directed to an external stoma(labeled)Internal reservoir made in ileum
    • Drained via catheter, no bag necessary
    • Very delicate procedure, not common
    • For candidates who aren’t good candidates for ileoanal reservoir or don’t want a pouch

Pouching Systems

  • Main pieces are the skin barrier and the pouchFront and back view of a white ostomy pouch with a yellow skin barrier.
    • Skin barrier is adhesive portion attached to the skin
      • Protects skin and holds pouch in place
    • Pouch holds waste
      • Pouches for Ileostomies and Colostomies can be drainable(washed and reused, changed every 3-5 days)
      • Pouches for Colostomies can also be closed, meaning they need to be removed and disposed of(changed after every empty)


  • Many other options as wellShows skin barrier being applied by a latex gloved hand to a white abdomen around a bright red stoma
    • Filters-to prevent gas buildup, but without odor
    • Material variety-opaque or transparent/soft covers
    • Closure systems-clamps or integrated closure
      • Urostomy bags have a spout as opposed to a closable mouth
    • Skin barrier-can vary in flexibility, shape, adhesive

TIES® System

  • OstomyCure, a  company based in Oslo, Norway, claims to have a new technology Peach colored cap next to a titanium mesh tube insert that goes inside the stoma.for ileostomates that removes the need for a bag



Ostomate Lifestyle

  • Diet
    • Chew thoroughly
    • Reduce high fiber foods
    • Dehydration is a side effect, so drink regularly
    • May have to avoid foods such as popcorn and nuts
    • Everyone’s body is different
  • 750,000 to 1 million  Americans have an ostomy
  • While ostomates don’t directly qualify for disability benefits,  according to Social Security Administration, conditions such as IBD do qualify
    • Accessible bathrooms
  • United Ostomy Associations of America

Apps used for Gastrointestinal Health

  • Apps that track the symptoms of users with digestive disorders
    • GI BodyGuard
    • MyGIHealth
    • Apps that are specific to Inflammatory Bowel Disease
      • GI Buddy
      • myIBD
  • PoopMD
    • Allows parents to learn the meanings of their infants’ poop and detect signs of gastrointestinal disorders
    • Can take photos of diapers and analyze color



Autistic Activism

by Cara Boim and Hannah Ridings

This presentation discusses the shift in definition of autism to a biologically rooted disorder and an “epidemic” through the lens of autistic activism, hypothesizing causes for and pointing out issues inherent in this discourse.  The role of Autism Speaks in contributing to a pathologizing narrative is discussed, using the example of the 2009 “I Am Autism” video.  Social versus medical models of disability are compared, and the work of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in response to the 2007 “Ransom Notes” campaign is discussed as an example of autistic activism.

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Tech and Dis Class OFFICIAL SPRING 2018

Just received word of approval for STS 3284: Technology and Disability!!!! This is now an official course offering and not a rotating topics course!!!!

If you are looking to take STS 3284 during SPRING 2018, course sign-ups are open! The CRN is 20072 if you don’t want to go surfing through the timetable.

We will be meeting in Goodwin 241 on Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:00-3:15pm.


[Graduate students who are interested, please standby: we are working out a course listing at the grad-level.]

Here is the course ad: STS 3284 Course Ad Sp 2018

For Screen Readers

For those with screen readers whose computers are going to get boggled by this PDF, it features an image and text. The image shows 7 versions of the same military-ish guy in a Lockheed Martin exoskeleton moving from wheelchair on the left to fully standing on crutches and about to take a step by the 7th frame, and then it has all this info about the course, a good bit of which is repeats from above —

It reads:

Technology and Disability

New Class!

Dr. Ashley Shew

Questions? Write to Dr. Shew at shew@vt.edu

Visit Dr. Shew’s course webpage at techanddisability.com.

News stories frequently report the development of “game-changing” and “life-altering” technologies for people with disabilities, from colorful 3D printable prosthetic hands to wheelchairs that climb stairs. But the reality is often far different from the claims of these feel-good stories. A device might not live up to the hype, may be functional only under certain environmental/architectural constraints, or may not be covered by insurance and therefore unattainable. This class equips students to enter a cultural conversation of growing importance at a level deeper than dominant media portrayals.

Students will play an active role in the development of classroom content, leading class in discussion, and presenting on individual technology projects of their choice. We will also learn how to measure to ADA specs and check out neat stuff in the assistive tech lab! Technologies we’ll look at will include: cochlear implants and hearing aids, prosthetic arms and legs, exoskeletons, apps for a variety of disabilities, computer tech for blindness and learning disabilities, mobility tech (walkers, canes, etc.), and more!

STS 3284       SPRING 2018

Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:00-3:15pm, Goodwin 241

CLE AREAS 2 and 7 – CRN 20072

Technoableism, Cyborg Bodies, and Mars

I’ve been tweeting for the @WeAreDisabled this week, and I worked my way to talking about tech (and not just disability issues) today.

The thread where I briefly lay out my own current work is here: @ashleyshoo on @WeAreDisabled. I am copying the text below for two reasons: (1) this seems like a blog post and not a series of short tweets and (2) word is that screen readers can’t all read the new 280 character Twitter posts (only the first 140 characters). Here it goes:

Thinking about Cyborg and/or technologized bodies. Attended a tech conference last week where many people had in mind “fixes” to problems of aging and disability (even when it was not couched that way).

I got to speak, and I felt like it was in a different language – about disability pride, about how everyone will one day be disabled (if they get to live), about designing while respecting “nothing about us without us.”

I love the stuff I get to use. But there’s a real problem with glamorizing technology and/or being cyborg. Glamorizing the tech and the idea of these technologized bodies makes us ignore important issues, like maintenance and social meanings.

Keeping technologies in and on one’s body actually takes a lot of work. My fake leg breaks – and it disrupts my week or month, depending. I might end up gluing pieces of it together or trying to find the right screw combo as I sit on the floor of my local hardware joint.

Every 6-8 weeks, we flush the port-a-cath installed on my chest w saline. If it doesn’t flush: extra appts at the hospital to check it out with radiology. This device is hella useful for someone with hard-to-locate veins and ppl with strong chemos – but it takes maintenance.

If my hearing aids need work, I send them away for the week while my dealer’s company fiddles with them — usually a quick turn around, but this is disruption.


Cyborg bodies aren’t these shining examples of human “overcoming” and technological triumph. I use stuff because I need it – and sometimes I even like it. But ideas about cyborgs usually gloss over what it is actually like.

I’ve started to reflect on this idea and plan a book project around it — technoableism. Technoableism is a particular strand of ableism that is perhaps most prominently figured in narratives around transhumanism, but enjoys wider capital than that.

Technoableism suggests a very particular narrative about overcoming disability, how to do that and how other folks should engage in it. And, if you question it, the replies you get back doubt your experience and suggest that you actually agree.

In other words, either you are wrong/deluded about your experience or you actually agree because – gasp – you do use technology. It suggests that using devices amounts to agreeing with narratives about technology as overcoming disability.

I like my tech – sometimes I even have multiple things for the same state of my body, using crutches or a rolling-walker or a prosthetic leg…. That doesn’t mean that every tech device that attempts to solve a “problem” – as framed by someone nondisabled – should be lauded.

And technoableism completely ignores social factors. The awfulness it is to go out as a young person with a walker, for instance, is why I might not use my walker more often.

Even though walkers/rollators are hella rad.

I just want to write an ode to my third shiny blue rollator now. I take off my leg at the end of each day, and sail away with the fluid movements of my body on wheels. No more heavy, only free — as long as I stay on the wood floors. LOL.

Technoableism also discounts different devices for different situations and bodies. It imagines that there will be a solution to the problem of body – with the idea that bodies are problems. But the problems are often surfaces, environments, interfaces, places, and others.

I gave a talk a few weeks back in a colleague’s class. The colleague’s class has a theme of planning to live on Mars. He wanted me to give some history to help students imagine social justice issues in this context. I, cheekily, presented about how Mars is for disabled people.

Mars is an environment so unlike Earth that any human making the journey there would become disabled, if they are not already. Their bodies and minds would not be normatively nondisabled as people consider them now. (Yes, this does play on the medical model a bit.)

I had the students give me many examples of this from what they learned, and we had a ton of fun with it. Because they had had the assumption that disabled people couldn’t and wouldn’t be astronauts. And opening this space was huge.

Also part of this suggestion was that some disabled people may be better constituted for Mars, especially when we consider what it is to move in space. I showed them some of the Crips in Space narratives from and videos from the CFP from the group.

Technoableists can’t see the value in disabled bodyminds. Thinking about does some of that work, though.

Technoableism allows people to celebrate the glamorized image of the cyborg as a mode of freedom and resistance while also completely neglecting those with actually technologized bodies and what they say.

Technableism enables disability discrimination through this neglect. And it continues to perpetuate it in how tech is created, marketed, and understood.

(See, really very bloggish. Apologies for shortened words and abbreviations. #twitter.)