Sexual pleasure is a fundamental part of being a human being – including people with disabilities! But when it comes to sex toys, they’re often made by able-bodied people, for able-bodied people. That’s why Andrew Gurza, and his sister Heather Morrison have co-founded the brand Deliciously Disabled.
Teaming up with RMIT University in Melbourne, Andrew and Heather are currently looking to create the first line of first line of sex toys for people with disabilities – with disability in mind from the very beginning!
Careseekers were lucky enough to catch up with the duo and find out more about the project…
Can you tell me a bit about what you both do?
A: I’m a disability awareness consultant. I work predominately in sexuality disability and lived experience disability. I am also one of the co-founders of the Deliciously Disabled brand, which is about bringing disability driven designs to the forefront and making disability something we talk about more.
H: I’m Andrew’s sister and the other co-founder of Deliciously Disabled and my background is innovation and advertising. I’m working with Andrew to broaden the perception around disability and re-imagine it.
What are you currently working on?
H: We’ve been looking at launching a sex toy product, working closely with RMIT, to alleviate some of the frustration that people with disabilities have not being able to self-pleasure like an able-bodied person would be able to.
How did the idea come about for Deliciously Disabled?
A: We were talking about what kind of things I would want to make my life better, and I said a toy I could use to masturbate. We started talking about how to build that brand and that’s when Deliciously Disabled was born.
How will the Deliciously Disabled sex toys differ from what’s currently on the market?
H: When you look at other products on the market, a couple of things jump out. They look like every other sex toy, and you have brands like Hot Octopuss, which is for men and aimed at men who are quadriplegic or have erectile dysfunction.
What is the team you’re working with made up of?
H: We have an amazing team of people made up of industrial designers, occupational therapists and biomedical engineers.
What are some of your key findings?
H: It needs to be as hands free as possible – that’s where the biggest limitation is. The second is being able to use it in the privacy of your own home from start to finish. Andrew’s been on the front of this project and every couple of months he’ll get sent a bucket of sex toys. What we’ve found is, even if he can use it in the moment, he still needs someone to come in, help set it up, work out how to charge it, and other considerations.
How are you incorporating these findings into your product?
H: We’re trying to make something you can use if you have low-dexterity. Also, so you don’t have to announce to the world that you’re about to masturbate and you don’t need an aid worker, family member or friend to help you set up – a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that.
What has the response been from the disability community?
A: The community is really excited about it. Everyone that I’ve spoken to within the disability community has said “wow, there’s nothing like this out there”. When we did research with the disability community and everybody that we spoke to said “we want you to make this, we need you to make this”. It’s been very, very positive.
What about from an industry perspective?
H: We’ve received emails from occupational therapists giving their support and encouragement who want to be involved. Ultimately, they’re on the front line and meeting with clients who are having a hard time understanding and discovering their sexuality. Quite a few have offered to help and make sure it’s a product they feel comfortable prescribing, and hopefully be eligible for the NDIS rebate or another government rebate.
So, you’ll be able to use your NDIS funding for these toys?
H: We are working on it, but it hasn’t been an easy navigation. We’re trying to work closely with the occupational therapist community. Unfortunately, the NDIS has not given us very clear instructions – so I think the closer we work with occupational therapists, the better off we’ll be to do that as a reality.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
A: Getting people’s eyes on it and getting funding to get the research done – that’s been a big challenge. Also, getting the word out there without oversaturating people with it.
H: Like every start up, we need money. Because we don’t have a viable product yet and we’re in the middle stage of still perfecting the design, it’s kind of like the chicken and egg. We don’t really know what the egg costs so it’s hard for us to finalise a business plan and be able to show what potential revenue will be. Without that it’s hard to convince investors. Also, because we are in a sex-tech space. It’s something that is very niche and not necessarily a mass product, so it’s not something many investors necessarily want to invest in so it makes it a little harder.
When is this project looking at being completed?
H: In a perfect world, we will have a rough final prototype design and maybe even a minimum viable product before March.
To donate to the Deliciously Disabled GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/sxtoydisabilityresearch?member=230382
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