Reproductive and Sexual Healthcare Needs Among Adults with Disabilities as Perceived by Social Workers

Kristen F. Linton, Heidi A. Rueda, Lela Williams, Alex Sandoval, Sharon Bolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


People with disabilities often experience unique gynecological and reproductive healthcare needs, which may be exacerbated by their experience of sexual victimization. Previous research on adolescents with disabilities found that social workers held beneficial roles in supporting their clients to make empowered decisions concerning sexual healthcare, pregnancy, and parenting. This study aimed to assess the reproductive and sexual health needs of adults with various disabilities from the perspectives of their social workers. Eleven social workers working primarily with adults with various disabilities were interviewed using a phenomenological study design to offer their perspectives of the sexual and reproductive health needs of their clients. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed; themes and subthemes were identified. According to social workers, (1) adults with disabilities experienced distinctive reproductive healthcare interactions and challenges, including specific needs that were uniquely related to risks for sexual victimization and (2) social workers performed several roles in supporting sexual and reproductive healthcare of these clients, including education and brokering. Social workers demonstrated the need to support clients within a biopsychosocial framework since their biological, psychological, and social needs intersected to either restrain or empower their reproductive health. Social workers played key roles in supporting their clients in reproductive and sexual health decision-making, yet appeared to struggle to address ethical dilemmas, especially those related to ensuring their clients’ well-being and self-determination. Secondly, the results of this study made a connection between challenges in adults with disabilities’ receipt of health wellness exams and histories of sexual victimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalSexuality and Disability
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Disability
  • Pap smears
  • Reproductive health
  • Sexual health
  • Social work
  • United States
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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