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Talking Positively about Sex and Disability

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET. 

View Sexual Education Resources for People with Disabilities.

Rockville, Md., June 19 – Sexual education for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities is extremely important. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, is doing its part to highlight this.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year. Approximately half of all adults with cognitive disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents in their lifetime.

The upcoming episode of Born This Way on June 20, 2017 highlights the importance of sexual education as it relates to dating and marriage. The cast speaks with Terri Couwenhoven MS, CSE, a well known sex educator and author. Couwenhoven specializes in the design and implementation of sexuality programs and resources for people with cognitive disabilities, their parents and the professionals who support them.

In coordination with Couwenhoven, RespectAbility has released a lengthy guide featuring resources for sexual education for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities, with a focus on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The episode will air on Tuesday, June 20 at 10 PM ET/9c on A&E Network. Join RespectAbility for a live Twitter chat using #BornThisWay and #BTWchat.


Born This Way, which recently won an Emmy for being the best reality show on TV today, is not an ordinary reality show. It stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome. During season 3, episodes have tackled complex issues such as self-determination for people with disabilities in healthcare choices and the lack of employment opportunities for all people with disabilities.

cover art for the cover for the Born This Way Fan Guide, includes photos of the cast of Born This Way

Earlier, RespectAbility released a Born This Way Fan Guide with free resources for a variety of individuals with disabilities. The guide includes free tools, contacts, information and services around:

For more information visit www.RespectAbility.org or email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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