border 1

Ingrid has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences.  She was the Co-facilitator of the ‘Sexuality, Disability and the Philosophy of Choice’ project, the precursor to AccSex, a worldwide email group activating for accessible sex.  She is a Community Development Student and Worker. Ingrid has Cerebral Palsy.

Robert is a Massage Therapist and Ingrid’s primary carer.

Twenty Years on…


Good evening. Ingrid and I are delighted to be here to open this, what we think is a quite spectacular, exhibition. This is the first time we have stayed in your pretty city of Warrnambool, and we are hoping to explore it a bit tomorrow before we take the train home in the afternoon.

“Intimate Encounters” has been to Sydney, twice, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, London, and is now touring country Victoria, as you know. It is why we are here!

To begin then, we thought you might like to know a bit about the history of the project. It was no one person’s brainchild; but happened quite spontaneously. Belinda Mason, the young photographer whose stunning work this all is, met Dominic Davies, an English academic at an Aged and Disability Departments  presentation in Sydney.

Belinda, who earns her money primarily by being a corporate photographer, had been hired to take some photographs of the awards. She knew nothing about disability or disabled issues prior to this occasion. In fact, I don’t think she even knew anyone with a disability before this – a fact we all agree was a good thing for her as an artist. She came to the process without any preconceived ideas of what people with disabilities could or could not do, what would be acceptable or not.

Belinda has told us that she was very surprised to learn whilst attending the conference the difficulty which people with disabilities said they had expressing their sexuality.

She later asked Dominic how he would visually portray himself in sexy way. Dominic said, to use his own words, that he was “totally dumbstruck”. This might be surprising to some people, because Dominic, after all was the co-author of a book called Sexuality and the Politics of Disablement” with Tom Shakespeare (who also has an image here), but such is the power of stereotyping, I guess.

Anyway he went away and thought about it, contacted Belinda, and the first photograph was taken. He has said, since, laughingly, after seeing some of us “sex radicals”, as he calls us, his wishes his image had been a little more “up front”!

But this exhibition, as you will see, is not just about being a “sex radical”. It is about getting away from the stereotypes that majority of people with disabilities absolutely loathe and detest, because they both diminish us by making us different from everybody else. Unfortunately, these impressions of people with disabilities are still very prevalent in the media and people’s minds and hearts. They are the stereotypes of the “poor crip” and the “supercrip”. I’m sure you all know what I am talking about.

Be that as it may, this exhibition offers us many different ways of seeing people with disabilities. There are photographs of singles, of couples, of gay people, straight people, bent people! Most of all, you can see people being proud of themselves, proud of their bodies and sexuality, mostly enjoying life, but more importantly living it.


But Belinda is. She is still searching for people whose disabilities aren’t well represented in this exhibition.

Neither of us thought of photography as a real art form until we saw this exhibition. We have changed our minds!. Belinda is a real artist. We are sure you will agree when you walk around the exhibition.

But not is she only an artist. She has become an ally of the disability movement. She has not been paid for the time, expense and sheer bloody hard work that has gone into creating these pictures, from all over Australia. Some of them, especially the one with all the books in the field took days to create!

It also says something for her professionalism, her single-minded focus of getting the right picture, as Dominic has said, that she was able to put us at our ease when posing for shots that reveal quite a bit of us, either physically or psychically or both. But then, all these images were collaborations between Belinda and the participants, which made it much easier for us to give of ourselves than if she had imposed her ideas on us totally.

Ingrid and I love many of the images, particularly of the people we know. Belinda has captured their personalities and essences so brilliantly. The little devil for example is such an extrovert! As an aside, she has recenly married Tom Shakespeare! She met a as result of his part in the opening in Melbourne, and is now living in England with a ready-made family! She will be sorely missed by all disability activists in this State.

Profits from the sale of these images will be placed in a trust fund and used to advance and support sex positive initiatives for people with disabilities. It is also proposed to make the images avabile as a set of post cards as these may sell better than the big pictures

You may want to know a bit about our involvement in the exhibition, and how we came to know about it. Ingrid had been working on a project, the precusor to ACCSEX, called “Sexuality, Disability and the Philosophy of Choice” for Yooralla’s Learning and Living Department several years prior to Dominic’s meeting with Belinda. So she understood, was interested in, and became quite passion about, the issue.

We had been also been involved in making the SBS documentary “Untold Desires” by Sarah Barton .

Belinda traveled to Geelong from Sydney for our photo. She asked us what we had in mind for the photo. As we talked the image you see evolved, as, at first we had we had no clear ideas

She was with us for about three hours, and just took shot after shot in black and white, colour and sepia. We chatted about all kinds of things, in this way Belinda made us forget to be self-conscious. Now, the documentary “Untold Desires” made by Sarah Barton and Eve Orner, in had been very hard work: 30 hours of filming for eight minites of screen time! After that experience Belinda’s visit was “a breeze”. Even with the “hidden” erotic element in it that not many people notice…

Lastly, what is the lasting impression that we want you to take away with you from the exitbition? Why, as Ingrid says, it is that “looking sexy and being sexy is not the same thing at all!” And of course, we would like you all to take the quotation attributed to another English academic, I am going to finish with and try to change the conditions that it talks about into one of empowerment for yourselves, if you are person with a disability; for your clients, if you are a worker…

“Sexuality is often the source of our deepest oppression; it is also often the source of our deepest pain. It’s easier for us to talk about – and formulate strategies for changing – discrimination in employment, education, and housing than to talk about our exclusion from [tactile tenderness], sexuality and reproduction.”

Ann Finger.


by  Ingrid

I read something recently that resonated loudly within me. The writer, Susan M. Daniels, from the USA, stated that the non-disabled amongst us

“believe that a perfect body (in its mid-twenties) is what they need to be sexual. We know they don’t. …[They] see sexuality as depending on a certain body configuration. We know better, it doesn’t… We have, in effect, explored [this] frontier…

She goes on to say:

I think there are times when we feel resentment, jealousy and anger. It is normal to feel that way given the barriers we face every day. But I also think that our non-disabled brothers and sisters may not have the security of knowing that sexuality does not exist in the perfect body, but in the pleasing body. We can help them overcome their handicaps.”

I hope this exhibit helps people realize that good sex has nothing to do with having the “right” body. For us, perhaps because we have been together 18 years, and passion with the same partner apparently lasts for at most three years for most people, good sex is far more about having a sense of fun, of caring (wanting the best for your partner) honest communication… All things, in fact, that money can’t buy but are essential, in fact, for a thriving long-term relationship.

This flies in the face of everything the money-market managers, those “globalists” who are presently holding the world to ransom, would have us believe. As a “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon stated recently, society does its best to “make us discontented with everything we do and insecure about who we are”.

And who are we? Our names are Robert and Ingrid Hindell. Robert works from home as a remedial masseur and my primary carer; I, Ingrid, have a B.A. in Social Sciences and now am a Community Development and Welfare student, and work in the field (mostly voluntarily, on eight committees and allied sub-committees as well as a few steering committees.).

We each like the quality of life we give the other. Robert says he likes my sense of fun, my sense of commitment to social justice issues, my ability to push back boundaries. He likes the fact that he is able to help me have a life full of varied experiences. I like Robert’s honesty, his ability to be his own person, his dependability. I appreciate the fact that I have been able to help him “come out his shell”, become confident enough to become a massage therapist in spite of being dyslexic, become more socially gregarious. I very much appreciate the fact that Robert, the less outgoing of the partners, is willing to be the “wind beneath my wings”.

For some time now our sex life has been more tactile than anything else. We have accomplished an intimacy, comfortableness with each other that we think is unsurpassed. For instance at times we can look at each other “across a crowded room” and know what the other is thinking.

Life is not always easy for us. We worry about the lack of work (the GST has really knocked Robert’s practice and placed the agencies that may employ me in less of a financial position to do so). Thus we worry about money, but seldom argue over it. I feel isolated/alientated from the community (straight streets containing square houses without ramps is not the ideal way to live). We have realized that for people such as us (who have no children, don’t play sport or go to a local church and have unusual interests and specialized needs) perhaps communal living with those interested in things like permaculture and the environment may be better than living in suburbia, even though we are extremely proud of our garden – no lawn, only fruit and flowers in front, fruit and vegetables in back.

However, we realize we are luckier than many people. We have some great friends. We do Transcendental Meditation together and are supported by a T.M. teacher, who is also our doctor, counsellor and friend Our work entails helping others. We have a varied lifestyle not very unlike that shared by Tom and Barbara on the T.V. show “The Good Life”, in Geelong, Victoria, which although it is the second biggest city in our state, is still small enough to have the feel of a country town.

Here we are delighted to have managed to buy our own home five minutes from a train station, after living with my parents, in Melbourne, sixty kilometres away, for 14 years.

This is a great compromise; I like the bigger city and am now in a position to be able to find sessessional work in both cities, and am able to get some home-based care so I am not as dependent on Robert as I would be without it. Robert hates big city driving, the pollution, the noise of our state capital. We still pinch ourselves over our home!

But, above all, each of us is thankful that we are living with our best friend.