"Deaf is best": Exploring the sexuality experiences and knowledge of Deaf women in New Zealand
This study has two primary purposes. Initially, it explores the accounts of sexuality-related experiences and knowledge of a group of Deaf women in New Zealand. The limited international literature available has primarily focused on Deaf sexuality in terms of deficits and vulnerabilities and no work has been carried out on the topic in New Zealand, so relatively little is known about an influential aspect of Deaf women’s lives. The second purpose for this study is to generate recommendations for improving the sexuality information and services available to the women. This study accomplished the two aims by using an action research framework in which Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand, the national organisation for the Deaf, was a collaborative research partner. The seven women who participated in the study were split into two focus groups, one for NZ European/ Pākeha women and one for Asian and Pacific women. The focus groups were conducted in August 2012 at a Deaf club. Also present during the focus groups were a professional New Zealand Sign Language interpreter, a Deaf woman who served as co-facilitator, and myself. In the focus groups, the women discussed their experiences and understanding of concepts with regard to intimate relationships, sexual experiences, and sexuality more generally. Their accounts revealed the potential impact their family’s cultural background, the ability of those around them to communicate through New Zealand Sign Language, and their personal English literacy levels had on their sexuality knowledge and development. Those who had greater access to information and support reported more positive experiences. As a result, recommendations are made for improving information accessibility across the lifespan, with a special emphasis on programming and services provided by Deaf Aotearoa. The recommendations conclude with a description of a programme developed alongside Deaf Aotearoa that addresses some of these areas and which will be implemented with regional groups of Deaf women. As a result, the contributions made by the Deaf women who participated in this project are already demonstrating an impact in programme development.