Disabled people have periods too and reusable underwear can be a great option for many. WUKA experts discuss the best period products for wheelchair users.
Disabled people have periods too
On average around the globe, 300 million people menstruate every single day. And each one of these menstruating people deserves access to clean and safe period protection, and to accurate menstrual education too. Sadly though, we know this isn’t the case for many, and even here in the UK lots of people are struggling to afford to buy period products, or are just not receiving the education they need in order to manage their period safely.
Most disabled people have periods too, therefore they too deserve to have access to period products that are safe and hygienic, and that allow them to manage menstruation effectively each month.
What barriers do disabled people face?
We’re all different, and we all have different experiences in life- and never more so than when it comes to our period. Menstrual cycles vary greatly from person to person, and this is no different for the disabled community. However, there are often extra barriers to break down for many disabled people.
If we view ‘being disabled’ not in terms of how a person’s body limits their ability to perform certain tasks, and more in terms of how the environment around them presents barriers instead- it becomes a lot clearer.
Disabled people are only limited when the world around them is not accessible, and that can have nothing to do with any perceived physical impairment of their body.
Accessibility issues with public bathrooms
Where do we even start with public bathrooms? At the best of times, they can be dirty, smelly and cramped. And for wheelchair users, or for people with mobility issues, they can be a complete nightmare.
Many public toilets are just not accessible to wheelchair users, although this is getting better. But the fact remains that lots of disabled loos are in need of improvements when you’re on your period. Lots of us can relate to the nightmare that is trying to change a pad or a tampon in a tiny toilet cubicle- you don’t need to be a wheelchair user to realise how difficult it can be for many in such a small space.
Accessibility issues with period products
Lots of disabled people experience period poverty. This 2020 report found that almost half of all people in poverty are either disabled or living with a disabled person- with disabled people more likely to face barriers at work too. All of this adds to the stigma and difficulty in accessing period products- both financially and on a practical level.
Because the fact is that not all period products are easy to use, and some just aren’t made with disabled people in mind- let alone with equipment such as wheelchairs in mind. Lots of people find inserting and removing a tampon tricky enough, but throw in mobility issues or other restrictions, and the whole thing can start to seem impossible.
Accessibility issues with menstrual education
Lack of proper menstrual education is an issue for all, not just for disabled people. But there’s evidence to suggest that those with disabilities are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to menstrual education, often due to:
- Disabled people being unable to access education themselves
- Menstrual education failing to address the issues that disabled people face
- People with disabilities being unable to access menstrual health support
- Lack of understanding of the practical issues facing those with disabilities
- Lack of education in accessible formats- for example, for the visually impaired
People with disabilities are also more likely to experience menstruation a little differently, with more being likely to report heavy and painful periods and intense PMS symptoms. Yet little is really known or understood about this, further heightening the stigmas surrounding disabled people and periods.
Period shame and stigma
Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commision shows that disabled people are more likely to experience discrimination, stigma and ignorance. The report highlights the fact that
‘Negative attitudes towards disabled people remain prominent in Britain, and people with a mental health condition, learning disability or memory impairment remain particularly likely to be stigmatised.’
A lack of understanding of what issues disabled people face in every day life, never mind during their period, can lead to feelings of shame that is only worsened during menstruation. The fact of the matter is that people with disabilities are under-represented when it comes to menstruation, and this needs to change.
How can disabled people manage their period?
Disabled people need access to safe and hygienic period products that are easy to use. They need access to specific menstrual education, and they deserve to live in a society which does not discriminate against them. Like everyone who bleeds, disabled people deserve to be able to manage their period with dignity.
There are specific ways that disabled people can manage their period according to their own individual needs too:
- Cycle tracking: this can be hugely beneficial for all people who menstruate, particularly as tracking can help you to get a better understanding of your body overall. Knowing when to expect your period and what’s happening within your body can be empowering and so helpful in allowing you to be prepared for your period too.
- Accessing education: speak to your healthcare provider for information on support groups and organisations that can help you.
- Accessing healthcare: knowing your body and understanding your cycle will help when it comes to accessing healthcare. If you can spot the signs that something is going on you can speak to your GP quickly to get a treatment plan in place to help.
Reusable period pants for disabled people
Most period products are made with non-disabled people in mind; many wheelchair users and people with mobility restrictions and other issues can face barriers when using them.
Disposable pads can create sensory issues for some, they can be difficult to keep in place and then can feel bulky or uncomfortable (especially when sitting all day), or even itchy and irritating due to chemicals and other potentially harmful materials used to make them.
Tampons can be difficult to use when mobility is limited too, with many disabled people finding inserting and removing them difficult, not to mention the risks to health and to the planet with the plastic and other chemicals that are used to make them.
On the flip side, reusable period pants are a fantastic option for people with disabilities. Being able to bleed into your underwear without the fear of leaks and without needing to fiddle with uncomfortable or fiddly pads and tampons can be a real game changer.
For wheelchair users, period pants are discreet, easy to use and a complete replacement for disposable pads and tampons that can be tricky to use whilst in a chair. They don’t require any additional equipment, and can be used by all body shapes and sizes without the need for fiddly packets or potential irritants that some disposable products have. You just wear them like normal underwear, and you bleed into them.
People with invisible conditions
There are some conditions you can’t see. According to this NHS report, 80% of the UK’s disabled population has a hidden disability. That’s 10 million people who have a disability which isn’t immediately obvious to the people around them. A good proportion of these people will have periods too, and will face the same barriers- and more- when it comes to accessing period products, menstrual education and menstrual equality.
For example, people with a stoma bag might struggle to manage their period, or may find that some period products aren’t suitable for them. This article by Pelican Health states that 78% of people with a stoma bag felt their period affected their output, and that cycle changes post surgery were also an issue. Period pants are a great way to manage your period with a stoma bag, as they can be worn comfortably around the stoma site, they will reliably and safely absorb all period flow and they’re super discreet too. And they don’t need to be boring either- our WUKA Lace Collection, for example, prove beyond any doubt that you can still feel feminine and sexy while on your period!
Other invisible conditions, such as anxiety, depression, autism and sensory processing disorder (this is, of course, not an exhaustive list) can also play a role in how easily a person manages their period. Again, period pants can be a great option; we have lots of reviews from parents telling us their child has issues with how their period flow feels, and how period products feel too- wearing period pants as an alternative to pads has been a game changer for many. Our new Teen Stretch are great for younger people with hidden disabilities who are learning to manage their period- they grow with your child, gently support in all the right places and are super soft too, eliminating irritations and providing 100% leak-proof confidence when it’s really needed.
WUKA Flex period pants are made with accessibility in mind. They’re multi-sized, which means that one pair can fit up to four sizes (from XS-L and XL- 4XL) but the real magic is all in the design, particularly when it comes to the Flex Detachable Bikini.
These little gems have detachable straps which allow you to remove the pants and change without even needing to stand up. In fact, you can change them lying down if you need to, so it goes without saying that they’re great for changing in small cubicles too!
The adaptability of the WUKA Flex period pants makes them a fully inclusive option. They quickly and easily adjust to all sizes as needed, and are able to accommodate medical equipment if needed.
The detachable hooks on either side mean that you can allow you to maintain independence when it really matters. Being able to remove the pants and replace them easily without needing to undress fully can make a real difference to so many.
Here at WUKA we believe that nothing should hold you back in life, not your period and not society’s attitudes towards your body either. WUKA Flex period pants are designed for every body, ready to absorb your flow and keep you fresh, dry and comfortable. And if cared for properly, they’ll last for up to two years so you’ll always have a safe, hygienic and sustainable option to manage your period, no matter what your cycle throws at you.
What can I wear instead of a pad?
Reusable period underwear is a fantastic option for all- a complete replacement for pads and tampons. Wear them like normal pants, bled into them, then wash and reuse. If cared for properly they will last for up to two years, making them a truly sustainable option.
Do special needs people have periods?
Yes- disabled people and those with special needs have periods too. Reusable period pants are an inclusive solution for managing your period safely and hygienically.
How Many Sizes Does The WUKA Flex Collection Come In?
WUKA Flex Collection are the world’s first multi-size period pants. Easy-to-use sliders on either side of the pair allows 1 pair to adjust to 4 sizes, fitting XS-L and XL-4XL.
What Is The WUKA Flex Collection Made From?
WUKA Flex Detachable Bikini period pants are made from super-soft BCI cotton, while WUKA Flex Logo Bikini are made from premium organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, an eco-friendly fabric that’s kind to the planet.
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