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Dating People with Disability – “Why not?” or “Why? Not!”

How hard is it to date a person with/without disability?

How hard is it to date a person with/without disability?

To date people with disability or not – this is not a new topic. When assistive technology and medical treatment continue to evolve and emerge, the way of how the able-bodied see the disabled somehow seems to alter much slower. Doubts and misunderstanding about disabilities still hinder the development of relationships between the able-bodied and the disabled – relationships which can be equally romantic and flourishing.

Three people with disability from UK share their online and face-to-face dating experiences with the British daily newspaper “The Guardian”. Like many other people, they tried their luck to search for a partner through online dating platforms, and many share the same doubts. Some hesitate whether to include a profile picture of which their disability is apparent to others. Some wonder when will be the best time to reveal their disability to their online love interest.

The worst thing is that it rarely turns out good no matter when disability is revealed. Hardly will one earn extra credits for honesty if one confesses the disability at the beginning. Most of the able-bodied lose interest or just like what has been told in the article: they worry that a disabled person cannot have sex.

If one has luck, the online part goes well. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to continue the relationship offline. One lady in the article shared her awful experience that the guy she met online for eight months commented on the severity of her disability during their first (and last) offline dating: “Oh, come on, babe, you said you limped and it was mild, but that’s a lot more than a limp and definitely not mild. There’s no getting away from that!”

Find out other odd moments people with disability have while dating the able-bodied in the article: “Disabled dating on Tinder: People ask if I can have sex”.

Why only focus on the disability and miss all other good qualities a person has?

In fact, it is not surprising that the able-bodied can be disappointing to their dates with disability. According to a research conducted in 2015, only less than 10% of British people who aren’t disabled have ever taken the initiative to date or been on a date with a person with disability. Many are hindered by their lack of knowledge on disability and fear of awkwardness around people with disability.

This is actually understandable. For me, I often learn about disability, especially working at Swiss Paraplegic Research where I meet people in wheelchair every day. Although I don’t have routine personal contact with them, I thought I could perfectly engage with them until recently.

Now, however, I share office with a new colleague in wheelchair. Everything seems fine and I think we get along well with each other. However, I’m surprised how uncertain I still feel with this colleague at times. For example, I thought the other day, “my colleague seems to need help. Should I help? But maybe it just looks difficult but actually no help is needed? Surely the colleague would ask if help is needed?”

The struggle when you want to treat your colleague in wheelchair equally as any other colleague, but you are not sure how and when to act properly! That makes me realize raising the awareness of disability is just a first step. Creating more opportunities for both the able-bodied and the disabled to mingle, to learn to socialize and help each other is the next big step in demand!

What suggestions do you have to better connect people with and without disability? What experiences do you have with dating able-bodied people? We’d love to learn from your perspectives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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