Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the perfect day to remember that all human beings desire love and intimacy. Sadly, common misconceptions, stereotypes and ignorance can make dating more challenging for individuals with disabilities.
According to Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, a dating expert and disability activist specializing in dating for people with disabilities, “The biggest stigmas are that we’re still seen as asexual and not beautiful. Our bodies are different than what people see on a daily basis, [so] it’s unknown territory for them. In the media, we’re never portrayed as sexual people. We’re never associated with anything sexual or glamorous or beautiful. Therefore, people don’t in general make that association.”
Stigmas about disabled people are reinforced by the fact that there is so little awareness and exposure to the experiences of disabled people. This is the case despite the fact that approximately 25% of Americans have some sort of disability.
Since non-disabled people have so little knowledge about what it’s like to live with a disability, they may shy away from pursuing a disabled partner, says Sheypuk.
Like so many singles in today’s world, singles with disabilities frequently utilize dating apps to find love. But unlike their non-disabled counterparts, dating app users with disabilities face additional challenges. First and foremost, many struggle with the decision about whether to disclose their disability in their dating profiles. Some disabled dating app users report that disclosing their disability up front means that fewer prospective matches show interest. But not disclosing disability up front may result in rejection later on, which can be even more disappointing.
So, what’s the best course of action?
In a Q&A on vantagemobility.com, Sheypuk says it’s best to make your disability known right from the start.
“I think [disclosure of your disability] needs to be written on your profile and there needs to be pictures that show you have a disability,” says Sheypuk, whose personal story can be found at https://wheelinsexyinthecity.wordpress.com/.
“It avoids a lot of rejection and a lot of heartache, I feel. The opposite side of the argument is: Don’t put it there and let them get to know you. They’ll see you for who you are. [Then], you’ll reveal you have a disability, and they won’t care. That is most likely not going to happen. Yes, they might get to know you and really have feelings for you, but when you reveal you have a disability, they could feel lied to. It’s just like people being dishonest with their age, weight or marital status. It’s just good to put who you are right up front.”
While there’s no reason why disabled people should limit themselves to dating others with disabilities, dating sites geared to disabled singles eliminate the disclosure dilemma and may reduce some of the stress associated with online dating.
Here are some of the most reputable ones.
1. Whispers for You is one of the longest running dating sites for disabled singles. In 2016, the site was nominated for best niche dating site in the industry’s iDate awards ceremony. According to its website, Whispers for You enrolls hundreds of new members every week. Typical site users are people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, amputations and those with intellectual disabilities. The site is open to individuals of all abilities.
2. Founded by sisters Alexa and Jacqueline Child, Dateability is a brand-new dating app for people with disabilities. The sisters founded the platform after becoming frustrated with traditional dating apps. As Jacqueline told Channel 7 in Denver, “I had a lot of ableist experiences with people telling me that I shouldn’t have children in case my conditions were hereditary and people’s families not accepting me because of my health conditions,” said Jacqueline Child. Adds Alexa, “Dating apps have been around for over a decade now, and they’ve had their time. They’ve had the opportunity to be more inclusive of the disability and chronically ill communities, and they haven’t.”
3. Dating4Disabled.com has been around since 2005. The site bills itself as an “online community where people with disabilities can meet, connect and date other people with disabilities.” The site includes blogs, chats and forums, and it’s free to register.
4. My Special Match.com was started by the parents of a young woman with a brain injury that resulted in physical and intellectual disabilities. After she graduated from high school, Amanda had difficulty meeting friends and potential partners. Her parents founded the dating site to help their daughter and others in similar situations find a safe and comfortable place to meet each other.
5. Special Bridge.com is a family owned and operated community for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. Whether you’re seeking friendships or romance, Special Bridge provides opportunities for forming relationships at your own pace. As its website explains, “meeting new people face-to-face can be intimidating for some people, [so] Special Bridge allows for online connections that can be made through the site’s messaging system.” The messaging system makes it simpler for individuals who have trouble expressing themselves verbally to communicate with others. “The beauty of Special Bridge is that technology helps to even the playing field, allowing users to feel less self-conscious about their ability levels.”
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!