Dating with a disability comes with its own challenges. Jerusha Mather explains that when it comes to romance, the power to include is in each of our hands.
Finding love is never an easy task for anyone. There are delicate feelings to be carefully handled. There are large emotions of fear and insecurities to be processed and comforted. You need to be ready and open to accepting new perspectives. And for some people with disabilities, this can be challenging as we already may have to deal with misconceptions and bias viewpoints from our day to day life.
I have cerebral palsy which means I speak and move quite differently sometimes. But I am intelligent and emotionally aware of what is going on around me. I am introverted but enjoy deep conversation. I have a good sense of humour and I care and love deeply. I enjoy being out and about, travelling, and trying new activities. People should see that side to me first and foremost. The central focus shouldn’t be on my disability and coloured skin. But rather on the other aspects including the personalities, hobbies, and qualities that I truly hold.
My attempts to find love haven’t swept passed the online platforms, to an actual, meaningful relationship unfortunately. To be honest, I have been quite reluctant and hesitant to put myself out there because I am fearful of the creeps who may leave me hurt and bruised, as has happened in the past. I have had a lot of scenarios where I was the one initiating the conversations and the other person didn’t truly care about me. I mistakenly thought that if I didn’t do this, I’d never find love or meet the right person. But I now know that if someone truly loves you, they’ll make you a priority and show you that they love you and that you can trust them. They’ll know your true worth. And treat you accordingly with respect and dignity. Perhaps I just haven’t met that special someone yet.
If you see someone like me on a dating platform or that’s out there that you genuinely like, don’t hesitate to ask them out. We are just as capable of being an excellent partner and contributing to the relationship as anyone else. As with any person, we come with both strengths and weaknesses. Most of us have the capability of making great parents. Most of us have an enthusiasm for life and have a positive vibe. Most of us are very appealing and attractive to the human eye. Most of us are quite independent. Despite our subtle differences, we are similar in our thoughts and emotions. Why wouldn’t you want to date us?
The power to include is in your hands. The power to create important changes lies in your heart.
If you are considering dating someone with a disability, here are some tips for you:
- Do not ask offensive questions. Just treat us as you would any other person.
- Turn up to the date with intent of getting to know us. Not just our disability. Do not ghost us because of our differences. I have heard of many stories of this happening and it needs to be stopped. It’s just silly.
- The assumption that people with disabilities should only date people with disabilities needs to stop. It is like saying people with dark coloured skin should only date “people who have dark coloured skin”. Disability is just another beautiful part of human diversity and should be accepted as a norm. It shouldn’t be made a big deal or anything.
- Pick an accessible venue. But pick something fun and trendy. Most of us are willing to try new things.
- Be supportive, flexible, and inclusive. Be open to new things and experiences. Come in with a open mind.
- Love us for who we truly are with our differences and unconditionally also. Our differences are the things that make us beautiful.
- Communicate effectively and share whatever you feel. Don’t hesitate to ask us questions if you’re unsure of something. Be open and expressive. Don’t hold back or be fearful. People are generally quite open and friendly.
- Educate yourself and others on accessibility and inclusion in regards to people with disabilities. Be a good ally and supporter. Please be reminded that there are always different ways to do something. Many of us are developing new skills and ways to do something and can do most of things on our own or with some support.
- Don’t date us because you feel sorry for us or because you want to make yourself look good. That’s not a good reason to date someone. Love and the curiosity that comes alongside it should be genuine and positive. It should come from your heart and you should really mean it.
- Don’t use offensive words to describe disability such as suffering, helpless, vulnerability, and struggling.
This advice goes to everyone. Respect the person’s decision if they decline the offer to date you. Don’t become frustrated and angry. Have good boundaries. Know your true worth. Know you are worthy of true love, that will truly demonstrate that to you every day by words and actions.
The responsibility to promote inclusion and awareness also stands with the dating organisations. There also needs to be more support for people with disabilities who would like to find love. If you are a dating organisation, here are some things that your platform can initiate to promote disability awareness and inclusion in your structure. Make this of uttermost priority as it is so important and so many people are ignorant about this:
- Creating regular video content and blog posts on disability inclusion and accessibility in dating. This could include stories and interviews with people with disabilities.
- Holding frequent seminars and workshops on dating and disability in an attempt to reduce bias.
- Increase accessibility features such as speed dating opportunities and zoom dating.
- Provide personal support for people with disabilities who may need extra support in finding love. i.e. Mentoring and specialist coaching staff.
- You can also write to dating agencies such as eHarmony and Bumble asking for more disability awareness raising opportunities to be created.
- If you are from a dating agency, I would love to talk more about how your company can improve in terms of accessibility and inclusion. Please email me.
I hope you can join forces with me to enable a safe and sound experience for all who would like the opportunity to find true love. Together we can change the world of dating and make it more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
You can sign my petition to make dating apps more inclusive of people with disabilities here.