Dating with a disability

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Dating is hard. I’ve done a lot of dating and I can vouch for the fact that even when things feel at their most straightforward, it’s still a complex and difficult world to navigate.

Imagine then adding an extra layer, imagine dating with a disability and how that might impact your search for love. Would you feel judged? Would you feel vulnerable? Would it be as easy for you to meet and connect with someone as if you didn’t have a disability?

My daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome this year, aged 18. She finds social interactions extremely difficult and even friendships are very hard for her to navigate. She’s never been in a relationship and as things stand it’s hard to imagine how that would even come about. She’s very socially isolated, doesn’t work or attend college, and so even having the opportunity to meet new people is difficult.

One of the things she finds particularly hard is reading other people’s signs and signals, and understanding subtext. Dating though is all about subtext. I can only imagine how challenging relationships will be for her unless she can find someone who works on the same wavelength as hers and who values that level of directness as much as she does.

It makes me wonder what the future holds for her. I worry that regular dating apps could leave her vulnerable, exposed to being taken advantage of. She’s incredibly trusting and honest and those qualities aren’t always held by everyone else online. Perhaps a disability dating app might be one option for her, somewhere that feels a little bit more of a safe space for her?

For Belle, dating is going to provide plenty of challenges and there are all kinds of disabilities that can impact on that elusive search for your one true love. Imagine being blind for instance, and the issues with accessibility that this would raise on dating apps. Or how about being deaf? Single disabled deaf dating would present another layer of communications difficulties.

The sad truth is that most online dating apps just aren’t set up for people with disabilities. So much of the ethos of online dating for example is based on looks and making snap decisions based on just a small selection of profile pictures. I don’t think accessibility is high on the agenda when it comes to most mainstream dating apps, and that just makes things even more complex for anyone with a disability who is looking for a partner.

Despite the challenges though, I’m optimistic for Belle as she grows and develops. I’m an optimistic person, I just can’t help it. Life may feel difficult for her right now, and socialising options may be limited, but I am confident that her future can look rosier and that she will learn to manage her disability as she gets older. And it only takes one chance encounter after all doesn’t it?

Who knows, true love for her could be just around the corner.


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