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Relationships, Staying Safe Online

Dating apps with a disability: Emily’s Story

Thanks to Emily Yates of Enhance The UK for sharing her experience of online dating with a disability. Emily manages the charity’s Undressing Disability campaign. It’s aims are to remove the taboo around sex and disability and raise standards in sexual health, and sexual awareness for disabled people. Free information and educational resources are available on their website.    

If you’ve ever completed a CV, you’ll know it’s tricky to write about how wonderful you are. It’s the same with online dating, but the fear of rejection is worse, especially when you’re getting over a break-up.  

My friends, both online dating veterans and virgins to the scene, helped me out.  I didn’t have to worry about disclosing my disability as, let’s face it, my wheelchair and I wouldn’t get far without one another, but several of my loved ones have less visible impairments, and never quite know when to present that to potential partners.  We encouraged each other to be confident and honest, as that really is the best way to go.

I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m perfectly fine with that because frankly, they’re not mine.

The second hurdle with online dating really starts when the matches are made and the notifications start coming in. 

One bloke wanted to know if I was physically able to have sex, not quite the introduction I was looking for. (My response to things like that are always ‘I can, but I won’t be having it with you!’)

I enjoyed several dates, and I met a few guys that said and did all the right things, but time passed by and things fizzled out. As they so often do when you’ve got a myriad of other matches waiting for you in a app. To quote Bruce Springsteen, you need a spark to start a fire.

And then I met CJ.

I’d love to tell you there was a magic formula.  There wasn’t. We matched on Tinder, he seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me, and we met up the next day.  I’d just presented a documentary for BBC Three, and he keenly watched it before meeting me in person.  Brownie points from the get-go!

On our third date, I picked him up in my car to go out for a day. He moved my wheelchair out of the passenger seat and into the boot with quiet confidence, before getting in. We went on a road trip tour of his childhood – where he grew up, went to school, his first jobs and his favourite haunts like Loch Lomond with its stunning views.

It was just so thoughtful, different and cool for a girl that hadn’t seen much of Scotland, and such a refreshing change to another coffee or meal.  By the time I’d arrived home, CJ had already texted to say what a great time he’d had and asked when I was next free.  Within six weeks there were city breaks and friends’ parties. Nine months later CJ moved in with me. 

He’s lazy, untidy and leaves the toilet seat up, but he’s the kindest, most supportive man I’ve ever met. He’s the BEST cuddler I know, has me in stitches every day and has taught me that kindness is vastly underrated. We got engaged last year and I know he’ll make a great dad one day…

Online dating with a disability isn’t easy. There’re worries about disclosure, awkward questions that need to be answered, and the likelihood of getting ghosted a little more often than you’d like.

But if you are meeting people in public places and staying safe then I’d say it’s worth a go.

Nothing is worse than not trying, and always wondering ‘what if’. Go for it, and you might be pleasantly surprised.


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