One of the most common questions I get asked after a decade at the helm of disablitymatch is whether the site is just for ‘people in wheelchairs’? It’s really quite an understandable question really, being in a wheelchair is an obvious disability that we all recognise. Everything in our society re-enforces this mindset from road traffic sign icons to parking space illustrations; being disabled equals being in a wheelchair. But that viewpoint dismisses a huge number of disabled men and women who do not use wheelchairs. Yes, I am referring to what are known as ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible disabilities’.
Members on our site are disabled in many ways, many do of course, have mobility problems from crippling illnesses like MS or SMA but thousands suffer from being on the autistic spectrum or subject to devastating episodes of bipolar syndrome. Certainly they can use trains and buses more easily than people who are mobility impaired but they can have just as much trouble in finding love and friendship online.
Large dating organisations such as Match or OK Cupid can be very daunting for someone suffering from social anxiety or just a learning difficulty. How do you explain that there might be periods when you are unable to function socially or might be subject to mood swings? Finding a sympathetic voice on Match or OK Cupid might be difficult but once you are into dating apps like Tinder where everyone is selling a ‘perfect’ version of themselves – all ‘Instagram glossy’ your chronic migraine might start throwing up problems. Indeed, trying to date on mainstream sites might make your migraine or asthma far worse than it already is.
So, what is the solution? Well, I think the most effective way to search for love online if you have a ‘hidden’ disability is through a specialist disability dating site like disabilitymatch where you can talk honestly and openly about the physical issues that challenge you. Maybe you have chronic pain or epilepsy, or perhaps you are a veteran with PSTD. These are physical conditions that are perfectly dealt with on a specialist disability site so that you don’t need to feel shy or reticent when approaching a potential new partner.
We are living in an age of inclusion and understanding for people with disabilities and reality TV shows like ‘The Undateables’ have made the public more aware about the conditions many of us face in our lives and that often these are the challenges that make us the people we are. So instead of feeling hesitant about using a disabled dating site when you have a hidden disability you should take the plunge safe in the knowledge that you will find a community that will accept and cherish you for who you are and never be judgmental when your physical condition causes an unforseen change of schedule or an unexpected change of mood.
David Miller FRSA