A screenshot of the dating app Tinder on a phone

What it’s like being disabled and dating online

Lizzy is a 21 year-old who volunteers at a Barnardos project in Bristol, helping children and young people who have experience of health services. She’s been disabled since she was 14, and like many people uses online dating apps like Tinder. In this blog Lizzy shares her experience of online dating. 

I used Tinder for a year or so, and didn’t mention in the description, nor showed in the photos, that I had a disability.

It was something I had thought a lot about: do I tell them or not?

So, I didn’t. Not until we were a little way into talking at least. This received mixed reviews. Some people were completely cool with it. Some people responded with ‘oh my friend’s sister has that’, some asked ‘but can you still have sex though?’ (to which I loved to answer with ‘yes thank you, can you?’).

Some didn’t know what my disability was, and asked questions, and some people stopped talking to me. I was cool with all of those responses.

It left me thinking though, how interesting it would be to have two accounts, one not showing the disability at all, and the other being real about it.

Creating two profiles

I wondered how different the responses would be. Whether it was better for them to see me for who I am, and how I like to dress and look, before seeing me with my disability. Or was it better to be completely open and honest about things?

This lead me to create an account on Plenty Of Fish, where I decided that was what I would do – be honest. I still didn’t show my illness in my photos – instead I showed my smile, which represents me far more than my disability.

However in the bio on my profile, I did write that I have a chronic illness, and that I often need a wheelchair to get about.

Breaking the ice

Underneath that, I cracked a joke, about how it’s a win-win situation, because they wouldn’t have to pay for the gym, they could push me around instead, and me being sat down gives them a good view down my top.

I know that wouldn’t be to everyone’s approval, but I like to insert humour into potentially awkward situations – it breaks the ice.

Being honest about it left me feeling much more settled. As the messages started appearing in my inbox, I felt calm knowing that I’d already put it out there. Calm knowing that if they chose to talk to me, they’d chosen to talk to me knowing the situation; they weren’t walking into this with their eyes closed.

I had so many people comment about how they loved my humour and my easy going view towards my disability, and it made them feel much more at ease.

Some asked questions, they were polite, and genuinely interested. Lots of people were totally fine with the fact I need a wheelchair, and didn’t seem phased by it at all. Others weren’t so keen being seen out with me using it.

Then there was the added stress, of going on a date and getting there without having my carer come in with me.

Good and bad dates

My parents were understandably protective of me, because I was their youngest child, and due to my illness hadn’t had the ‘normal’ experiences of someone my age.  But I wasn’t naive. I knew how to meet people in the safest possible way, I needed to learn, to have good dates and bad dates, to enjoy myself and make mistakes, like everyone in their early 20’s.

I wanted to experience life, and though its true I need so much care and support, I also wanted to break away from that a little and find my own path in dating.

In my opinion, it needs to be discussed more. I’ve had so many questions in my head about what I should or shouldn’t do. And when I ask friends, some say they didn’t know much about it, and had never come across disability in dating before.

Too often people assume that disabled people don’t have fulfilling sex lives and relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read Scope’s A-Z of sex and disability to find out more.