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  • Writer's pictureGrace Robinson

Dating While Disabled

Dating in general is hard, but it is especially difficult for those with disabilities. When you are disabled and disclose your disability, it is often too much for people to handle. Although many disabled people do have luck when it comes to dating completely able-bodied people, many resort to dating platforms specifically geared towards the disabled community. I’ve had a few friends try these disabled dating websites, and from what I gathered, it was a disaster.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a horror story about a disability dating platform and I am curious if things have changed. In the past, these websites have been notoriously overrun by people with various disability fetishes and I am wondering if the people running the sites have done something about it. Quarantine has made me a little stir crazy so I decided it was the perfect time for a little experiment! I signed up for five different online dating websites specifically for the disabled community. I would like to make it clear that I did not catfish anyone, although I did end up catching a few predators.

I spent some time researching the best online dating platforms specifically for people with disabilities that offer a free version because I wasn’t about to pay money to be harassed by creepy men. I picked websites that looked most promising for people who are actually disabled and serious about dating. I also tried to avoid websites that don’t filter out false profiles or fail to monitor and remove inappropriate content. When I finally decided which online dating platforms to use, I started creating my profiles.

I decided to make the profiles as consistent as possible across all 5 dating platforms. I would like to note that I did answer the 50+ questions on each website about my interests such as my favorite hobbies, books, movies, musicians, etc. I did this so they would have a good understanding of the type of person I am, in hope that a few winners might pull through.

Shortly after I had finished setting up my profiles, I started to receive dozens of messages from disabled men (and only a few able-bodied men) between the ages of 40-84. Let me remind you, I am 25 years old! And to make things worse, quite a large portion of the messages were inappropriate.

The following day, I was really confused because I kept matching with old men, even though I specifically chose to only be matched with men between 22 and 30 years old. I checked my preferences on every platform and saw they were correct so I was baffled. I ended up doing a bit of investigating, and it turns out, these men who are obviously 50+ years old lied about their age on their profiles, claiming to be in their 20’s, all so they would match with younger women. How creepy is that! Some of these men are old enough to be my grandfather!

Personally speaking, the biggest issues I have encountered are that there aren’t many young people utilizing these dating platforms and that peoples’ true ages aren’t being verified. People do not want to be hit on and harassed by men twice their age or older and I’m sure it is a big deterrent when it comes to young people using these dating platforms. A little over 60% of all the messages I received across all 5 online dating platforms I tried were from men 55+ years old. It honestly felt degrading.

I kept the dating profiles open for a week while I played around with the features and tried to have some conversation with the various age appropriate men who messaged me. Although there are a few cool young people using these platforms, it was an overall disappointing experience and not an option I would ever seriously consider for dating.

After everything that happened with the disability dating platforms, I decided to try to get an accurate depiction of what dating is like for wheelchair users on mainstream platforms. I decided to create Hinge and Tinder accounts and match with every man within a certain criterion. I quickly realized that I did not want to match with any med students/doctors either because I want to assume that none of them would disappoint in this situation and really don’t want to find out if that is actually the case.

I was very surprised by how many different ways the wheelchair conversation would go, but even more so pleasantly surprised by the number of men who handled the wheelchair conversation really well. Although, many men did disappoint by doing the exact opposite of what they should have. I kid you not, some men had the audacity to start the conversation with “I’ve never been with anyone in a wheelchair before!” In case you didn’t already know, that is an extremely fu****-up way to start a conversation with a wheelchair user!

Some men went for it and asked me about my wheelchair right away while others waited until a few messages in. I often found that it was brought up after the whole “what are your interests” spiel. Surprisingly, there were a lot of men who never even asked me about my wheelchair.

Some men asked me how I ended up in a wheelchair while others only asked me whether I was paralyzed or could move. There were some only asked about how my wheelchair pertains to my sex life. Again, that is not an appropriate question to ask anyone, let alone someone who is essentially a stranger! Some conversations naturally fizzled out while I had to end others because it was time to cut them off. Overall, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well many men on Hinge and Tinder handled the wheelchair conversation. The results were honestly much better than I expected. Even more so, I was relieved that very few men on mainstream dating platforms singled me out specifically because of my wheelchair.

My experiences with these two different categories of dating platforms, mainstream dating apps and dating websites for people with disabilities are night and day. I honestly feel like I didn’t encounter many men with a wheelchair fetish on the mainstream dating apps because these men are specifically utilizing the platforms geared towards the disabled community. It makes sense, if they are looking for someone with a disability, you go where the people with disabilities go. And although this is happening, it isn’t okay and I really hope that this issue is resolved in the future. It’s hard enough dating while disabled, so when dating platforms for people with disabilities are created, they shouldn’t be more degrading than mainstream dating platforms. We need the problems we encounter while dating resolved, not amplified.

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