‘One guy said I was a drain on society’: the challenges of online dating for disabled people
14 February 2018
Dating sites and apps play a huge role in how people meet their significant others, and a massive percentage of couples celebrating Valentine’s Day this year will have met online.
However, online dating poses its own unique problems for disabled people.
We recently asked our supporters about their own experiences of online dating, and were told of the numerous challenges they faced.
The first hurdle for many disabled people is the accessibility of dating websites and apps. 27% of respondents rated the accessibility of many online services as Poor or Very Poor.
Steve Tyler, Leonard Cheshire Disability’s director of assistive technology, looked at the UK’s most popular dating apps and discovered that many weren’t up to scratch.
Numerous apps relied on Facebook connectivity which has significant accessibility issues.
60% of survey respondents said they received negative reactions based on their disability. These reactions range from lack of understanding to abusive behaviour.
Many people told us that as soon as they told someone they were disabled, they were ignored.
One man said:
‘I found people would like me if my first photo was without me in my wheelchair.
‘But as soon as they read my profile more, or noticed my wheelchair, they would stop talking to me.
‘Some even went as far as telling me that I shouldn't be looking.’
54% of respondents said they stated their disability on their profile, but still experienced people who stopped messaging after they found out they were disabled.
A woman in her 20s told us:
‘People didn't tend to read your profile so when you told them that you are visually impaired they stopped talking to you after a short while.’
Because of responses like these, over a third chose not to state their disability on their profile.
One 27-year-old man told us:
‘One night I took all mention of my disability off my profile and cropped my photos to hide my wheelchair as I hadn't had any matches for months. I went to bed and woke up to multiple matches the next day.’
Some people experienced hostile attitudes towards their disability and received abusive messages online.
One woman told us:
‘I had one guy say I was a drain on society. Another said he'd be embarrassed to walk down the street with me because all his friends would laugh.
‘Another one said he'd rather kill himself than be in a wheelchair like me.’
Lack of understanding
Other respondents felt that people didn’t understand how to act towards someone with a disability.
One man in his 30s said:
‘Many people don't understand how to act with someone on the autistic spectrum. I can't always work out what someone is saying in reality and this has led to some difficult situations.’
Whether it stems from hostility or a lack of understanding, no one should be discriminated against because of their disability.
This Valentine’s Day, we urge everyone using online dating services to treat those they meet with the respect they deserve.