Dating can be a nerve-wracking and stressful experience no matter who you are. For people with disabilities or chronic illnesses it can be doubly hard. However new horizons are opening up for disabled people in search of love.
The Difficulty with Dating
Many of us are familiar with the run-of-the-mill worries and uncertainties that accompany dating in the digital age.
‘Do they really look like their profile photos?’
‘Will we get along in person like we do online?’
‘Are they a serial killer?’
Ok, so the last thought might be on the extreme side, but you get the point.
The whole rigmarole is already an ordeal for a lot us, but for people with disabilities dating can be a frustrating story of heartache and rejection based on things they do not have any control over.
In many ways speed and convenience have become the biggest factors for a lot of us when it comes to deciding who we date.
For example, dating apps like Tinder have conditioned us to judge people based on a handful of photos and a few lines of text. We accept or reject potential partners with a simple swipe left or right. It is unquestionably superficial.
In that vein, consider how hard it might be for someone in a wheelchair or an amputee who gets judged based purely on their condition. Likewise, for a person who suffers from a disease which affects their appearance like vitiligo.
Even if you have a condition that cannot be seen by the naked eye, like borderline personality disorder or epilepsy for example, you bear the weight and worry of how and when to broach the subject with a date.
Disabilities add another layer of difficulty to what can already be an emotionally taxing endeavour.
In the face of this a new market has opened up. One which is creating an inclusive online dating space for people with disabilities.
In India people with disabilities face stigma and discrimination often in excess of that experienced in other countries.
Inspired by a 2011 census that reported 40% of Indians with disabilities never marry, college friends Kalyani Khona and Shankar Srinivasan launched Inclov in 2016 – the world’s first dating app for people with disabilities.
Inclov organises events they call ‘social spaces’ which encourage people with disabilities to get together, socialise and have fun without fear of social stigma.
The app has definitely struck a chord in the subcontinent – more than 50 such events have been held so far in cities all over India.
‘Many Indians with disabilities have restricted social lives from the time they are kids. It’s not that they don’t want to go out and do things, it’s just that even something as simple as getting a cup of coffee is hard for them,’ Shankar told the BBC.
Other parts of the world are following suit.
Glimmer is a dating app that anyone can use – 35% of Glimmer users do not have a disability – but crucially there is an option to disclose your disability on your profile.
The creator, Geoffrey Anderson, observed the difficulty his brother had using mainstream dating apps while suffering from cognitive disabilities and was inspired to provide an alternative.
Anderson said, ‘If there are dating apps that make it easier for two people of the same faith to meet each other, I started wondering why there wasn’t something out there to help people with disabilities do the same thing.’
Steps in the Right Direction
While there are plenty of dating websites specifically just for people with disabilities, Inclov and Glimmer stand out because there is no segregation.
Their platforms are designed to accommodate people with disabilities but are open to everyone.
By making spaces that are inclusive we can begin to remove the stigma and discrimination unfairly inflicted upon people with disabilities which has gone on for far too long.
Of course, in an ideal world we would already have reached a point where this is no longer an issue. But it is heartening to see that progress, although slow, is still surely being made.