[Dec. 23, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]
Living with a disability can be a daily battle, one that often goes unnoticed by those who don't experience it firsthand. (CREDIT: Dateability)
Living with a disability can be a daily battle, one that often goes unnoticed by those who don't experience it firsthand. For Sarah, who has been dealing with chronic illness since the age of 14, the journey has been particularly challenging.
At 29, she has undergone more than 40 surgeries to manage over six medical conditions, including lupus and dysautonomia. Her life is marked by chronic pain and the use of a feeding tube, but her disability remains largely invisible to the outside world.
Sarah's story is a testament to her resilience and determination in the face of adversity. "It was a big adjustment going from being healthy to chronically ill," she reflects. "But over time, as I learned to focus on the other things in my life and manage my symptoms very well, it got easier. One thing that remained a challenge, though, was dating with a disability."
Sarah's experience sheds light on a broader issue – the need for society to engage in conversations about the disabled experience, especially when it comes to dating and romance. People with disabilities, like Sarah, desire the same opportunities for companionship and intimacy as anyone else. It is imperative that they have access to these needs without encountering discrimination or rejection.
The Invisible Struggles of Dating with a Disability
Sarah's journey into the world of dating was marked by five years of disappointment and discrimination. She encountered rejection and discrimination because of her disability, and the fact that her disability was invisible only complicated matters. Sarah found it difficult to decide when and how to disclose her condition to potential partners.
She candidly shares her dating experiences, stating, "Telling a non-disabled person I was dating about my disability was the worst because they often got freaked out and ran away. There were so many times when I would just bite my tongue and make up this whole other scenario in the conversation just so that I could avoid telling them I was disabled."
The pressure to hide her disability stemmed from embarrassment, but sometimes concealing it was simply impossible. Sarah recalls an incident where she suggested a picnic instead of a walk for a first date due to her recent surgery.
When asked about her injury, she revealed her connective tissue disorder. Shockingly, her date responded by suggesting it would be selfish for her to have biological children without knowing if her illness was genetic. Such comments were all too common in her dating experiences.
When faced with such hurtful encounters, Sarah often deleted dating apps for months at a time. She desperately searched for a dating app tailored to those with disabilities or chronic illnesses, but the results were disheartening – filled with bots, spammers, or individuals who fetishized disability. Frustration mounted as she questioned why there wasn't an app designed for people like herself.
Dateability iPad app. (CREDIT: Dateability)
For Sarah, a turning point came through therapy. She confronted her own biases and realized that her reluctance to date someone with a chronic illness had its roots in internalized ableism. As she worked through her feelings, she came to appreciate the importance of shared experiences and shared life values in a potential partner. She became more open to the idea of dating someone with a chronic illness who could understand her journey intimately.
Sarah is currently not dating, but she remains hopeful, believing that she will eventually find her person – someone who can accept and appreciate her for who she is, disability and all.
Dateability iPhone app. (CREDIT: Dateability)
In 2021, Sarah faced a pivotal moment in her life when she underwent a procedure that involved the insertion of a feeding tube into her abdomen, rendering her unable to eat orally. Fearing that her condition might further hinder her social life, she confided in her older sister, Alexa, about her desire to meet people who shared similar experiences.
Though not disabled herself, Alexa had witnessed firsthand the discrimination that her family, including Sarah and their father, who is also disabled, had faced in the dating world. Motivated by a desire to make a difference, they made a life-changing decision – to create a platform where people with disabilities and chronic illnesses could connect and find love.
Dateability was founded by sisters, Alexa and Jacqueline Child. Jacqueline, who is disabled due to chronic illness, experienced discrimination and offensive comments on the mainstream dating apps due to her disability. (CREDIT: Dateability)
Their vision became a reality in the form of Dateability, the first free dating app exclusively designed for the disabled and chronically ill community. Launched on October 1, 2022, the app has already garnered nearly 11,000 users.
Dateability: A Safe and Inclusive Space
One of the app's standout features is "Dateability Deets," a section that allows users to select from a list of broad terms like "immunocompromised" and "wheelchair user" to indicate their disability or chronic condition. This feature normalizes and simplifies the process of disclosing one's disability, alleviating the pressure that users often feel when deciding whether and when to share this aspect of their lives.
Users have expressed their appreciation for Dateability's role in fostering a safe and inclusive platform where people with shared perspectives can connect. Some success stories highlight the profound impact the app has had on individuals seeking companionship. For instance, one couple who met on Dateability a year ago, despite living 900 miles apart, is now planning to move in together after the holidays. Another user recounted a first date facilitated by the app, noting that his typical anxiety about his disability was notably absent during the encounter.
For Sarah, Dateability has transformed her outlook on dating and her sense of purpose. She reflects, "Seeing that there are people out there who I could potentially date is really comforting and something that's new for me. Dateability has made me feel like I have such a purpose, which I had lacked in my life before. It's helped me feel more confident in myself and secure."
As society continues to evolve, it is crucial that conversations surrounding disability, dating, and romance become more open and accepting. Dateability stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and innovation, demonstrating that love knows no boundaries, and that inclusivity is the way forward.
For more science and technology stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.
Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.
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