As an ‘able-bodied’ person, I’ve had a lot of people presume that dating someone in a wheelchair is dull for me. I’ve often had to set the record straight; I’m not Dan’s carer, neither of us need any pity- we’re having an amazing time, and we have a healthy relationship!
In time for Valentine’s Day, I’ve complied a list of the top 5 things about dating someone with a disability (in my opinion!). I could go on forever, listing things that are amazing about being with Dan; but I’ve tried to make this more specific to the effects that disability has on dating.
When someone has a disability, they usually need to be really open and honest from the start. They need you to understand their disability. They need you to know what they can do, and when they might need your help. Once that discussion is out of the way, you can get on with dating and having fun. This level of quite personal conversation when you meet someone, sets a solid foundation for open communication. Dan had a method of filtering out the ‘time-wasters’ when he was online dating; his photos showed his wheelchair, and he was upfront about his disability. Although he didn’t find it easy initially, he realised that if his disability bothered someone, then he wouldn’t want to date them anyway.
Needing to have awkward conversations, and being candid with each other straight away, sets a precedent for being completely open and honest. All healthy relationships need trust, and ours certainly has it because of this. We both know that we can handle the difficult parts (and that we want to), and that’s given our relationship loads of strength.
It’s often thought that people with disabilities lead pretty sheltered lives. Many people presume that having a disability means that someone is unable to be adventurous, active, and have an exciting, busy life. Dan is the perfect example of how that is usually NOT the case. When Dan had his diagnosis, coming to terms with a life-changing, degenerative condition obviously impacted his mental health. He understandably became anxious and suffered with depression. However, with the help of some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and a bit of time to adjust, Dan soon began to feel more positive.
Now, Dan’s accepted his situation as much as possible. Finding out you have a condition like Friedreich’s Ataxia, certainly puts things into perspective, and makes you realise what’s important to you. This has given Dan a real zest for life and positive outlook. He wants to do all of the things he enjoys, and have loads of wonderful experiences, whilst he still can. Despite his disability, he’s determined to have a fulfilling life. Dating someone with that attitude is so much fun. We don’t put things off, we take risks, we explore and try new things. Our lives together are exciting, adventurous and we’re always making fantastic memories DESPITE FA. For every bit of negativity that FA and disability throws at us, we try to outshine with positivity!
Three: Meeting new people.
Dating someone who has a disability often opens up a whole new social world. I can only speak for myself and my own experiences with Dan, but I get the impression this point is the same for a lot of people who have a disability. Not only does Dan have great support network of friends and family, but he’s also met a lot of wonderful people purely because of his disability. From working with charities and support networks, to having a go at sports such as wheelchair rugby, there’s loads of opportunities for meeting new people.
But it’s more so about quality than quantity. Unfortunately there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding disability. There’s also some unpleasant people about. However, disability certainly filters out the sort of people who are perhaps narrow-minded shallow, and who you might not want to spend time with anyway. So when dating someone who has a disability, I personally think you’re more likely to be spending time with genuine people. Let’s face it, if someone can’t see past a physical condition or avoids people who have disabilities, you probably don’t want to be around them anyway. This is the reason that Dan was upfront about his FA on dating apps- he only wanted to talk to those who knew about his wheelchair from the beginning, and who were ok with it.
Four: Learning about yourself.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back in order to change our perspective and learn about ourselves. Most of us hit a crossroads at some point in our lives; we’re not sure what we want, or what our direction is. An unexpected effect that dating Dan has had, is that I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and gained some clarity on my own life. As I got to know Dan, and found out more about his condition, I acknowledged that so many of us take a huge amount for granted. I also recognised that my own attitude and psychological barriers are often the things that are holding me back- not my actual ability.
As I realised that I was falling in love with Dan, the reality of his condition began to hit me. It had a strange effect- I started thinking about life differently, with a new perspective. For me, it reiterated what I want and what my priorities are. Since then, I’ve reflected a lot on how I live my life and my attitude towards things. I’ve also thought a lot about the things I want to do and places I want to go. Dan definitely brings out the best in me; together, we’re strong and always learning about each other and ourselves.
Five: The freebies and conveniences!
The bargain-hunter in me loves this aspect! This perk is great for both the person who has a disability, and their date! So many places and attractions offer a concession, allowing one free admission with each ticket that is for someone with a disability. This aims to increase accessibility for people with disabilities, enabling their carer/ companion free entry along with them. So, whether it’s gigs, the cinema, days out or other attractions, I’m a cheap date as Dan’s +1! When we find somewhere accessible, it means that it doesn’t cost as much between us, which means we can try more and explore more.
Oh, and obviously I couldn’t forget to mention the parking spaces- this benefit is self-explanatory…!
The bottom line…
So, don’t pass on the opportunity to meet someone just because they have a disability. Dan is funny, kind, intelligent, interesting, attractive, ambitious… (I told you I could go on…). He is so much more than I could’ve hoped for, regardless of FA.
And to the women in the past, who couldn’t see beyond Dan’s wheelchair- THANK YOU for leaving an incredible man free and single; it’s allowed me to fall completely and utterly in love.