Dating someone with a physical disability: Practicalities

Although it would be great to say that disability won’t affect your relationship, there are often practical issues to consider when dating someone with a physical disability. Thankfully pretty much all obstacles can be overcome with a little bit of forethought. The Mix explains.

A group of young people are walking. They are discussing the practicalities of dating someone with a disability.

What things do you need to think about if one of you is physically disabled?

Depending on your or your partner’s disability, which can range from conditions like cerebral palsy to chronic illness, you’ll have to be practical about where you go and what you do on dates. “Access isn’t just about getting into buildings. Sensory disabilities require a lot of different things,” says Penny Pepper, author of Desires, an erotica anthology about disabled people, sex and relationships.

For example, a deaf person may want good lighting to be able to lip-read and a vision-impaired person may need facilities for their guide dog. Some people may even need to know there is a quiet area at the venue where you can hang out.” 

You’ll have to think about your home too: “‘Come back to my place’ may not get the response you want it to if your partner is worrying about whether they’re going to trip over the furniture or if they’ll be able to use your loo.”

Communication can solve most issues

It’s not just physical disabilities that can have an effect on dating and socialising, whether you’re disabled physically or mentally – your life is impacted. Someone with Aspergers Syndrome may find it hard to read subtle messages and feel lost in social situations. 

The answer is communication; tell your partner about anything that may affect the relationship and how you’d like to deal with it. Don’t go into it at length on a first date – that’s a time for getting to know each other. It’ll come across a bit strong if you start explaining how to make their house more accessible for you over dinner. But don’t be afraid to get into detail about what your partner should expect as your relationship progresses and how they can help you.

Dating a disabled person with a personal assistant

Some people with disabilities might need a personal assistant (PA) to help them. Penny says: “Make sure your relationship with your PA is respectful and honest. And determine your mutual boundaries. A good PA can be a godsend. Plus, if you want them to, they’ll blend into the background when necessary.”

If their parents are being over-protective, you may need to help them have a conversation about how it’s making them feel. Encourage them to let their parents know that they’re old enough to make your own decisions. 

Ignore any stigma about dating someone with a physical disability

As the partner of a disabled person, if you face any stigma for dating someone with a physical or invisible disability, try to tune it out. Remind yourself that you’re the one that picks your partners, not your friends and family. If they’re too narrow-minded to see past a disability, that’s their problem – not yours. Having said that, you should make an effort to not make your partner’s disability a big deal. Focus on their personality and their hobbies when describing them. Hopefully, a lot of people will start to see them for the amazing person they are, rather than just one aspect of their being.

Advice and support for dating someone with a disability

There are loads of organisations that can offer advice and support. One of them is Outsiders which has been helping people with physical and social disabilities make friends and find partners for over 25 years. 

“Anyone over 16 can join,” says Tuppy. “We don’t turn anybody away because of physical or social disability. Members who expect to find someone straight away might be disappointed. But many have been delighted by their new-found friends and overjoyed when they find themselves falling in love.”

The big thing to remember is that if you sit at home feeling isolated, you’ll be isolated. There’s no two ways about it. On the other hand, if you take that first step and put yourself out there on social media, dating apps and in person, you’re more likely to find love.

You can check out our article on dating and disabilities here and find out more about Penny Pepper here.

Next Steps

  • Stars in the sky is a friendship and dating site for people with learning difficulties living in London.
  • Youreable is an online community forum for disabled people.
  • Outsiders run the sex and disability helpline 07770 884 985
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Emily Dubberley

Updated on 23-Jun-2022