Disabled dating: How to get started

Unfortunately, our world is not entirely accessible - and that applies to dating. We understand that dating can be especially challenging for disabled people. To help, read our getting started guide to dating when you have a disability. With any luck, you’ll be out there meeting new people in no time.

A young woman is sitting down. She is thinking about disabled dating.

How self esteem affects dating with a disability

‘Dating and disability’ are two words that are rarely ever seen together: people just assume that just because someone is physically or mentally different, they don’t wanna/can’t fall in love or have sex. But there is such a thing as disabled dating.

Sadly, our idea of the ‘perfect’ partner has been widely influenced by society. This means that we don’t even think about disability when dating. But it really should be a part of the narrative. Penny Pepper, author of Desires, an erotica anthology about disabled people, sex and relationships, says: 

“Disabled people are constantly told they’re inferior, especially by modern media. You know, the machine that values and reinforces artificially created ideas of physical perfection. A system that also pushes the ‘able-bods’ to feel inferior if they’re with anyone less-than-perfect! All this eats into our self-esteem. Yet, somehow, we have to remain confident and believe that every body is beautiful. It’s genuinely such a contradiction.”

Before you start dating, you need to make sure your head’s in the right place. Regardless of disability, starting a relationship when you feel rubbish about yourself isn’t the move. It’ll just leave you with a whole lotta insecurities. Instead focus on yourself for a while and find some support people. Read our article on combating low self esteem here if you want some help.

Building your confidence when dating

If you believe you’re worth nothing, you’ll be perceived that way; that’s just the way it is. On the other hand, if you value yourself and think that what maintains a relationship after initial attraction is a great sense of humour, thoughtfulness or a sense of adventure, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for. 

So don’t define yourself by your disability; it’s only one part of you. It can be all too easy to use your disability as a scape-goat. For example, constantly telling yourself you can’t chat someone up at social events because you’re in a wheelchair. In reality, it may actually be because you, like many people, feel shy and need some tips on how to boost your pulling confidence.

Try to be upfront about your disability

There’s also the issue of how you feel about sex and physical intimacy in general. If you’ve been rejected before, understandably, your confidence might be knocked. You might even be afraid of making sexual approaches again in case you end up facing more rejection

Tom Coogan, who has a curved spine, says: “I have lots of great female friends. But I’m very aware that to many of them I’m almost like a gay male friend. Basically, completely off the sexual radar. For that reason, whenever I meet new people I try to be upfront. Not only about who I am, but what I want from a relationship.”

If you’re confident, you’ll attract people. In fact, according to research, people will generally find you more interesting. So smile, listen more than you talk, prompt other people to talk about themselves, and make an effort with your appearance. It may not seem like it but even something as simple as wearing sexy underwear can give you a massive confidence boost. If you need a hand, we’ve got an article that might help!

As Penny says: “Don’t let people’s prejudices stop you from trying and, if you fail, getting back up again. Countless numbers of disabled people have successful friendships and relationships, from one night stands to long-term bliss. You’re no different than anyone else in this aspect of life.”

If you’re lacking in sexual confidence, our article on disability and sexual confidence might be worth a read. Otherwise, go forth and use dating services such as friendship i.e. get your friend to hook you up with someone, dating agencies and dating sites for adults with physical or learning disabilities in the UK and meet your match.

Finding venues with good access for disabled people

Taking the first step to leave the house and meet new people isn’t always easy. A lot of people, disabled or otherwise, complain about never meeting someone. Thing is, their average week consists of watching TV, playing computer games, and going to the pub once a week. 

Essentially, the more you get out, the more people you’ll meet and the more likely you’ll be to meet someone for you. Worried about finding accessible venues while trying to find love? Just google it. You’ll find that there are tons of websites like AccessAble, which offer a searchable database of accessible places that are ideal for people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Then, all that’s left to do is go to one of them.

Disabled dating online

If meeting people face to face sounds too much right now, that’s okay. You could always try internet dating. There are loads of different sites out there. Including dating sites for adults with learning disabilities in the UK such as Luv2meetU, should you feel more comfortable with the idea of dating disabled singles who’ll understand what you’re going through.

Online dating websites allow you time to get to know people by messaging them before you meet. Just a word of advice though – don’t hide your disability online. “No matter how nice someone is, they’ll probably be shocked if you don’t tell them you have a disability.,” says Tom.

Besides, you should respect them (and yourself) enough to be straight up about it. Give them time to get used to the idea. Don’t be too ‘medical’ or dramatic about it. But at the same time, don’t be vague – that can seem evasive and could let their imagination run wild. For instance, I’d say that I have a visibly curved spine which makes me short (5’2″). There, that wasn’t so hard! And disabled dating won’t be either, I promise.”

Next Steps

  • Stars in the sky is a friendship and dating site for people with learning difficulties living in London.
  • Outsiders run the sex and disability helpline 07770 884 985
  • Youreable is an online community forum for disabled people.
  • 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 02-Jul-2022