Valentine's Day: It's time to end the awkwardness around dating while disabled

Do think about the venue, but don't worry about the sex...

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The Independent Online

Have you ever experienced an awkward moment around disability? As a wheelchair user I know I have. It could be a moment of hesitation around whether or not to bend down to greet me, or going on a date at a restaurant and finding that there is no suitable access.

I’m not alone. Friends say when they’re out socialising, their disability can often feel like the elephant in the room. 

New research released by disability charity Scope ahead of Valentine’s Day reveals that only 5 per cent of Brits have dated a disabled person – unfortunately this comes as no surprise. To combat this, they have launched a campaign to "End the Awkward", which uses humour to get people talking more about disability. It’s only through talking that we can learn more about each other and end those awkward moments.

My relationships have all been with men who aren’t disabled, and I could write a book on the ‘awkward’ and downright hilarious moments we’ve experienced together. 

I hope this Valentine’s Day can be inclusive for everyone, but just to help, here are some tips on dating someone with a disability.

Do think about the venue you chose for a date

Be it a pub, cinema or cafe, ask your date for recommendations. It isn't just wheelchairs users who have access issues.

Don't think you’re getting the brush-off

Consider your date's impairment before you think that it's all over. Someone who's hard of hearing might not have heard what you said. Other people may get tired more quickly. Like any relationship, communication is key.

Don’t just ignore it

Don’t immediately jump in and starting asking questions about your date’s impairment, but don’t ignore it either. If someone has access needs then obviously talk about it, but do it with tact.

Don’t jump to conclusions

Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do or how their impairment affects them (even in the bedroom). I can assure you that I know many disabled people who have (or claim to have!) very fulfilling sex lives.

Do remember sex can be awkward for anyone and we all make mistakes!

We all worry whether we are getting it right and it can lead to awkward moments in the bedroom. The important thing is that you keep trying. Practice makes perfect.

Don’t rule disabled people out

In the words of gorgeous disabled actor Mat Fraser, “we’re hot, we’re raunchy and we’re good at it!”