Finding Love in the Digital Disabled Dating Age

Posted by Dr Claire Hill on 3rd October 2023

If you are looking for love and you are one of the 15.6% of the world's adult population who has a disability1, you may be wondering whether online dating is for you. Research has found that having a disability can present barriers or restrictions to finding love2. This might be down to the impact the disability has on a person's functioning such as fatigue3, as well as the discrimination and stigmatization people with disabilities may experience in dating4,5 . There are numerous misconceptions of disability in society6, including the belief that people with disabilities are asexual7. It has even been found that potential partners may fear so-called "stigma by association" if they embark on a relationship with a person with a disability8.

Disabled dating

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Whilst this paints quite a depressing picture for dating with a disability, the good news is that several studies have shown that people with a disability have successfully developed long-term relationships through online dating9,10,11. So why might online dating be a promising way of finding love for people with disabilities? Well, it has been suggested that this is down to the benefits of online communication such as more control over what is revealed about yourself12 and better opportunities to meet others outside of your usual social circles9,10.

Having decided to give online dating a go, you now need to decide on which type of dating website to try – general dating websites or specialised dating websites aimed at people with disabilities. Research has found that general dating websites tend to be chosen first by people with disabilities as they are thought to have the biggest pool of potential dates9, or when people with disabilities sought a partner without a disability13, or simply out of desire to use the same dating applications and websites as their friends10. Choosing general dating websites does seem to present some challenges though, as people with disabilities say they have concerns about being judged14 and some have found that they are questioned more and have had people refuse to continue interacting with them once they disclose their disability15. Despite this, others have reported that general dating websites have provided a platform to meet others who are empathetic and open to learning more about disability16.

Perhaps a specialised dating website targeted at people with disabilities feels a better fit for you? Studies have found that these websites help people with disabilities to overcome the dilemma of when and how to disclose their disability15,17 and they represented a space to talk about disability more openly18. Specialised websites were also preferred because it was felt that these websites would allow them to meet others who were more likely to understand and relate to what it's like to have a disability19,20 and see beyond a disability label21. Despite this, some studies have reported that specialised dating websites might widen the gap between those with and without disabilities and may offer a less broad range of potential partners22,23. And whilst it might feel as though you're more likely to find love with someone else who has a disability too, interestingly the science doesn't back this up17.

So if you are looking for love and you have a disability, the research suggests that online dating websites such as Free Dating may just help you find your forever love.


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