By Florence Awino and Judy Okite
One of the best things to come out of the internet is the ability to connect with other people. We have never needed this connection more than during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Dating apps like Tinder reported their busiest period ever during this time. Social media platforms continued being free and (mostly) effective avenues for finding friendships, love, and other relationships.
Persons with disabilities, even before the pandemic, have been using social media and dating apps. Online dating can make dating easier for persons with disabilities. Social technology has provided a sense of control and empowerment over their dating lives and expanded their dating pool. Many dating and social media platforms have features that make them more accessible to people with disabilities.
After you find your person, there comes a time when you have to meet face to face. As part of the Bi-monthly Twitter-space talks hosted by the Access and Equality for Persons with Disability Team at KICTANet, the 13th of February brought together a team of persons with diverse disabilities to share their experiences on the accessibility of online dating apps. They also shared their personal experiences.
One of the questions asked during the session was whether, as a person with a disability, you would reveal your disability to your significant other. This elicited a lot of varied responses. What was common, like any other person approaching a potential significant other, was anxiety for a person and fear of rejection.
No matter how great the conversation went online, you can never be sure how they will react to your disability. One speaker shared that he met his girlfriend through Facebook and was pleasantly surprised that she had no reservations about his physical disability. They are currently going steady.
“My physical disability is evident, and I do not have to share or not to share,” said another speaker. “I have had my share of being rejected physically, ghosted online, and now am happily married.”
Persons with invisible disabilities have a more daunting task. They have to talk about it. At what point to do this was left to the individual. One experience that was shared was meeting a person who is deaf online. Then it gets to the stage where you want to talk to them and say you cannot. “It’s always awkward,” said one of the speakers.
Another interesting experience shared with the listeners was when one of the speakers had an invisible physical disability, and when his date saw it, she fled.
The question arose of how accessible social media platforms and other dating sites are. The panelists responded by saying disabilities are diverse, and so are the accessibility needs on these platforms. More of these platforms now offer voice recognition, magnifying text options, and captions. However, there is still room for improvement in ensuring that these platforms are fully accessible to persons with varied disabilities.
The choice to disclose at some point or just show up confidently for your date is a personal preference for everyone. Persons with a disability can love and want to be loved back, but most importantly, it’s about self-acceptance and self-love.
Participants on this topic shared thought-provoking takes. Listen in to the entire Twitter Space conversation here. The speakers:
Judy Okite – Moderator
This Twitter Space is part of a series of #KICTANetSpaces conversations that will take place every two months.
Judith Okite is the lead consultant of the ICT Access and Equality for Persons with Disability Team at KICTANet.