Online Dating and Accessibility for the Disabled and LGBTQ+ Community
Recent research by Stanford University has shown that online dating is considered one of the most popular ways to meet a new partner, and many people even use internet dating as a way to make platonic friends.
Online dating apps and websites make the world of romance easier to dive into than ever before, especially if you’re one of the 11 million people in the UK with a disability.
Reports claim 1 in 5 relationships now begin online, and over 20% of the UK population has at least one dating app installed on their mobile device. Pew Research states that 59% of adults feel dating online is the best way to meet new people. These figures have increased dramatically in the past 10 years, rising by nearly 31%. And today, there are in excess of 1,500 dating apps available to download.
The rise of mobile apps and the casual nature of online dating has likely had the biggest impact on these adults’ perceptions. But, while online dating can feel like the most accessible way to find a partner for many people, is this still the case for marginalised communities?
Online Dating When You’re Disabled
Since internet dating first burst onto the scene, it seems to have become more accessible for those of us with disabilities. Slowly but surely, the inclusivity of online dating websites and apps is improving. And some sites, like Disabled People Date, dedicate themselves solely to the community.
This is, in part down, to the significant growth of the industry, but also a result of heightened awareness and representation of disabled people in the media.
And while online dating as a disabled person still comes with its struggles, there’s no doubt it’s getting easier.
Telling Your Date You Have a Disability
One of the biggest dilemmas those of us with disabilities face when dipping our toes into the world of online dating is whether to disclose our disabilities to prospective dates.
In this case, making the perfect profile is less about getting the lighting right on selfies, struggling to find your best side and coming up with the funniest jokes or most pertinent facts for your bio, and more about wondering whether and when you should reveal you disability.
Going on a date without disclosing your disability to your date can cause feelings of anxiety and worry. Depending on the nature of your disability, it may affect where you go or how long that date lasts. So, if you plan to meet someone you’ve matched in ‘real-life’, revealing this information beforehand may help ease some anxiety. However, you should only do so if you feel safe and comfortable.
Dating as an LGBT Disabled Person
Similarly, over the last few years, the accessibility of online dating for LGBT people, disabled or not, has come on leaps and bounds. Revealing you’re gay, bisexual or transgender, as well as disabled, is no longer something you have to do yourself, as most dating apps give you the ability to set your preferences and display your pronouns.
Dating apps have also made finding other LGBT people to date far more accessible than traditional routes. All across the world, gay bars and clubs are closing due to the Covid Pandemic and increased rent prices. Therefore there’s one less way to meet other LGBTQ+ people, giving people another reason to turn to internet dating.
The Future of Online Dating
It isn’t just white, cis-gendered, heterosexual and able-bodied people who date. Black and minority ethnic, LGBT and disabled people are all looking for love too. It is, therefore, so incredibly important that online dating websites and apps continue to make their platforms feel inclusive to everyone.
With the ability to add your identity to your profile and report negative experiences, dating sites are already making an effort to be more welcoming to everyone. And while these features and developments have gone a long way, there remain many more steps that dating platforms need to take.
For example, given the awkwardness sometimes experienced when disclosing a disability, it may make sense for online dating apps to offer a selection of pre-written explanations or conversation starters that can be used to get your match talking about your impairments.
They could also expand the list of LGBT identities to choose from in an effort to accommodate how people wish to identify.
The online dating industry grows by approximately 3.9% each year, meaning these platforms will welcome many more marginalised people from across all walks of life. So they better be ready for them.