I have never been on a date. It wouldn't be the whole story, but impairment and disability do have a significant impact on my capacity to do the dating lark in anything like a conventional way.
Fortunately, I am at the more buggered up end of the spectrum; I have long periods stuck at home, much of the time in bed, so there would be an issue in even meeting new people anyway – other than on the Internet and then there’s the small matter of geography (among other things).
These obstacles are not to be underestimated. For some people, the practical circumstances of their lives more or less rule out having a sexual or romantic life.
However, say I was to be asked out by someone who did not live at the other end of the country;
- I am unreliable. Often I have to withdraw from an organised social event because I’m not well. I might feel better the next day. Or I might not be better for a couple of months.
- At the same time, spontaneity is out of the question; I need to pace myself very carefully in order to achieve anything beyond the things I absolutely need to do.
- Even then, my stamina is poor so I can’t do a lot of the things folks would normally do on a date. I may also have to come home early. I can become extremely tired very quickly and fall asleep in strange places.
- I use a wheelchair, so everywhere I go has to be physically accessible. Many pubs, theatres, restaurants and nightclubs are still out of bounds.
- My health prevents me from driving and I can't used most public transport, which remains inaccessible. Any car that transports me needs to be able to get the wheelchair in it.
Now, I am a lovely person, but if you just asked someone out and they rattled off that list, wouldn’t you be just ever so slightly put off? If you were just after an encounter, then this would rule such a person out - it just wouldn't be worth the bother. And if you were interested in more than that, you'd have to be very interested.
Like I say, my situation is extreme and most disabled people don’t have nearly this amount of difficulty. Many disabled people don’t have any of these problems at all.
However, many disabled people do have access issues which can effect spontaneity. Many disabled do have impairment issues that effect what they can do and where they can go in comfort. Many disabled people do have fluctuating conditions that mean that they have to let folks down.
As you can gather, this is one way in which being disabled can really trample your confidence; can anybody be bothered with me? Dare I ask another person to burden themselves with me even for an evening? Won’t they think I cause a lot of fuss? Will they believe me if I really want to come but am not well enough that day? What if I fall asleep during a conversation?
This apart from the fact that the other person has to be worth all the energy on my part. And then there’s the small matter of sex...
The answer to all these matters is that some disabled people have to face the fact that (a) dates with folks we hardly know leading quickly to the bedroom are simply not on the cards and (b) the pool of people from which we might find potential lovers is significantly smaller than for other people. We need easy-going folks who have a bit of imagination and empathy, who take us at our word. People in whose presence we feel completely comfortable, who respect us and our limitations without suffering from what Sainthood Syndrome or assuming that disabled people are easy.
Now, on the one hand, these folks are hard to come by.
On the other hand, a lot of the dating that other people do is in all about the tedious process of whittling down their massive pool of potential lovers in order to identify just these people.
And to this extent, it could be argued that we have avoided a whole lot of hassle.