Hot & Impaired: 5 Do’s & Dont’s of Differently-Abled Dates
Things are really looking up for people with disabilities. It’s 2017, and our dating game is stronger than ever. We are out and on the prowl, looking for our next big love or our next late night romp. Though we hope that every new person we meet has the kindness to respect our disability, sometimes we just end up being the first disabled person to ever cross their path and things get really uncomfortable really quickly.
If that ends up being you, and you wind up meeting an incredible, sexy, disabled human, I’ve got a few easy tricks up my sleeve to welcome them into your life (and maybe even your bedroom) without offending anyone.
Curiosity; the Wet Blanket That Killed the Cat
Somewhere in history, it was decided that asking personal questions is okay if it’s meant for educational purposes. Unfortunately, “why are you disabled?” doesn’t really fall under the that category, and instead falls under just plain nosy (and rude, tbh). If you’re just dying to know how your date acquired their disability, shove a dinner roll in your mouth and keep that question at bay! Do whatever it takes to keep that to yourself– because asking how you got that scar on your hand, is cute, asking how you ended up without a hand, is not.
Full Disclosure: Your date will share that information with you at some point, so take a chill pill and wait it out.
Where Does Chivalry Begin and Patronizing End?
Though the act of chivalry may or may not be dead, the act of patronizing is very much alive and well. I’d really like to think that no one goes on a date with me hoping that by the end of it, I’ll feel like a lesser human being, but it happens. I do, however, like to think that it’s everyone’s first reaction to try to help others. Whether it’s holding the door open, carrying a bag, or giving directions, it’s always nice to be able to help!
If you’d like to assist the cutie with a disability that you’re on a date with, simply ask first! Unless it’s an emergency, in which case you should ALWAYS act immediately, it’s a point of pride to live an independent life, and we don’t want to give it all away by going on a date. So if you have any doubt on what tasks your date needs help with, ask them politely and they will let you know. (HINT: If you ask more than twice, and both times you get shot down, stop asking. If we need help, we know where to find you.)
Don’t Touch the Assistive Medical Devices
What’s really exciting about having a disability, is all of the really cool assistive devices and technology that we get to use each and every day. And though no assistive device is a toy, sometimes they get treated that way. If your current Bumble match is using a white cane (because they are blind or visually impaired), it’s a safe bet that you don’t want to pick it up and move it without permission. Same goes for wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, orthotic devices, or any other assistive technology. When in doubt, ask before you touch. For example, I once had a boyfriend pick up my prosthetic leg from where it sleeps at night and lay it on the bathroom floor. Luckily, I found it when I woke up (well, fell on top of it, and broke it).
When in Doubt, Play Copycat
Before you go repeating everything you hear, let me explain. Language is a BIG influencer in people’s moods, perspectives and first opinions, and using the wrong words can make your sexy date go from hot to not. The word “amputee” is used a lot when trying to define someone missing a limb. Some prefer to say “handicap” or “cripple,” while others don’t like to use the word “disabled.” It’s not just disability-related terms, it could literally be any word that offends your date. To play it safe, wait until their preferred descriptive word falls out of their mouth, and copycat that word all day and night!
Watch Out for Accidental “Inspiration Porn”
‘Inspiration Porn’ is a term we use when non-disabled people objectify us as a point of inspiration. For example, I’ll adore you if you gush about how my mad budgeting skills make you want to get your personal finances in check. Whereas, I’ll throw up on you if you gush about how my “great attitude despite my disability” makes you want to get your personal finances in check.
See the difference? Using our disability as the source of your ‘inspiration’ or perceived better stance in life, is all sorts of condescending and disrespectful.
These tips are super important to keep in mind for dating, but these apply to any new connection you make with a person who has a disability. Offering help without chipping at their independence, avoiding probing questions, and being careful not to patronize someone, are surefire ways to earn some major brownie points.
Whitney Harris is a full time working girl and disability advocate from Tallahassee, Florida. Living life with a physical disability has opened doors for her career and her dating life. If we’re being honest, dating and sharing stories about dating, are two of her favorite hobbies. Whitney is proud to share her experiences on life, love and disability.
An audio file for the sight impaired!