‘Just because I’m differently-abled, doesn’t mean that I can’t put myself out there and show the world that disability isn’t a taboo.’

Love – it is a simple four-letter word that has the power to control your emotions, behaviour, and attitudes. Finding the right person to love, who will accept you, cherish you, and care for you is tough for everyone. However, it is even more difficult for someone like me, who is differently-abled. I have been in three relationships so far, out of which two started through online dating apps, and to say that they were challenging is an understatement.

I remember when I first created my profile for a couple of popular dating apps; I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know if I’d be accepted because of my disability or if men would take one look at my profile and move on after seeing a picture of me on a wheelchair. My hands were shaking when I started filling out the ‘about me’ section of the profile. After describing myself in the section I added, “Oh yeah, I’m on a wheelchair – if that really matters.” I left it at that.

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To be fair, I didn’t check my profile for a couple of weeks because I was too frightened of the response. However, when I did, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of people have appreciated my courage to put myself out there. They wanted to know and understand me. There were also some who showed sympathy and pitied my situation, which I did not appreciate.

It was a couple of months ago when I scored a date from one of these dating apps. He knew that I was on a wheelchair and I made sure that he understood it before we decided to meet. He was accepting of it, and he assured me that he wanted to know me as a person. We went out to a popular coffee chain in a mall (because malls are the only places with accessible infrastructure). We grabbed our cups of coffee and started talking. We chatting the afternoon away and completely lost track of time. In the end, when he got up to leave and I wheeled myself out, he said, “I totally forgot that you were in a wheelchair.”

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It may have been offensive to others, but to me, it felt genuine. This date was a lesson for me that dating isn’t always black and white, there is a grey area and it needs to be explored. Just because I’m differently-abled, doesn’t mean that I can’t put myself out there and show the world that disability isn’t a taboo. It’s quite normal, and we are sexual human beings who want to be loved and cared for. Often times we’re so afraid that our disability will put someone off that we aren’t ourselves in front of them. On top of that, the society we live in often tries to project us as people who aren’t ‘normal’ and who doesn’t have physical needs, which is not the case.

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A word of advice to those who are scared of being open about their disability online: Don’t be afraid. I know a lot of friends who have found their partners through online dating, and it was only because they were forthcoming about their disability. Love is love, it doesn’t go by societal perceptions of disability, and it just looks at the human being #KhabarLive .