Dating someone with a disability

Considerations for Dating Someone in a Wheelchair

Are you questioning whether or not dating someone with a disability is right for you? It’s a good question to ask! There are things in your lifestyle that need to be taken into consideration before making that leap. Disabilities and diseases come in all forms and level of severity. No two people will share the same experience. It’s better to take an upfront approach and ask direct questions to the person you’re interested in about your curiosities.

Do you have hobbies in common? Are you all about extreme sports and climbing Mount Everest? While people with disabilities do enjoy being active there are going to be certain limitations that need to be taken into consideration. Rock climbing will not be making the list for the majority of wheelchair users. Perhaps a nice walk around the lake instead? Rowing, kayaking, or a canoe ride for anyone? Do not make the assumption that wheelchair users are not involved in sports. Many wheelchair uses enjoy playing in community leagues designed specifically for them. Have you tried playing basketball from a wheelchair? It’s not as easy as it looks, and honestly it doesn’t look that easy!

Personal care needs may be the most common reason that people will pass by a wheelchair user when looking for potential dates. While there are people who do need daily assistance with their personal care needs that job will not fall on you. You’re a date, not a PCA. People with severe mobility limitations employ PCAs to help them with their basic daily needs. You will not be caring for them as a full time job. It’s perfectly fine to address a potential partner and ask them if they require help from outside sources with their daily needs. Most wheelchair users will be happy to let you know they are looking for a partner and not a servant.

What will we do on a date? What can’t you do on a date is the question you should be asking. While being in a wheelchair does limit certain venues with accessibility it won’t limit your partner being able to entertain you. You can still go to the movies, out to dinner, sporting events, and to most places you would with any other date. Don’t be afraid to ask your date to pick the location if you’re unsure of accessibility needs.

Is your home accessible? Do you have a bathroom located on the main level with a wide door frame to allow a wheelchair to pass through? Is there space to maneuver around furniture without knocking things over? Do you have 20 steps preventing someone from getting into your place? These are things to consider long term. Not being able to access that part of your partner’s life can be disappointing for the disabled party. In a relationship you want to share those experiences together.

You might think, “I would date someone in a wheelchair, but I want kids someday.” Surprise! Many people with disabilities want to be parents! A physical disability doesn’t limit your ability to love a child or to provide for them. Many people with disabilities have rewarding professional careers and support a family with their income alone. Do not make assumptions about limitations from an injury. While spinal cord injuries can make it difficult to conceive naturally there are several options to expand a family. They range from in vitro fertilization to adoption.

Sexual activity is a very personal topic. There are some people who have no feeling in their genitalia, but they still like to engage in sexual activity with their partner. There are also others who find it frustrating and would rather avoid the topic all together. An open honest discussion is needed on this topic to find out what you can expect. Each person is different. Almost all people who suffered from a spinal cord injury are able to engage in some form of sexual activity. Sometimes you need to be creative and be willing to work with your partner to achieve your mutual goals in this area.

What will my friends and family think about my partner? My instinctual answer is do you really care what someone else thinks? It saddens me that people will pass over a great potential partner because they are worried about how others will view them. A person is more than a disability or a wheelchair. They are people with dreams, desires, feelings, and hopes. Yes, you may face criticism in the beginning of your budding relationship. It is important to expose the naysayers to your partner and let them experience for themselves what you find so great about them! They will more than likely come to their senses and let go of their preconceived notions of disabled people.

Planning trips and activities takes longer when you’re with a disabled partner. You need to consider personal care schedules, accessibility needs, medicine schedules, transportation, and the list goes on. It can still be done, it’s done every time my husband and I leave our home. We lack a certain amount of spontaneity in our activities, but we don’t lack fun or love. It only takes more time to plan out.

Should you date someone in a wheelchair? I don’t see why shouldn’t date someone in one. If you have good chemistry and you think there’s a chance give it a go. After all a few dates is hardly a commitment to marry the person. Be open and upfront about any concerns regarding their lifestyle with them. Give them the opportunity to ease your mind before writing off the idea. However, if you decide that it’s not for you then that’s okay too. There is someone out there for everyone if we’re only open to the opportunity.

28 replies
  1. brilliantmindbrokenbody
    brilliantmindbrokenbody says:

    While I love your piece, one of the things I think worth mentioning more clearly: levels of disability vary dramatically! Disabled can mean ‘need a cane to walk’ or ‘hand can’t do detail work’ to ‘not able to move, talk, or control bodily functions’, and everywhere between. I’m disabled, but don’t walk well, so I use a mobility service dog and a scooter, but I can maneuver around the house okay most of the time (depending on how my joints and autoimmune muscle issues are doing). Because of the particular conditions that cause my disability, I know that my level of disability is going to increase over time. My fiance also knows that; for him, my disability was never a consideration in whether or not he wanted me in his life. I know that I am lucky. He is the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever met.

    I may be disabled, but I’m the fiery, passionate one in the relationship. I’m the one who has a bazillion hobbies, and of the two of us I’m more physically inclined (when I’m able to be!). I’m also the (far more) outgoing of the two of us. I’m dynamic and intense. I’m also artistic and creative. I suppose I’m lucky in that I’ve always been very cerebral, so while becoming disabled limited my ability to do some things I love (rock climbing, archery, dancing), the core of ‘who I am’ wasn’t as badly affected as some people.

    I choose not to have children because I don’t feel the need (I find being an aunt to two wonderful boys satisfying), I don’t want to pass on my genes as most of my conditions are genetic, and I don’t feel like it would be fair to my fiance, who does so much taking care of me or to a child, because of how much fatigue and pain I deal with and the fact that they can make me not a very nice person. I think that if I really wanted children, we’d find a way to make it work, though. I know many men and women with disabilities that are wonderful parents – involved, loving parents who teach their children that the value of a person isn’t limited by disabilities. The ability to be a good parent has a lot more to do with how you relate to children than it does with your physical abilities.

  2. nosuchthingascant2014
    nosuchthingascant2014 says:

    So basically when choosing to date someone with mobility issues you should ask them questions about what they like to do… You mean like you ask anyone else you’re interested in dating? Why are you telling people to ask “What can’t you do?” What about telling people to go with the flow, as you put it, rock climbing is out of the question for people in wheelchairs… for some people in wheelchairs. I find it interesting that you continue to use the word “disabilities” instead of “abilities” to describe a person.

    In closing… instead of having people think “Should I date someone in a wheelchair?” have them think “Does he or she love the same things I do? Just the same as any other relationship… wheelchair or not doesn’t matter when you come to relationships, we need people to realize this.

  3. Jimmy Hancock
    Jimmy Hancock says:

    I have been in a wheelchair for over 20 years. I find with any new person that gets to know me after a while the chair disappears for them and they just see me. The people that continuously see my advisability and the wheelchair don’t last long in my world. If they are so shallow not to get over my situation I usually have no problem leaving them be. The good ones will stick around. The wheelchair kind of acts like a filter to get rid of mean shallow people.

  4. jessieluke
    jessieluke says:

    I don’t see why anyone has a problem with the blog written by my wife. It’s written for able bodied people who may be uncertain about dating someone with a physical handicap. It says ask questions if you’re unsure. Her point was that we are all the same and a disability shouldn’t stop someone from taking that chance on having a relationship. Like it or not, it is scary for someone who has no experience with an injury or illness. There are a lot of fears that they will end up being a caretaker, never have kids, or have a sexless relationship. It was a basic explanation of the most common fears people have in a relationship with a person in a wheelchair. If you think it isn’t an issue you’re wrong. It needs to be considered like any other life circumstance, because it will affect their life. She never said think in a can or can’t mindset. No two situations are the same and people should be open about any concerns they have before passing over a situation.

    I understand some people are sensitive about the word disabilites. Disability is a lack of a physical function. It has nothing to do with a mindset of thinking less of a person. The medical term is a disability. No one has ever gotten a differently abled check from the govt. Don’t assume you know how she thinks because she used the correct medical term. Keep an open mind before judging people, exactly what the blog says to do. She used the word to describe an illness or injury, not the person themselves.

  5. nosuchthingascant2014
    nosuchthingascant2014 says:

    As wonderfully as people attempt to word things, using words such as “disability” and “illness” are as derogatory as using the “N” word for some people. As drastic as that may sound it’s true. It puts society in a state of mind that continues to have people believing in an inability for some people that goes along with their ideas of what “people in wheelchairs” are like. While I understand where she was coming from and where you feel the need to step in and protect her… It’s not someone being “sensitive” about the word disabilities, it’s living a life where people judge you and continuously use a derogatory word that has a negative feel to it.
    It’s time for society to understand that an outlook on a group of people as being welfare recipients and people who are inspirational just because they step out of the house isn’t okay and it hurts.
    If you are unable to see this then this discussion is moot Jesse.

  6. jessieluke
    jessieluke says:

    My wife has an illness. She has cancer. What would you call it? Her brain isn’t differently abled. It is a disease. They are medical terms.

    How is it acceptable to call someone able bodied but not disabled? My body is able to do a lot of things even though I will use a wc for the rest of my life. I am disabled. I have lost the ability to walk. I am not differently abled. I have not learned a new way to walk. The term is derogatory because you put that meaning behind it in your head. It’s not a play on words. It is a medical fact, because my ability to walk is now disabled. Does that make me different? Yes, it does. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different. I would be differently abled if I had abilities that someone else did not possess. I am not psychic or anything else. I have no problems with people who choose to call themselves differently abled. I do have an issue with assuming someone is a bigot for using a medical term or assigning them an ideology because of it. I have no need to “protect” my wife when she states the fact.

    Society as a whole needs to accept a lot of issues regarding the differences in people. Disabilities, race, religion, financial differences, and sexual/gender orientation. People do not assume I am on welfare and a burden on society when they meet me and I don’t know anyone who would fit that mental image. There is a stigma that needs to change, but calling it another word isn’t the answer. Telling people to call me differently abled or disabled doesn’t change my functional abilities. People see me as what I portay in society, a polite helpful person who lives every day to the fullest. A spade is still a spade and there is no pc term for it that will change that. I am not ashamed of who or what I am and have no reason to hide behind a label to make it sound better.

  7. Jimmy Hancock
    Jimmy Hancock says:

    I truly don’t understand why this topic became an argument over words. Words only have power if you give them power. I have other friends in wheelchairs and we call each other cripple’s and gemps. No one should take themselves so seriously. This life is hard enough with out squabbling over petty stuff. I’m 37 I have dated many women some even in chairs them selves. Of course you should date people in chairs or people with one leg or anything else we are human and love makes us all happy. In any relationship the will be struggles to over come or compromises will have to be made to make a relationship work that is happens with everybody. If you love someone it will work it self out any problem. I found out a long time ago if you love someone you can always find a way to make it work but yes it does take two, love has a way of working itself out if both make an effort any adversity’s that come by. Problems are apart of everyone’s life especially when it comes to relationships. It can be real hard if you let it. But if you can smile and be happy with yourself it will show.Good thing will spread to all aspects of your life. Wording thing dont change who you are if you can love yourself someone else can love you too. I hope this made some sence.

  8. westmoreland47
    westmoreland47 says:

    I went to my high school reunion and I had a friend from my school (in a wheel chair) ask me to dance. He said “You’re a musician, you must be a pretty good dancer.” Then another friend who had polio, whispered to me to walk ahead of my friend in the wheel chair when we were heading to the dance floor. I was laughing to myself, thinking “Neither of these guys realize that I have a neuro / muscular disease that I have always been very self conscious about. It makes it difficult for me to walk or dance!” I hadn’t seen them in years and the disease had progressed quite a bit. When we got to the dance floor, a very cute lady cut in on us. She had done the same thing in high school. We laughed so hard, the whole disability thing went “poof”.

  9. Hana Sheala
    Hana Sheala says:

    This Is awesome! just one minor thing, I would prefer the title to be “Considerations for Dating Someone with a Disability” I am disabled and don’t use a wheelchair, but the article works on me and people like me too – just with changing this word.

  10. norman
    norman says:

    Well written, very good points. Thus is not to be seen from a disable point of view, is for the potential date .
    For the guy above to said the word disable is like the N word is very out of line. Look it up, clearly you have a problem dealing with your disability, embrace it and be happy with who you are.

  11. nosuchthingascant613
    nosuchthingascant613 says:

    Norman, I wish you and I could meet. I’ve done more things in my life than most people I know. I am comfortable in my own skin.. unfortunately society still has an issue seeing people who have mobility difficulties as equals.. and the use of words such as “disabled” just pushes the issue further and further, much the same as black people who were oppressed.. obviously not to the same extent, but the same idea applies here. If you think my use of the idea is out of line then please, I’m interested how you would like to change society’s view on people who live with physical difficulties. Obviously that example isn’t my main idea, but it’s one of many of the sort that show how there are many ways of judging a book by its cover.

  12. jessieluke
    jessieluke says:

    There are varying degrees of disability. I chose not to focus on that because I believe it to be a widely accepted fact that most people know already. I also do not think that the severity of the disability would limit someone in finding a life partner who loves them. We are all people in the same boat correct? I do understand there are exceptions to every situation, but I chose to focus on the broader situation. Congratulations on your engagement! As your level of disability increases you will find ways to make physical situations work for you just as you have done so far. It will not change who you are as a person. It sounds like you both are lucky to have found each other.

    When people take the time to get to know a person they do not consider a disability or a wheelchair to be a part of that person. That’s how it should be in life. We are all more than our situations. This article was written for people who may not have considered dating someone with a disability due to preconceived notions of what life would be like in the future.

    It sounds like you had a blast at your reunion! Kids in high school can make living with a disability tough. We also have a tendency to make it a bigger deal in our own heads than what other people see. In the end we all have issues and we are all people who have a great time when we get together with friends.

    Maybe you can send your friend over to our house so he can teach my husband to dance. He has mastered the arm wiggle our three year old has taught him!

    In hindsight I wish I had named the article what you suggested! It does apply to many disabilities and you are correct. When I write for EasyStand I tend to focus on wheelchair use as that is the majority of readers live with daily. Thanks for your kind words and I will certainly try to broaden my horizens when creating articles!

    Thank you so much! I had a great time writing this blog and I hope it opens the minds of people and keeps them from passing over a great potential partner!

    I find your comparison to the historical plight of black americans extremely offensive. How many times have you been pulled over for nothing more than driving down the street in an accessible van? How many news stories have you seen about police brutality against a disabled person? Have you ever been stopped by the police for being a neighborhood “that you didn’t belong in”? Do you fear disability profiling and being thrown in jail for a crime you didn’t commit for using a wheelchair? The definition of the infamous “N” word is ignorant and used as a racial slur. Ignorant as in a lack of education and personal intelligence. They were treated and owned as property. When have you ever been owned? When has it been assumed that you were not a person because you use a wheelchair? The word disabled has a meaning too. That meaning is a loss or impairment of a functional ability. That is not a derogatory term. Disability does not automatically assume ignorance. It does not imply using a wheelchair. It does not imply a lower social standing or use of government assistance. It is a loss of an ability! Racism is not judging a book by it’s cover. Racism is hate for an entire race of people with no valid reason. The two situations have nothing in common, AT ALL, and it is not remotely close to the same idea.

    Disabled people are not hated by society. You do not walk down the street under the threat of constant attack. You may face discrimination from people who lack education on what it means to be disabled. No one believes that people who use mobility aids are less than people. There are misconceptions about what they are physically capable of as people. That is not because of the use of the word disabled. It is a medical term as I have previously stated. It is articles like this that are designed for people to change the status quo. This article answers questions so they don’t immediately pass over another person because they may have a disability.

    Adding negative comment after comment on a positive article claiming the word disability is oppressive is quite frankly ridiculous. You come across as extremely bitter about your situation. No one should feel the need to validate themselves to strangers on the internet. People will treat you as you treat them. If you continuously act as though you are being treated wrongly people will not want to associate with you. You will become the crazy old guy who lives down the street that everyone avoids. The only way to change the minds of people is with positive actions and thinking.

    ~Thank you for the great feedback guys! ~Jessie~

  13. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Jessie I’m sorry but I have to reply. I am college educated and I know of discrimination first hand because of my disability. Maybe not at the existent of some people. If you look at the statistics people with disabilities have a real hard time finding employment more than people without disability. The numbers are pretty staggering if you look it up. I dont condone what he said but I do understand were he is coming from. There is discrimination for people with a disadvantage even if its not very know that is why laws have been passed ADA for example. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still go on. I find your reply to the gentlemen very disheartening. Just because you don’t understand were he is coming from even with an improper word does not give you the obligation to pick up rocks. You as the owner of this blog should have kept on track and tried to have stayed positive but you decided to show bad form.

  14. nosuchthingascant613
    nosuchthingascant613 says:

    How many times have I been told “Hey! Slow it down wheels!” on a sidewalk? Many. Social discrimination is social discrimination regardless of if the cops do it or not. Do I fear social prosecution for using a wheelchair? Not only do I fear it, at 24 years of age, I live it. People will look to my friends or family beside me to ask a question they should be asking me, or how about the fact that teachers in high school would say “And this is Kyle in the wheelchair” at the beginning of every semester? Or how about when a prospective manager at a job calls you and has a great phone interview and when you go in for the face-to-face says quite clearly “Oh…” as if my being in a wheelchair is going to change how I file papers.
    You see, people with physical difficulties may not have been thrown into slavery.. unless you want me to bring up Goodwill where people are paid pennies per hour because of their physical and social difficulties… but I bet you didn’t take that into account. You see, there is more than one form of prosecution and the social judgement I face on a daily basis by everyone around me who doesn’t know me is enough to show a small comparison to the social judgement that black people still face today.

    To cover your last point, I don’t feel the need to validate myself to anyone… but I feel the need to speak up for those who don’t have a voice, and if relating the situation I face to one of the worst situations in human history is going to get people to see what I mean… then that’s what’s going to happen.

  15. jessieluke
    jessieluke says:

    Are there issues facing people with disabilities in society? Absolutely. Is it based on racism or hatred? No. It’s based on ignorance and misinformation. Blogs like this are written to open the minds of people. They are not a forum to attack people and say don’t use this word or that word. Using the word disabled is a far cry from discrimination let alone racism. Do we have blogs about the ignorance that people face? We do. Are there comments on those about this issue? No. People being socially awkward and not understanding how to talk to others is not discrimination or racism. Plain and simple. Awkward people are not discriminatory by nature because they make stupid comments. They are idiots. To equate ignorance with racism or discrimination is mind boggling. Racism and discrimination are based in hatred. The only way to help them is to educate them. Educating them has nothing to do with commenting on a blog that you find a medical term offensive. Equating your views on discrimination against the disabled to racism only makes the situation worse. They have nothing in common. The views against the disabled are not based on hate. They are based on ignorance. Most people in society do not know someone who is disabled. Those are the facts. They are uncomfortable and are unsure what to say. Does that make it discrimination? No, it makes them ignorant. Do you take the time to correct someone when they make an inappropriate comment in your life? Do you say I find that offensive and this is why? Or do you leave and privately complain or maybe you scream and yell because that is a great way to get your point heard. Your life is the place to make changes and we are all given opportunities to do so daily. This blog is not the place to make your stand.

    My husband is disabled and he faces the same issues daily. Did he struggle to find a teaching position? He absolutely did, but it also has to do with the fact that the market is extremely tight due to the economy. I have friends with doctorates working in fast food. Are the numbers higher for people with disabilities? Yes, sadly they are higher but that does not mean the decision is based in hate. Did you have the best resumé, most work related experience, and education? I am going to hire the most qualified individual. Do people ask me questions for him? They do and I correct them to speak to my husband. Please don’t act like I have no idea what ignorance is when you don’t know my life. I have serious physical ailments that I developed over the course of my relationship. I have cancer and multiple AI diseases. I have people staring at my bald head, my weight, or when I struggle to walk. I worked for the county as a social worker and therapist. I have 2 beautiful children with disabilities and I need to protect them from the ignorance and educate those around them. I know more about dealing with ignorance than you can imagine. Do I scream and yell or attack other people? Absolutely not. I take the time to educate them, because it’s my job as a human being.

    Once again this is a blog about dating and being open minded. I wrote this blog with positive intentions and I am attacked and labeled as some hate monger because I used the word disabilities. I will not sit by silently while drama is being created in the comments. If you attack someone be prepared to have your views corrected. You may not like my post but that is not my issue to deal with in life. I did not throw rocks at him. I stated that his views are ignorant and he is comparing apples and oranges. My husband responded as well and the attacks continue. None of the negative comments have been directed at the content of the blog. I do not own this blog. I wrote it and it is no longer my personal property. It belongs to EasyStand. It’s not my job to agree with every response. If you have nothing to add to the original blog, about DATING, please find somewhere else to comment or I will ask that they be deleted. I will not justify or promote any attitude that enables hate or discrimination. All people should be treated equally and given the same opportunities as the blog states. This misplaced discussion stops here. This is not the place. This is about DATING.

  16. Tiger
    Tiger says:

    I’m nocturnal and live an extremely lonely existence in life because of work (full time nights). Anyway to cut a long story short I met someone online recently. She’s beautiful, I mean really pretty. I didn’t know she was wheelchair bound until a couple of days getting to know her. I mean she’s still the same person and she’s still beautiful on the outside too. I think she’s been lonely too and didn’t want to scare me off etc.
    This girl/woman lives a very short and easy flight away (we skype etc.) from me and already I’ve found myself contemplating going to visit sometime so just wanted to say thanks for creating a blog such as this. I get and understand what the writer is trying to put across. :)
    I don’t want to appear vain etc. I just want to know what and if there are possible barriers to having a future. I’m finding the best way to find out is to converse with the other person.

  17. Lizzy Bushnell
    Lizzy Bushnell says:

    I am in a wheelchair, and let me put it out there that the vast majority of people like me lead normal lives. I get tired of people (not just ones that i would date, but in general) refusing to acknowledge my existence or treating me like I’m made of glass or taking pity on me. Not all people do this but a good amount do. So please in the future avoid doing these things, above all else we are people who seek acceptance and normality. On the subject of terminology, you can call me just about any term for it, i don’t care. I do think the current term is disabled, pardon me if I am wrong. I feel that people are just intimidated by the disability and don’t know how to approach us. I will also say that those who are disabled and are insecure shouldn’t worry about it, embrace yourself for who you are! The circumstances you are born into are irrelevant, it’s how you move past them that define you as a person.

  18. Nedy
    Nedy says:

    jessie luke, I loved your responses and your wife’s blog has been so helpful. I am new to this world. I recently started dating a wonderful man and he’s in a wheelchair and I have a lot to learn. Like anything else in life, we need to have a support group and although my family is supportive, none of ha have any experience with this and I don’t know how to make him feel comfortable. He’s amazinv and very open. He is ok about me asking anything and when I do he always answers all my questions and never makes me feel like I asked something stupid. I love that he’s sensitjve to my “ignorance”

  19. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    To nosuchthingascant613…..

    You sound so angry and bitter :( I really hope you find some peace.

    To the author…

    Thank you for a beautifully written article!!

  20. marie
    marie says:

    This blog evoke so many emotions that I had to comment. I am a woman of color. Racism is a type of oppression, just like discriminating someone based on their sex or gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. The list could go on to even include people with disabilities.

    I would NEVER diminished the experiences of any member of the LGBT community and tell they are not oppressed enough because they do not experience racism. Well, they don’t but they still experience oppression, which is equally unacceptable. This goes for any oppressed group.

    As far as using the word disabled, I been told it’s the appropriate word and using handicapp or crippled are not. But I do not have a physical disability so I can’t speak for those that do.

    However, I do have a learning disability. I faced a lot ignorance regarding this issue. I am a dyslexic that reads at the 2% percentile in my silent reading rate. Once someone told me, I was being hard on myself for saying it’s a learning disability. But I think that’s the equivalent of telling the bling person they are being hard on themselves, when they just staying a fact. My disability makes things harder but not impossible. I graduated as an Advacement Placement Scholar and the National Honor Society in High School. I am currently going to college still facing the same problems that I have faced my whole life.

    Now like I said, I can’t speak for people with physical disabilities but I would think ignoring that they have physical hardships and have to do things different ad able body people would not do any good. Just like someone telling they do not see me as a person of color, which does not good because it diminishes my experiences as a person of color.

    As far as the article, I thought it was good. I came here because I was approach by someone and was concetn about the implications when it comes to dating. Thanks for the article!

    I just had to comment about the comments. Racism is not the same as sexism, or any type of “ism”. However, all forms of oppression are equally bad so we should not diminish their experiences.

  21. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I am 3rd generation disabled.

    I am Autistic. We can go on to argue about “person first” language, but every other type of descriptor is, in English, placed before the noun. You want to tell me that the rules of English should be changed for disability, and only disability, and yes, I am knowingly using the word…

    as someone who has seen people with her disability deal with their physical issues and with society for every single day of her 37 years, and who has a story of how her genetic condition has required canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and parking placards since the 1960s. And has a degree in History and a minor in Psychology, and walked into Disabilities Lit with a cane and was willing to say, when it was pointed out that when the risks the doctor thought s/he saw on the ultrasound are proven to be correct and the child is born with Downs or Spina Bifida or whatever the genetic councilor said was a 1 in 4 chance… (it was a 1 in 2 chance for me, if Grandpa or Mom had not been misdiagnosed with different things until after he had died, Mom was fully paraplegic, and I was using a cane… Mom’s neurologist said the words “Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia” and they knew, a month before I saw the neurologist’s partner)

    But for a woman using a cane to say, in a college room with a crucifix on the wall, that the mother makes the choice to abort… basically stops the room cold for 2 whole minutes. The woman in the desk next to me was in a wheelchair- a shy person. We once waited 3 minutes for the elevator to that classroom and half the people in it were wearing t-shirts for the various sports teams. They stood there, looking a bit stunned, as the door closed and the elevator moved on.

    I think in paragraphs. I can’t speak in them, but at the same time… you’re looking at someone who thinks like an Autistic. This is a part of what makes me different… and the person I am. I have ADHD. I have depression. I have chronic illnesses, to where some semesters I was enrolled half time and missed half my classes.

    No, I don’t work. I do help care for my mother, who cannot use any muscle in her legs, can’t roll over or sit up without Dad or me assisting her, and has dementia. Brain damage from a series of low-probability effects from simple medical interventions. She fought back from a stroke that nearly killed her- they told us later she had under a 10% chance of surviving it-

    dealt with aphasia as a former speech pathologist who mentally knew every book and technique the therapist used- and the therapist knew it- but couldn’t say her daughter’s name… yet struggled to tell me that the stroke wasn’t from the genetic legacy we shared when she had been down to 2 words- my father’s name and God (used as a single-word prayer, not a blasphemy).

    I know the history of many words. I know that my aunt was using the word “retarded” properly, as it was the proper medical term for the teenagers she loved to teach… before her lupus made that career impossible.

    Yeah, her struggles and successes were part of my entire life’s story too. She is, as a disabled (government term) worker, using ADA accommodations in her work as a government contractor, to adjust her work hours around what her body will do. She also scuba dives- in a full wet-suit to avoid EVA light, which makes her ill (she also wears a hat and fingerless gloves while working indoors under fluorescent lights), rode horses- European style- despite osteoporosis from medication until she broke her arm badly, kayaks, in summer, and never in shorts or a short-sleeved shirt regardless of temperature…

    When we moved into the house next door to my grandparents, so my father could get his doctorate (Dad told several students that their using the accommodations from the university’s Disabilities Support Center wasn’t a problem, his daughter had used them… and he had inherited ADHD from me) Grandpa was moving from 2 canes to a walker and a wheelchair. I watched him fight moving to the next phase, fight the ramp because everyone would see (we were afraid Grandma would have a heart attack helping him into the house, and he had many falls that the bathroom grab bars, the ramp, and so on would have stopped). Mom had had a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy all her life. We won’t know if her HSP was active from birth or if she had CP or if it was from a 3rd possibility. She started using a cane full-time when she was pregnant with me. She couldn’t put herself, or Dad, or me through what he endured while fighting.

    There are proud African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans who speak of their culture’s struggle, are proud of how their relatives survived, whether it was slavery, or the escape from Cuba, or the people in the town Dad grew up in who survived the Trail of Tears and purchased the land of Cherokee, NC from the US government (Dad’s grandfather, who raised him, was employed by the tribe as a civil engineer, and they lived in the town, though we are European-American- do not get me started on Caucasian). I have a long list of conditions (the medical things that cause symptoms) and disabilities (the areas I cannot function in without assistance).

    I have a father, who didn’t know he had a disability until he had his PhD and his daughter had had her life upended when supports she didn’t realize she was using weren’t available her freshman year of college (and they only caught the ADHD then, not the Autistic issues we noticed when Mom was no longer quietly and habitually helping me). I have a mother, who was allowed to rent a second set of books so she didn’t have to carry them home, who no law said they had to let her play her flute in the stands as the rest of the band marched. A woman who helped children and then stroke survivors deal with the various disabilities that affect speech from her wheelchair.

    A woman who had a Masters degree when she asked for a tubal ligation and the clinic who asked her sister, the year before, to go home and think to be sure she didn’t want a third child immediately scheduled it. And while she was in the marching band, and her dad admitted he was having trouble walking, no law protected his right to keep working in a job that didn’t require him to walk.

    But a woman who, when other parents saw she had a girl about the age of their children with her, smiled at the kids whose parents had asked if they could ask her a question and calmly told them what CP does so matter-of-factly I was 14 when I realized I’d never heard the name for her condition. Her brain couldn’t tell her legs what to do. I’m Autistic. That was enough of an answer, and it wasn’t a big deal. She just did what she needed to do to get around. Grandpa wasn’t being logical. For me, things usually are that cut-and-dried.

    My aunt dealt with a disease that had almost killed her 3 times and lived her life. Traveled more than my able-bodied aunt did. She worked. Mom’s sister (who only got the gene for asthma) didn’t.

    In Disabilities Lit, we read the autobiography of a polio survivor (I’m related to one of those, too, come to think of it). A woman with a mild deformity. We were legitimately debating if she was disabled. A hemophiliac. The book written by the man who could only blink when the correct letter was pointed to (strangely I heard that he had died while wandering through the Web today). We saw a documentary about a man in an iron lung.

    I am proud of my relatives. Those with disabilities, and my father and uncle, Grandpa’s sons-in-law, who don’t even think when they see me doing something. My uncle knows when to reach out that hand from living near, and being a part of the lives of, his Dad and his sister. Even if they were “in-law,” he hadn’t seen me in 5 years and both he and his wife never misjudged when to put out that hand to help me up. Even realizing when I was getting my dog to help me. A woman with dementia doesn’t realize when her husband is fighting his ADHD to keep doing what he needs to.

    I have written a response longer than the article that initiated it. My father chose to date a woman who walked differently, and has stayed with her. Has helped raise a daughter with a multitude of differences. The answer to “what can’t they do?”, Dad always knew, was rhetorical. I am the (abnormal) result of him choosing to start dating his good friend’s wife’s sister (the uncle and healthy aunt). –normally I would not have been a lightning rod for every bad gene in the family, to explain my parenthetical remark above

    And despite everything, most days I am living a good life. And before the dementia, so were my parents.

  22. Carole@50
    Carole@50 says:

    The comments here are interesting and I particularly appreciated Marie. I have been a paraplegic for 50 years and to deny oppression is amazing to me. It is so interwoven into our society many physically challenged people and their spouses are not aware of it. Our unemployment rate is double the national average, stereotypes and stigma impact our every day lives. We still are not represented on TV or movies either as an actor or as real people rather than devastated caricatures. There is as much violence towards disabled people as there is towards other minority groups. Just because it may not happen to you does not mean it does not happen. I have had a fifty year opportunity to watch the evolution of perception and disability and it has changed little. Accessibility has improved but attitudes have not. In some way your article had aspects of ableism but I have no doubt that was not your intention. As I said, it is so entrenched in our society, it is hard to see it for what it is.

    I am happy for your relationship. I have been married 35 years to someone who is AB. The best advice I would give to someone who is contemplating a date with someone who is physically different, is to take the risk. As they say in finance, the greater the risk, the greater the return. So much of what you have understood about physical challenge is truly based on stereotypes. Go on the date as you would with anyone, no assumptions and a desire to learn more about the person. After that is up to you.

  23. Adrichter87
    Adrichter87 says:

    Iam enabled bodied woman and my boyfriend is paralyzed with a spinal cord injury- due to a car accident at 19 He is now 33- We started as friends -as we got to know each other a strong connection grew. We connect emotionally, mentally, and intimately! A few months ago he told me “your so beautiful & deserve so much I can’t give you that other guys could” I started to tear up looking into his eyes I said ” you are still a person and deserve happiness -at the end of the day you don’t love somebody because they can walk -you love someone for who they are” – Today he sends me texts like this- (you are a great person who is caring and loving. You have so many great attributes that makes my life so much better and given me happiness that I have never had before ) The point is- I love him for who he is! So why let a wheelchair change that??

  24. Roslyn Kamau
    Roslyn Kamau says:

    It hasn’t been that simple for me.and going into details will make it all the more depressing.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Considerations for Dating Someone in a Wheelchair “Personal care needs may be the most common reason that people will pass by a wheelchair user when looking for potential dates. While there are people who do need daily assistance with their personal care needs that job will not fall on you. You’re a date, not a PCA.” […]

  2. […] is no reason why you shouldn’t date someone in a wheelchair. If you have good chemistry, give it a […]

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