By Grant Heffelfinger, Youth Leadership Coordinator
Romance and love is a theme for many this time of year. With the holiday today comes a lot of Hallmark cards, gifts and feelings being shared between folks. Having a disability does not exclude one from these feelings, nor does it give you a “pass” from being able to send/receive romantic gestures and gifts. Many folks with disabilities want that sense of companionship and intimacy just like their peers without disabilities. While many folks with disabilities are also searching for that special partner, it is crucial that folks without disabilities are not passing judgment or promoting negative stereotypes before a person with a disability even has a chance to say “hi.” Whether someone is flirting in line at Starbucks or sharing good conversation over dinner on a Saturday night, folks with disabilities have the right to healthy relationships and romance.
Below are some tips that I came up with for folks with disabilities that may be helpful when dating:
- Take your time to get to know someone—there is no rush on forming quality, healthy relationships.
- Schedule dates in a public place (for example, an accessible restaurant, coffee shop or recreation center).
- Plan ahead for the occasion (for example, support staff, allergies and sensitivities).
- Keep your beverage close to you and do not share drinks with someone you do not know well.
- “No” always means “No.” You have the right to refuse a date or any activities on a date if you do not want to participate or if the person has made you feel uncomfortable.
- If something does not feel right, it is not right.
- Practice how you may want to disclose your disability or respond to questions a potential date may have about your disability. You can do this with a close friend, family member, or person you can trust who supports you.
- Communicate expectations clearly. Let your partner or date know what you expect from them and understand any expectations they may have for you.
One of the most important things you can do is be your authentic self and communicate your needs and feelings towards the person when in a dating scenario. This will help keep the date fun, exciting and comfortable for both parties on the date. With these tips in mind, both people will feel respected. You may even get that after-date smooch—if the person that initiates it asks first!
For more information on communication, healthy relationships or other related life skills, call us at 414-291-7520 V/Relay.