Dating a Disabled Person

The Do's and Don'ts

So you see a girl or guy, whatever you're into, and you think "dang, she's/ he’s cute." You go up to him/her and you start talking, you're having a great time, and then they drop this on you: "I have Spina Bifida." Now, the way you react is up to you and there’s no wrong way to react but, I am here to help you. Now here’s a few ways this can go:

You are calm and genuinely interested because hey, you've never met anyone with Spina Bifida before.

You're calm on the outside but a little freaked out on the inside because now that they’ve told you, you have so many questions like:

  • What if some things you've said up to this point have been offensive and they're just being nice?
  • What if they think you’re dumb for saying or asking certain things?
  • Are you reading too much into this?

The truth is most people with Spina Bifida or any disability for that matter are really chill and actually encourage questions, most days.

Tip 1: Ask questions.

Most times, if you ask questions, she/he will gladly answer them. I will say, however, if before you ask something you think is too personal, tread lightly. Most of the time you'll be fine and they will answer your questions, but some questions are a bit too personal for a first meeting. It all depends on who you’re talking to; everyone is different. If they’re not comfortable with some questions they’ll make it clear what is and isn't ok to ask at that time.

Some questions that are appropriate to ask would be:

  • So what does it entail? This shows interest in the person and that you actually care.
  • What terms do you prefer? Because, yes, there are different terms. For example, some people hate the word "disabled" while others are ok with it, the same can be said for "crippled" or "handicapped." Asking the person shows that you care about the him/her not their disability.

Here are some things not to say:

  • So what’s wrong with you? Firstly, remember there is nothing wrong with a person who has a disability, so never ask, “What’s wrong with you?”
  • "Do you have a scar? Can I see it?" First off, for people with disabilities that have to have multiple surgeries, of course they have scars; for a first date, never ask to see it. If they offer then that’s OK, but scars are very personal. For many, it’s comparable to having sex for the first time; sharing a scar is very special so until you’re both ready don’t ask. And once you see it, NEVER make comments like, “wow, it goes all the way to that point?” or “why is it hairy?”
  • "Do you know "insert name here?" He/she has a disability too."

That aside, asking questions isn’t a bad thing as it shows you’re interested in getting to know him/her. But, in any conversation, asking anything overly personal is not ok, especially if it’s the first time you’ve met.

I know "what does it entail?" sounds very similar to "what’s wrong with you?" and let’s be honest, it is very similar, but saying "what’s wrong with you?" is a much harsher and less "classy" way. Not to mention, the appropriate option gives you more to talk about without getting slapped in the face.

"Do you know "insert name here?" He/she has a disability too." Not every person knows everyone with a disability, there’s no secret disability club.

So your exchange went great, your guy or girl is amazing and you really like them. You exchange info and go on your merry ways until the day you call them up or text and ask them out some time. They accept, but now you need to make plans. Here’s where things get tricky, but don't sweat it.

Tip 2: Planning Your Date

Now, depending on the severity of their Spina Bifida, they could be able to walk or be wheelchair bound. Take this into account and no matter what, make sure wherever you go is ADA compliant (a.k.a. handicap accessible). This really shouldn't be a problem since nowadays most places are due to laws put in place to make it easier for people with disabilities but it doesn't hurt to check. I always like to remember this saying: "prior planning prevents poor dating performance."

So you found the perfect spot, you planned it out because "prior planning prevents poor dating performance," and now comes the moment of truth: it’s date time.

Tip 3: On the Date

DO NOT treat them any different from other people just because they have a disability. This ties in with tip 1, asking questions, but it goes much further. This also means be the gentleman or lady you know yourself to be, but don't hover around them and try to help them EVERY time they seem to be struggling; everyone has their own way of doing things. You may still offer help, but don't do everything for them. 99 percent of the time they will ask for help if they need it. In short, be yourself and go back to tip #1: ask questions, find out more about them, and answer anything they might want to know about YOU.

Well, look at that. You had a great time and they cannot wait to see you again. Way to go. I hope these tips helped you navigate dating someone with Spina Bifida; in fact, these tips can be used on ANY disability, not just Spina Bifida, so my question for you is, where are you going on date numero dos?

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