Navigating the twenty-first century dating scene is stress-inducing for most singles. For the visually impaired, there is an additional dimension of challenge when navigating the dating world.
While it may be tempting to forgo the dating apps and cuddle up with your cat and a bottle of wine instead, there is love and companionship to be found out there!
Here are a few tips to help you as navigate the mysterious world of dating.
1. Decide which dating app will work best for you.
If you’re planning to use the internet as part of your dating search (and who isn’t, in 2020?) take some time to research which apps will most accommodating to your visual needs.
Most phones contain a magnifier tool in the settings, which enables users to enlarge the tiny text on apps.
Unfortunately, many popular dating apps (such as Tinder and Bumble) aren’t compatible with the Voiceover app, which can be a challenge for those who are legally blind. For sighted users, a quick glance at another user’s photo will result in a left or right swipe.
For online daters with visual impairments, this vetting process isn’t so simple. Some visually impaired users may prefer using an app that requires more detailed responses (such as eHarmony.)
2. Decide when and how you’ll share your visual impairment, on your own terms.
Some people will choose to share their disability directly in the written “About Me” section of their dating app of choice. (The term blind date takes on a whole new meaning!) Others may choose to wait until they are actually messaging or texting with a potential match.
There are pros and cons to all approaches; being open and honest at first swipe can immediately weed out people who aren’t open to dating someone with a visual impairment (and who wants to date those people anyway?!)
However, immediate disclosure can also lead to unwanted attention from potential dates who specifically prey on matches who they view easy to take advantage of.
Decide what works best for you, and recognize that this isn’t a perfect science, and most people are good at heart and want to find a partner, just like you do.
3. Keep the details surrounding your vision loss brief.
Don’t feel like you need to share the intimate details regarding your vision loss on date one, three, or ten. The person sitting across from you is still a near stranger, not your ophthalmologist. If the relationship progresses, there will be plenty of time to share those details later.
4. Consider safety first.
This is true for all singles meeting dates online, regardless of disability status.
Plan to meet your date in a public place and never immediately disclose where you live or work.
Keep responses vague until you’re sure that you trust the person you’re meeting.
It’s also great to let a family member or friend know that you’re going on a date just in case something goes awry; sending a screenshot of your date’s profile or letting a loved one know where you’ll be meeting is a great precaution.
It is extremely rare that singles are harmed by an online date, but keeping safety in mind when meeting strangers is always a good practice!
5. Take ownership and suggest date locations that will be accommodating for you.
Know a great new restaurant that offers a Braille menu? Suggest it! Dating is stressful enough at is without adding in locations that won’t be accommodating to your needs. In particular, selecting a first-date location that is familiar and comfortable is key to relaxing and enjoying the experience.
6. Assure your date that you still want to partake in “normal” dating activities, such as going to the movies.
Lots of theaters are equipped with audio descriptions and other tools to help blind moviegoers enjoy the show. It’s okay to educate your date about the accommodations you utilize to enjoy life.
7. Assure your date that you’re not looking for a caretaker.
When a sighted person is dating a visually impaired person for the first time, there may be some questions about what this would mean for a relationship.
Some sighted people may worry that dating a blind person would be a “burden.” Assure your date that you take care of yourself, and you’re not looking for a caretaker.
You’re looking for love and companionship and someone to have bottomless brunch mimosas with, just like everyone else on the apps.
8. Recognize that it’s totally okay for you to have physical preferences, just like everyone else.
There are some misconceptions in the dating world that blind people don’t assess others based on physical characteristics and therefore are less picky as daters. This simply isn’t true!
Having physical preferences when you dip into the dating pool just makes you human; don’t feel like you have to continue seeing someone you’re not physically attracted to just because you have a visual impairment.
9. Give yourself permission to take breaks when you need to.
Online dating can be brutal, disability or not. If you have a miserable first date (or ten miserable first dates) and you’re feeling burned out, it’s perfectly okay to take a break! Log off, delete your app, take a little sabbatical.
Do what you need to feel good about yourself, and when you’re re-energized you can try again.
10. All good relationships are built on honest communication, and yours is no exception.
Make sure you communicate what your needs are as a visually impaired person; your date may care for you deeply but they can’t read your mind.
Communicating your needs and desires is critical to building a healthy relationship.