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The Short Version: People with disabilities often have difficult conversations early on in the dating game — sometimes leaving them feeling vulnerable and nervous. For people hoping to find relationships online, Disability Match replaces those emotions with the comfort of knowing others have had similar life experiences. The site’s dating profiles contain all the usual personal information you’d expect, but it goes a step further by offering categories for singles to share information about their health and the specific challenges they may be facing. More than just a dating site, Disability Match is an advocate for the disabled community and works with charitable organizations and individuals throughout the UK to make people’s lives and relationships more enjoyable.
About seven years ago, David Miller found himself on a date that would change the trajectory of his life and the lives of so many others. He was so excited about meeting this new woman that he arrived 15 minutes early so he’d be sitting at the table to greet her.
However, when she appeared in the restaurant’s doorway, he saw her hesitate before she approached. As she walked his way, David noticed she was limping. He would never forget her opening words.
“I always try to be the first to arrive on a date, so I am already sitting,” she said. “I don’t want my limp to act as my first impression, and I hope it hasn’t put you off.”
Of course, it didn’t bother him a bit, and the two dated for almost a year.
Even though the relationship didn’t last, the memory of their first encounter stayed with David. He believed there were probably more people out there who felt self-conscious about dating because of a disability.
“I thought it would be nice for people to have a niche site where they could feel totally at ease regardless of disability, whether obvious or hidden,” David said. “Since I couldn’t find one I liked, I created it.”
Since 2011, Disability Match has been helping people with disabilities connect with others who’ve had similar life experiences. The site’s specialized dating profiles paint vivid pictures of its members’ personalities and allow them to present their health conditions upfront. This creates a greater level of comfort and trust between potential matches before their first meeting.
Disability Match’s philosophy centers around making dating more enjoyable for disabled singles in the UK. Currently, the site has 30,000 members across the region varying in age, sexual orientation, and disability.
Understanding that some disabilities are not readily apparent, David designed the site to allow users the option of disclosing their health challenges in their profiles or in private conversations between potential matches. Disability Match also accepts “disabled friendly” members who aren’t living with disabilities but are interested in making connections with like-minded people.
Member disabilities can range from wheelchair users to amputees and those living with debilitating conditions like Multiple Sclerosis. Many members are on the autistic spectrum or have bipolar disorder. Regardless of the disability, the site provides a warm and secure place to meet people. And it works. Disability Match receives monthly success stories, and thousands of matched couples are on the books.
As with most dating websites, members provide detailed information to their profiles like gender, city and region, astrological sign, and age, among others. Members then set their match criteria. For example, if you want to meet a woman between the ages of 23 and 34 who lives in London, this is where you specify that information for others to see.
What’s unique about Disability Match is it gives members the option to include their health conditions. They can get as personal as they want in the About Me section of their profiles as well as share their passions and the things they look forward to doing with a prospective partner.
In the About My Match field, members can spell out exactly what they seek in a match as well as note if they’re looking to connect with an individual with a similar health infirmity.
Disability Match’s Characteristics grid is for presenting big-picture items other members can find at a quick glance — including whether you have children, your drinking and smoking habits, height and other physical characteristics (like eye color, hair, and frame), marital status, occupation, income, language, and interests.
Members are encouraged to upload pictures and videos to personalize their profiles, and they have an array of contact options when someone catches their eye. They can wink, instant message, email, or communicate via webcams. If they’re interested in playing matchmaker, they can even send a profile to a friend!
David prides himself on the fact that his site is about much more than online dating. His goal is to serve as an advocate for the large community of individuals living with disabilities.
“Right from the start, I was determined that Disability Match should be an active participant in the community it was serving,” David said. “I knew many sites just focused on subscriptions and user retention, whereas I wanted to be rather different.”
And different it is. He started by working with charities and community blogs to loop them into what he was doing when he launched in 2011. He initiated conversations on Facebook to find out more about how his potential members were meeting partners and created a Twitter feed to provide information to the community.
Among the articles and information David has included are “Being a Disabled Gay Man in a Grindr-Led World — An Insight,” which discusses how one Toronto man interacts with his community that is so centered on looks. “3D Technology Prints Prosthetic for Violinist” gives an exciting account of how technology created by a 20-year-old student at Northwestern University enabled a girl to play the violin. David also provides a ton of general information on various diseases and disabilities.
The level to which David and Disability Match are active in the community is impressive.
“We have helped an autistic filmmaker promote his portfolio and worked closely with the London Marathon to inform the community about elite wheelchair racers,” David said.
David told us he also used his podcast to broadcast the passions of Kate Caryer, a young theater director, who, through a Stephen Hawking-style voice box, discussed her Unspoken Project.
His audience of about 30,000 members in the UK appreciates his drive and determination to make dating easier for the disabled. He often attends conferences and recently gave a series of seminars at the NAIDEX conference in Birmingham. David’s passion project, to which he commits a bulk of his time and effort, is making the world a better place for the disabled.
David continues to find new and exciting ways for members to engage with the site and with each other. One of his major goals is to make today’s technology work for his members.
“My future plans are to do more podcasting and test out Facebook Live broadcasts and YouTube videos for our members,” David said. “I also plan to use Skype to give personal dating coaching and advice based on the feedback I got from talking at seminars.”
David told us he’s excited to put his background in social psychology to work so he can help others enjoy dating a bit more.
He also pushes an enormous amount of content out and partners with outside opportunities like The Undateables, a series that follows disabled people through the ups and downs of love. In all, David has done something great with Disability Match, and he has more amazing things to come. And to think, it all started with just one date.