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These last few years, I have spent a significant amount of time in the digital dating space. I did my fair share of swiping, flirting, going on dates and conducting an informal environmental scan of the modern dating scene as a woman in a wheelchair. Prior to this venture, I had been in some long term relationships that had formed organically out in the “real world.” 

Valentine’s Day sparks inner reflection for many, and if one thing is true, it’s that the dating scene has drastically changed over the last decade – from the digital dating boom, to the time spent in lockdown, it’s not what is used to be, and more people are single now than ever in the past. 

In honour of Cupid, I thought I would share some insights and lessons learned:

Honesty and Humour Are Attractive

When it comes to putting yourself on the dating market, digitally or otherwise, honesty and humour are universally attractive qualities. I am often asked whether I am overlooked on dating apps for having a disability and the short answer is: I can’t keep up with them. I write a bio that captures who I am and what excites me and casually mention that I use a wheelchair without making it the focal point of my profile. I also upload several photos where my wheelchair is fully visible and then brag about something completely unremarkable, like having a 416 number. 

If you have a disability and want to see what’s out there on dating platforms, being transparent from the get-go will win you quality matches that are worth engaging with. Don’t be afraid to display a little edgy humour – disability is often viewed as a terrible misfortune, so turning the wheel and having some fun can be attractive, signaling that you are down to earth, approachable and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Questions Are Inevitable

On mainstream dating apps, disability is quite rare. Most of the people I match and engage with have never dated someone with a disability, which means questions are frequent, silly and sometimes preposterous and inappropriate. While some people will respectfully ask questions to figure out how to make accessible first date plans, others will dive off the deep end and ask about intimacy two messages in, or even profess that it would be a pleasure to go to bed with you, in spite of your limitations. Questions and peculiar comments are pretty standard, so be prepared and come up with a game plan for how you will approach these breathtaking love notes. 

My own strategy was to troll them.

 “Your body is ridiculous,” one suitor said. 

“Well of course it has ridiculous aspects to it, I was born with a rare joint condition, I didn’t think you’d point it out in a Bumble message. That’s not very nice.”

“Nooooo,” he said, “I just meant your body is nice.”

“Yeah, I know. But I got you good, didn’t I? :)” 

dating apps installed on a phone. bumble, hinge, tinder, the league, okcupid, coffee meets bagel

There Are Lots of Kind, Interesting People Out There

One of the benefits of digital dating is the ability to make a lasting impression solely with the contents of your mind. Let’s be real – there are thousands of hot people that linger on these apps, yet connections of substance require more than looks. Digital dating allows you to establish commonalities based on what you share about yourself and connect with people on a level that goes beyond physical appearance and the first impressions of disability that may be unappealing at first glance.

Even though I’ve come across thousands of comical messages that demanded facepalms, the digital dating scene has tons of kind, interesting and thoughtful people who engage in meaningful conversations, plan fun accessible dates and dedicate the time to get to know who you are. 

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Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the concept of love and to express your appreciation to someone near and dear to you. Whether you’re happily single, committed, or thinking about putting yourself out there, be sure to show gratitude for all the forms of love that are present in your life. And have some chocolate. 

bio photo of nikoletta, sitting in her wheelchair smiling wearing sunglasses.
About the Author

Nikoletta Erdelyi is a writer and poet from Toronto, fascinated by how we make meaning for absurdity. She is a philosophy nerd who loves to cook, collect fragrances and write poems about the unique bits of consciousness.

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