Elizabeth Heideman examines how wheelchair users and others with visible disabilities navigate the world of online dating:
Because of disability trolling, some people may hesitate to disclose their differences right away. Wheelchair users may only post photos that show their bodies from the waist up, or people with visual impairments may not mention their guide dogs and white canes in bios. Only when they schedule an in-person date with someone do they mention their disability.
Tiffiny Carlson calls this “dropping the D-bomb.” Carlson, a writer who uses a wheelchair due to spinal cord injury, has been online dating since 1998. “I always disclose my disability right away in my profile and photos,” she says via email. Just like a messy divorce-in-progress or the fact that there are three kids under the age of 10 waiting at home, Carlson feels that disability is an important fact that potential partners should know from the beginning.
Unlike Woodward, who feels the Internet can bring out more negative in people than positive, Carlson thinks online dating is actually a better, less scary way for guys to approach her. For people who’ve never interacted with a wheelchair user, the first time can be intimidating (especially if you don’t know proper etiquette). Exchanging a few flirtatious messages online, though, paves the way for a smooth first date.