Tips for dating including people in wheelchairs
Most important for any first date
Treat the person you are dating as you want to be treated. The most important areas you need to concentrate on while on a first date are listening and replying with whatever wisdom you have. You want to truly listen, not be considering your reply as your date is talking. Talking is good, make sure to come up for a breath so you don’t carry the whole conversation. Don’t get in a rush because anything worth having is worth your time and effort.
Reservations work best
If your are dating someone in a wheelchair, think about accessibility. This includes bathrooms as these may be needed. If you call to make reservations, ask to make sure. If reservations are not required and you don’t have personal knowledge call anyway. Remember, if your date is comfortable the date will be more enjoyable.
Movie theaters can create special issues for people in wheelchairs. Some of the older theaters still in use today are really not accessible. If you can walk and your date is in a wheelchair this could cause you to be seated separately. Call to make sure you can sit next to your date. If this is not possible the best solution is find another way to spend your evening. Most people in wheelchairs do not like to be separated from them for any length of time. Especially if they can't see the wheelchair.
Accessibility of facilities
If you don’t know if the person needs help in the bathroom you can ask. If your uncomfortable with asking this type of question on a first date, double date. Preferably with friends of theirs at least for the first date. You can also ask if the person in the wheelchair has special requirements. My wife could be self sufficient if the bathroom had handrails. There were times I had to carry her into an unaccessable bathroom. She would always check first, so she would know. Then she make sure the room was empty before asking for my help.
If you are using a vehicle don’t assume the person needs or wants your help to get in or out. Ask if they would like your help and if they say no just help with the door if that is your style. Especially on a first date do not touch them without asking first. Treat the wheelchair with as much respect as you would a person’s legs as it is in fact their legs.
There is nothing as distracting as being bumped
When you get to your destination try to make sure your date (if they stay in the wheelchair) is placed where people won’t keep bumping into the wheelchair. At the very least being bumped is distracting. Distraction is not something anyone would want on a date. If your date is seated outside the wheelchair put it in a safe place preferably close by where your date can see it.
Out of the mouths of babes
If you are uncomfortable asking your date why they are in a wheelchair take them to a place where there are children. Children are curious and not afraid to ask questions. Often you can learn what you want to know without outright asking. If you do it this way watch you dates body language and listen to what the children ask. Watch your dates responses, this can give you an idea if you might want this person to be the mother or father of your children.
If you have enough interest in someone to date them, treat them with the respect you would a great friend. You never know they might become more than a friend. I have lived this both ways. One of my wives lived in a wheelchair starting at age nine. She was one of the last in her local area to be affected by Polio.
Remember if you or your date are “having a bad day” you are both responsible for what you do and say, no matter how you feel. If you aren't feeling fine it is better to reschedule. First dates are first impressions and in most cases you want your first impression to last.
My life saw first a few weeks in a wheelchair as a teen then "for life, in my late thirties." After my wife's death I dated many times. This should give me enough experience to write "Tips for dating including those in wheelchairs."
© Revised October 15, 2014 11:00 PM CDT Dennis Thorgesen
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