Dating with a disability: Extra help on offer for singles in search of – Ausnew Home Care

Dating with a disability: Extra help on offer for singles in search of love

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When Nemoy Malcolm arrived at Sydney Airport after a long journey from his home in the US, he knew exactly who he was looking for.

Feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation, Nemoy — who lost his vision in his teens — asked a flight attendant to help him find "the woman with the dog".

That woman was Krystal Keller, who was also blind. The pair had developed a strong connection over eight months of conversations online, and decided to take the plunge and see if their relationship worked as well in real life.

Nemoy described Krystal's outfit to the flight attendant as they searched the arrivals hall.

"I didn't think it was going to be a problem finding her until we found the woman with the dog [and] she wasn't wearing the outfit she said she would," Nemoy said.

It was the first time the pair had ever met, but Nemoy said it felt like they'd known each other for years.

Krystal, wearing a wedding dress, and Nemoy, wearing a tuxedo, walk together next to a lake. Krystal carries a bouquet.
Nemoy ended up moving to Australia to be with Krystal.(

Supplied: Nemoy Malcolm


"The online relationship is a really emotional and personal one because you're spending a lot of time just focusing on each other," he said.

"We really got a chance to listen to and understand each other's thoughts without the distraction of going out on dates and hanging out with friends.

"Krystal was funny, smart, and very empathetic."

After several trips between the US and Australia, the couple married in 2016 and have two sons, aged nine and one.

Now, Nemoy is sharing his fairytale story with other people living with disability to help them become more confident with dating.

Modern dating's many pitfalls

Nemoy, 40, has teamed up with Sarah Taylor, 39, to run a series of forums through advocacy organisation Vision Australia.

The Brisbane mother of two, who also lives with a vision impairment, found herself back on the dating scene after her marriage of 10 years broke down. It wasn't quite what she hoped for.

Sarah Taylor, wearing a white necklace, sits on a chair and smiles for the camera.
Sarah Taylor found returning to the dating scene a little overwhelming.(

Supplied: Sarah Taylor


She said she wasn't sure when or how to disclose her disability to prospective partners, and found popular apps difficult to navigate because they did not include image descriptions, meaning screen-reading programs could not describe photos.

"They [screen-reading programs] will read aspects of the profile, they will read when you are typing into the chat boxes but we recommend using a reliable friend to interpret the pictures for us."

The forums Sarah and Nemoy are running are designed to break down stigma, allow people with disability to share stories and advice, and help those in search of romance to feel more confident.

"We are still human, we still have the same wants and desires, we still want that connection and I would like people to see that we are not needing a carer," she said.

'Maybe I can try that'

Sydney man Conor Smith, who is also blind, took part in the first forum this week, which was held via Zoom.

Conor Smith, dressed in a plaid shirt, stands in front of a white wall and holds a dog leash.
Hearing others' dating stories can "give you a little bit of a push", Conor Smith said.(

Supplied: Conor Smith


"When you realise that other people are in similar situations, it can give you a little bit of a push, because for everybody with dating — no matter who they are — you can kind of feel like, 'is this just me?'" Conor, 30, said.

"You get different tips and perspectives and you think, maybe I can try that out."

Desiree Tan, who lives with cerebral palsy and a spectrum disorder, said the dating world can be tough for people with disability.

"Choosing when and how to disclose your disability is hard," said the 22-year-old from Melbourne.

"There's never a wrong or right way to do it, it's personal choice."

She said using certain apps had allowed her to have control over the dating process.

"It wasn't until I started using apps that I started consciously thinking about dating, relationships, the power dynamics and the experiences of it," she said.

"When you message people first, you have a bit more agency in that conversation and I then feel more motivated to keep the conversation going."

Desiree Tan, wearing a patterned blouse and standing in front of floral curtains, smiles for the camera.
Some apps empower people with more control over the dating process, Desiree Tan said.(

Supplied: Desiree Tan


And she said many disabled people have had to deal with negative stereotypes and misconceptions, including "that people with a disability can't have sex, which is not true".

Helping each other out

Nemoy agrees there are some challenges that he hopes the forums can help people navigate.

"Things like when you are uploading your photos to an app, what is the story you are telling and how do you get that story across? How do you make that story yours when you are relying on friends or family to describe photos?"

Above all, Nemoy hopes the forums will give people the tools and self-confidence they need to feel date-ready.

"We will be able to talk about our successes that we've had and we'll be able to workshop together as a group to deal with some of the things that we're not sure how to overcome," he said.

"And remember you have something to bring to someone else's life, and that it's really important you take time to understand what it is you want to share with someone else and what it is you want from someone else, because the only one who is going to sell you is you."

Source: ABC

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