This activist is pushing for dating apps to become more accessible

Over four million people in Australia have a disability.

When it comes to finding love, everyone, disabled or not, should have the right to seek out and explore social connections online. It’s not a new phenomenon that dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have completely overhauled the way young people connect with each other, but unfortunately the narrative of people with disabilities on dating apps is largely ignored. .

If you’re logging into a dating app right now, it’s a capacity love fest. Apps lack accessibility features and useful resources to reduce bias.

Jerusha Mather is a PhD student at Victoria University who has cerebral palsy and is on a mission to make dating more accessible and inclusive. Especially when it comes to dating apps. She is also the powerhouse behind the petition—Bumble, Tinder, e-Harmony: make your platforms more inclusive for people with disabilitieswhich collected nearly 3,000 signatures.

We caught up with Jerusha to ask her to change people’s attitudes, create safe spaces for people with disabilities, and make dating apps more inclusive.

What are you petitioning about?

“I am presenting a petition to increase support for people with disabilities who want to find love in dating apps. Whether by launching specialist coaching/mentoring programs, alternative one-on-one matchmaking initiatives, and speed dating events aimed at to increase inclusion.

“I would also like to see more regular disability awareness and education initiatives, such as the launch of workshops and seminars, as well as regular media activities aimed at raising awareness of people with disabilities.”

What was your experience with dating apps?

“I’ve had experiences where I haven’t gotten proper matches and I’m afraid that if I try again I’ll become entrenched and my boundaries won’t be protected. I’m also aware that people with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and harassment and I think something needs to be done to make it safe for them, and that’s where there needs to be more personalized support mechanisms for us.

“It is so important that we change perceptions of disabilities, so that everyone becomes more inclusive and supportive. So that everyone becomes united allies. That’s what I really want to see more of. Like seeing more quality people willing to give someone like me a shot if their love is really true. People with disabilities should be considered excellent partners and potential parents.

So what changes do you want to see?

“The responsibility to promote inclusion and awareness also falls on dating organisations. There also needs to be more support for people with disabilities who want to find love.

Jethura suggests the following points that platforms can consider when aiming to promote disability awareness and inclusion:

  1. Regularly create video content and blog posts about disability inclusion and accessibility in dating. This could include stories and interviews with people with disabilities.
  2. Conduct frequent seminars and workshops on dating and disability with the goal of reducing stigma.
  3. Increase accessibility features such as speed dating opportunities and zoom dating.
  4. Provide personal support for people with disabilities who may need additional support to find love. that is, mentoring and specialized coaching staff.

How can others help?

“If you see someone like me on a dating platform or that you really like, don’t hesitate to ask them out. We are just as capable of being a great partner and contributing to the relationship as any of us. anyone else. As with anyone, we have both strengths and weaknesses. Most of us have the ability to be good parents.

“Most of us have an enthusiasm for life and have a positive vibe. Most of us are very attractive and appealing to the human eye. Most of us are quite independent. Despite our subtle differences , we are similar in our thoughts and emotions. Why wouldn’t you want to go out with us?

If you’re considering dating someone with a disability, Jethura has some tips for you.

  1. Don’t ask offensive questions. Just treat us like you would any other person.
  2. Meet on the date with the intention of getting to know us. Not just our disability. Don’t ghost us for our differences.
  3. The assumption that people with disabilities should only date people with disabilities needs to end. That’s like saying dark-skinned people should only date “dark-skinned people.” Disability is just another beautiful part of human diversity and should be accepted as a norm.
  4. Choose an accessible location. But choose something fun and trendy. Most of us are ready to try new things.
  5. Be supportive, flexible and inclusive. Be open to new things and experiences. Enter with an open mind.
  6. Communicate effectively and share everything you feel. Do not hesitate to ask us questions if you are unsure of something.
  7. Educate yourself and others about accessibility and inclusion as it relates to people with disabilities. Be a good ally and supporter.
  8. Don’t date us because you feel sorry for us or because you want to look good.
  9. Do not use offensive words to describe a disability such as pain, helplessness, problem, vulnerability and struggle.
  10. Respect the person’s decision if they refuse the offer to go out with you.

Jerusha adds that you can also write to dating agencies such as eHarmony and Bumble to request that more disability awareness opportunities be created.

To sign Jerusha’s petition Bumble, Tinder, e-Harmony: make your platforms more inclusive for people with disabilitiesmeet here.

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Image credit: Iryna Marmeladse

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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