Dating A Disabled Person | Q&A Pt. 2

Last week Jemma, my girlfriend, and I answered some of your questions about what our relationship is like when one of us is disabled! We covered how we met, our thoughts on the word 'interabled', dealing with people staring at me and more. This week we've answered even more questions, including talking about our plans for the future and theatre. We've had so much fun writing these posts together and as always if you have anymore questions then comment below or send me a tweet, if we get enough we'll continue this into a series!

What's the most challenging thing?

Jemma: Having to plan out every single detail when we go somewhere because of accessibility. I've never really had to think about accessibility before in planning dates. It's hard sometimes when we find places that we want to go to together and but then not being able to go because of poor accessibility. I sometimes feel guilty when I go somewhere that Shona can't get to because of access (Shona: but I encourage her to go to these places). S&J: There are whole shows and theaters we can't go to for example. J: At first when we came across accessibility problems I found it a little awkward. We went on a date to Nandos early on and there was an issue with the lift potentially being broken whilst we were downstairs and I wasn't sure what to do, I didn't want to take away Shona's independence but I also wanted to be helpful. S: From my perspective that was something new for me too, learning to accept help and recognizing when I'm actually okay and when I'm being stubborn!

Are there any parts of a relationship that you think are taken for granted by 'able-bodied' relationships? 

S&J: For both of us I think it's spontaneity, it's just not really an option for us to be spontaneous. Everywhere new I go I need to research what the accessibility is like, for example on one of our first dates we went to the bookshop Gay's The Word, somewhere I'd never been before and beyond looking at the front of the shop on google images I didn't really check the accessibility much more than that. Inside we were faced with a step to get down to the lower section of the shop and me being the cocky person I was, I was certain I would be able to get back up it. I was wrong. Jemma had to give me a big push for me to get back up it. I'm happy to say there is now a ramp there thanks to Jemma though! I think from then on I was even more detailed in researching new places we'd visit together. We can be spontaneous but only if it involves going to places we've been before. I would love for us to be able to just go to London and try and find a random show for us to day seat together but it's just never going to be an option for us.

How did you two adjust to a pace that works when spending time together? And how do you deal with needing to cancel plans?

J: We've never really had to cancel anything, apart from when Shona was in hospital a few times over the past year, I have anxiety and so it's a little stressful for me but we are so good at adapting now and we balance each other out quite well. S: I guess for me it's all about communication, letting Jemma know when I'm getting tired or need a lay down. It's extremely rare that I overestimate my energy levels and then we're left having to cut a day short though. Very early on when we were dating however I overslept massively (thank you chronic fatigue) and Jemma was on the train to London whilst I was still in bed, I think the fact that we both dealt with that so well was an indication that adjusting our pace or needing to adapt wouldn't be a problem.

Does accessibility greatly affect what shows you two can see together? 

S: It affects it so much, there are so many theatres in London that I can't get into. Jemma loves the show 'Emilia' and it's something we really wanted to see together last year but the theatre it was in is just completely inaccessible for me, it's really frustrating in those situations where no amount of adapting or being creative can change the situation. Yes, often I get cheaper tickets but I also get worse views and I usually can't access most of the theatre and I can't sit with any more than one other person. Given the choice we would much rather pay more for better seats and better access. I joke about how cool it is to get cheaper tickets but it's far more complicated than that. For example, last year I saw Come From Away and the ticket was around £18, however I literally couldn't see half of the stage and couldn't access 90% of the theatre. It was the most demoralising experience. I wrote about it for my blog and someone commented on Twitter saying they'd happily pay that price for the restricted view, but they completely missed the point that it would be their choice to sit there and pay that price, they could see the show again from a better seat at a different time if they wanted. I never have that option, I get what I'm given and the low prices are there to make theatre more accessible to disabled people but also to make up for the sub-par experience we often receive.

What are your plans for the future and adapting to Shona's needs in terms of finding a house together? 

S&J: We are both very aware that moving out together and all of the typical milestones aren't going to be plain sailing for us. Finding somewhere to live can be stressful enough as it is but finding somewhere accessible is an unreal challenge we will have to overcome. We have a little more flexibility than others in that I am able to walk a little, and I'm grateful for that but living in an inaccessible home currently really makes me want to compromise as little as possible when I do move out so life can be easy as possible. Financially it's also going to be challenging since right now I'm only able to work a few hours a week as a self employed writer. In terms of more immediate plans though I'm just about to start the process of finding a wheelchair accessible car and learning to drive. We're definitely limited on where we can go together outside of London because I don't have an adapted car, and since we live just over an hour away from each other driving would also make it easier for us to see each other, the journey can be almost 4 hours long on the train. Driving would open up so much more of the country for us and enable us to go on holidays and city breaks together, so right now that's the more immediate goal.

As always if you've got any questions comment below or tweet me!

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