Dating apps encouraged to become more inclusive of people with disability

Tags Accessibility Health and Wellbeing

Posted 3 months ago by Anna Christian

Jerusha Mather believes dating platforms can do more to support people with disability. [Source: Supplied]
Jerusha Mather believes dating platforms can do more to support people with disability. [Source: Supplied]

There is growing support for a petition calling on dating platforms to be more inclusive and supportive of people with disability.

Jerusha Mather of Melbourne, a scientist, PhD student, poet and disability advocate, started the petition Bumble, Tinder, e-Harmony: make your platforms more inclusive of people with disabilities recently in an attempt to bring about positive change in the dating sector.

Almost 3,000 people have signed the petition and Bumble Australia has responded, saying Ms Mather’s ideas for inclusivity have been passed on to its internal team for consideration.

Ms Mather says she has requested to continue to work with Bumble to try to encourage inclusive practices and initiatives.

Living with cerebral palsy, Ms Mather says her journey of finding love has taken unusual turns.

“I have had many challenging moments with people misunderstanding and judging me at face value because I move and speak differently,” she says.

“People with disabilities are often discriminated against by other users on dating platforms, and not seen as potential partners.

“But people with disabilities have the potential to become great partners. We bring love, care and passion to our relationships just like anyone else. We want to be lovers, parents and experience fulfilling relationships.”

Education is key, Ms Mather says, to changing the experiences of people with disability and enabling inclusive dating.

She wants online dating platforms to include people with disability in their advertisements and educate platform users about inclusive behaviour around dating.

Education could include holding frequent seminars or workshops on dating and disability in an attempt to reduce bias and creating regular video content as well as blog posts on disability inclusion and accessibility in dating - including stories or interviews of people with disability.

The other side to it, Ms Mather says, is to provide personal support to people with disability using dating apps, who may benefit from supports like mentoring and specialist coaching staff, and increasing accessibility features such as speed dating opportunities and zoom dating.

Ms Mather adds, “If you’re someone who uses dating apps or websites, there’s a lot you can do to be inclusive of people with disabilities looking for a partner.

“Don’t infantilise us and look upon us with sadness, we do not need your sympathy. Treat us as you would treat any other person, with respect and dignity.

“Turn up to the date, with the intent to get to know us.

“Don’t use negative words such as suffering, problem, vulnerability, and weakness to describe disability, a person’s disability should not be the central focus or be made a big deal of.”

With dating inclusivity rarely discussed in the mainstream media, Ms Mather wants to see more people like herself represented in that space and has a message for others with similar experiences.

“Don't be fearful. Put yourself out there,” she says.

“There are some wonderful people in the world and there's someone for you. You are worthy of being loved and accepted.

“Never give up. Continue to try and one day, the right one will come and compliment you.”

If you would like to find out more about Ms Mather’s petition it can be found here.

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