Online dating seemed to start out with a stigma – as if only nerds and socially inept people used online dating due to poor social skills or lack of popularity. But the fact is with more and more of today’s younger generations turning to online dating, the stereotype is lifting. Online dating is also helpful for people in challenging life situations, such as paraplegics.
“I mean, I remember exactly what she wore that first day I met her … I know because I kept trying to look at her butt and she was walking away.
She caught me, she caught me looking and she busted me right on that, too, and I just turned bright red and was like, ‘Yeah, I was looking,” Chappell says. “It was funny, we talked so long during that night that I didn’t know that everybody in the entire restaurant had left until the lady that was working there hit my wheelchair with the vacuum cleaner and we kind of looked around and said, ‘Oh crap, there’s no one else in here.’
The 43-year-old from Lodi, Calif., has been in a wheelchair for 40 years after being shot by another little boy in a gun accident. Chappell found it hard to meet people and turned to online dating, where he found his wife, Ginger, of nine years.
“I tried dating just in my general area or what not, and all the women I was meeting … had a hang-up about the chair because of what some of their friends said,” Chappell says. “So I figured you know what, since my luck hasn’t been so good in general, I thought I would try to reach out and see what else was around me. Like the saying goes, fish in a small pond and you’ll get small fish; fish in a bigger pond and you’ll get something better.”
Plenty of Fish
The stigma of online dating hasn’t always been positive, but with the rise of sites such as Match. corn, OkCupid.com and eHarmony.com, more people are taking to the screen in search of love.
“Ten years ago, people thought that anyone looking for a date online must be desperate, but that has completely changed,” says Michael Carter, president of the Passions Network (pas-sionsnetwork.com). “Everyone is online these days, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Insta-gram or Pinterest, and with this ease of creating accounts online, there has been a dramatic turn-around regarding views of online dating.”
The Passions Network is both an online dating and social networking site. Within the network, more than 248 niche sites bring people together through a common interest to help break the ice. Of those 248 sites, one is Disabled Passions, which contains groups within such as spinal-cord injury (SCI), wheelchair user, paraplegic and quadriplegic.
“The reason I think Internet dating (and social networking) is great for someone dealing with an SCI is that they have an opportunity to easily find people who understand their personal situation without having to deal with hardships that can be involved in navigating some social environments,” Carter says.
Chappell used Yahoo Personals for about a year and half before meeting Ginger, and during that time he saw the struggles and benefits of being a wheelchair user in the online dating realm. He was always straight-forward about his SCI–his profile photo even showed him in his wheelchair. But a few of his dates were still frequently caught off-guard and treated him differently.
“A couple people I had gone out with, when they saw me were like, ‘Well I didn’t realize you were in a chair.’ And I’m like, ‘Well the picture showed me in a wheelchair, hence, I didn’t really think I had to mention it,” Chappell says. “I told [my wife], ‘Just so you know I’m in a wheelchair,’ and I asked her, ‘Would you have a problem with that?’ And she kind of laughed and she said, ‘Well do you have a problem being in a wheelchair?”
O’Brien, Devon. “Surfing for love: the phrase, ‘We met online,’ hasn’t always gotten a positive response. But with ever-rising technology, online dating is getting better reviews, especially for those with SCI.” PN – Paraplegia News 68.2 (2014): 18+.