For many people with learning disabilities, finding love, being in a relationship and meeting new people can prove extremely difficult as they are often faced with barriers and challenges that prevent them from finding what many people take for granted. However, there are now specialised dating agencies out there who can help provide the support needed to meet new people and help those people with learning difficulties find romance, friendship or companionship.
Everyone has a need for affection and intimacy, including people with learning disabilities, yet many people with learning disabilities don’t get to have this type of relationship because of a lack of social and practical support. Added to this, it doesn’t help that many people in society have a negative and stereotypical attitude towards people with a learning disability. Those attitudes appear to be slowly changing, but it’s evident that many people still don’t understand what having a “learning disability” actually means.
One student in the UK says a newly created dating agency for people with learning disabilities gives people like her “hope” that they can find new friends and love.
A new Not-for-profit dating agency called “Safe Soulmate” was established by Christine O’Neil and Vicky Baddeley to tackle loneliness in Cambridgeshire, UK, after receiving a £10,000 National Lottery grant. Around 130 people signed up to its first event in Cambridge recently.
Elizabeth Felton, 25, who attended the event, called it “an amazing opportunity”. She went on to say, “I think it’s brilliant because more things need to happen for people with learning disabilities to give them a chance, to give them hope.”
Ms Felton, from Ely, UK, was born with the rare growth, Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome, and has a moderate learning disability. She said she hoped the occasion would help her find “more friends and relationships”, as well as tackle her depression and anxiety. “I’ll focus all my energy on [the event] and I won’t have time to think about myself,” she said.
Safe Soulmate, which caters exclusively for adults with autism and learning disabilities, is due to run as a pilot for six months after receiving money from the National Lottery Community Fund.
It was set up by Stretham residents Mrs O’Neill, 38, and Mrs Baddeley, 46, who both work with people with learning difficulties. Mrs Baddeley said the response to their idea had been “overwhelming”, with the first Cambridge meet-up being oversubscribed.
“We did a consultation in 2017 and everyone was saying, ‘Hurry up, we need this now’. That was coming from social workers, support workers, and parents who were saying how their children were so lonely,” Mrs Baddeley said.
Luv2meetU is another dating agency that was set up to help people with learning disabilities, as the founders realised it can be difficult to meet new friends and get out and about. It’s a friendship and dating agency for people over 18 years of age and the site supports people in helping them make friends, share interests and develop relationships.
Luv2meetU can help people enjoy a range of activities from bowling and swimming, to meals out and visits to nightclubs. They organise events which their members tell them they want, so there’s always something different to try. As well as all the fantastic events that they run throughout the year, they also offer a one-to-one dating service for their members.
Disability Matches is another dating agency which caters for people with disabilities, including those with learning disabilities. They have created a dating site for people with disabilities, which enables users to quickly join their community and start communicating with other people near to them who understand just what it’s like to be them.
These dating agencies, along with TV programmes such as “The Undateables” have gone a long way to highlighting issues which people with learning disabilities have and are helping people with learning disabilities when they are trying to find love, or even just looking for friendship and companionship. The Undateables TV show follows a number of people who consider themselves ‘undateable’ due to challenging conditions, as they attempt to find love.
Everyone deserves the chance to find and enjoy love and happiness in life, no matter who you are or what makes you different.