Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Dating Game for the handicapped

Meg Casey
April 20, 1983

Dating Game for the handicapped

Meg Casey
April 20, 1983

Dear Meg,

Do they have a dating service for the disabled?

John P

I’ve finally gotten some news about a dating service for the disabled, thanks to the network of family. friends and associates who were enlisted into this treasure hunt. A recent wire service article was spotted flaunting the bold headline New Dating Service for Disabled Looks Beyond Handicap.

Unfortunately, the reporter’s name wasn’t include. The information has been traced back to the Pittsburgh bureau and a more accurate business mailing address will be forthcoming for "Specialized Dating" located in Pennsylvania. Then you can get down to the business of dating!

Specialized dating was started by Cynthia Staver after recognizing the need and difficulties encounter when trying to socialize. Cynthia Van Horne is disabled herself. She has a mild case of Cerebral Palsy and uses two wooden canes to get around. Knowing the problems she runs up against she and Karen began thinking about others more severely restricted, such as those people confined to wheelchairs.

Some people have criticized Specialized Dating for contributing to society’s segregation of handicapped people, saying that "the entire disability movement has been one of integration and this goes against the grain."

Karen Slaver says "It is not our thing to get these people out of their houses and into bars and restaurants an theaters where you really don’t see anybody handicapped."

People without disabilities are welcome to join the program.

One of the biggest issues in this whole dating process is this ridiculous stigma placed on the disabled as if they were non-sexual human beings. Some dating services have been reported for refusal to take on disabled clients due to the risk of not being able to match them up with anyone else because they have a disability.

Specialized Dating was started in January and more than 200 people joined before the first membership list was distributed Feb. 28. For $30, a member receives three monthly lists of people of the opposite sex.

A short profile of each member is culled from a questionnaire asking about occupations, interests and expectations of a date. Also included is a physical description of the handicap. Members must be at least 21 years of age.

Personally I commend these two brave women for venturing into this business in the true pioneer spirit despite warning of “financial risk.” It is a great idea and it’s about time!

postcript:

The handicapped dating service "Specialized Dating" described in this 1983 column was a bold idea hampered by limits such as a relatively high cost considering the tiny local customer base they had. (With a mere total of 200 members means that for $30.00 ($70.00 when inflation is factored in) there were only 100 potential mates to choose from. If having similar numbers as some services where the men outnumber the women 3 to 1, the women would have only 50 on their list. Today the internet allows nationwide coverage with clients not having to wait 3 months for the list of potential suiters to be updated. The term "Specialized Dating" is used today for groups of people other than for people with disabilities. Religion based websites range from the highly advertised "Christian Mingle" to "Muslim Matrimony". While some of these site foster the segregation issue raised about handicapped dating in this article, other sites such as inter-racial and alternative lifestyles try to bring different people together. Several handicapped dating websites can be found, but the Pittsburgh based service listed here doesn’t seem to have survived these obstacles with the only reference to it being an old newspaper archive.


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blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper
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