Blind dating — the complications of searching for love without sight


It was a wet January; I was on a first date and my guide dog hadn’t pooped in two days.

As a 32-year-old blind man, this made for a complicated start.

In this instance, the date ended with a disorientated dog in search of a park, a run in with a kerbside pole, and a hurried goodbye in a taxi.

Dating without sight comes with a myriad of questions, many I continue to struggle with.

How do you approach someone you cannot see?

How do you know if someone is flirting with you?

How do you know what their body language is giving off?

How do you know she’s leaning in for a kiss, only to lift a pint to your lips and miss your chance because one of your senses doesn’t want to be your wingman?

Even though the dating world has changed, some people still wait for a man to “make the first move”.

Mr Smith with friends at the Red Cow Hotel in Penrith, Western Sydney.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

Most flirting is having the subtlety to plead plausible deniability if the other person does not feel the same.

While this is challenging for many people, it can be heightened when you cannot notice cues, let alone interpret them.

To get around this, I have tried online dating and apps like Bumble, Hinge and Tinder.

In some ways, they are great levellers, as I can meet people from my own home by messaging them, and not a strange place that I may have never learned how to get to independently.

While that’s a benefit, apps also come with the emphasis on selfies and picture swiping.

Since losing my vision at age 12, I do not care about photos, and I have little use for taking selfies.

There is also the uncertainty around who am I talking to.

Even if I do meet a date in person, I have no clue if they are who they described themselves to be, as my eyes cannot validate in real life if the person is the photo.

One upside to this, is that I have less interest in looks alone.

Conor is captured while playing his drumkit. It’s a midshot, taken in between a drum and a cymbal. He is wearing a blue shirt.
Mr Smith says he doesn’t want his dates to put him in the “too hard basket”.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

But people with disability still have preferences, and desires.

I know plenty of people with disability that go to alternative adult events and lead rich, interesting love lives of every persuasion.

Part of my experience is not unique to blindness or disability.

So many people have been burned by our reliance on swipe-fests, and the pandemic has made us forget how we met before the internet.

But part of my dating experience is related to my disability.

No one wants to be put in to the “too-hard basket”.

Especially when we know that through all the missed handshakes and guide dog misadventures, disability or not, we’re just fumbling hands in the dating darkness, looking for our chance.

This piece was commissioned by the ABC for International Day of People with Disabilities.

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