Technology may be made up of computer chips, optic fibres and motion sensors, but it has a softer side, too- it can even help with matters of the heart. "Everyone wants someone in their life," says Louise Maxwell, 60, of London, Ont. "Many people assume that people with disabilities lack the physical and emotional needs of non-disabled people, but that’s not true."
Maxwell launched Soulful Encounters (www.soulfulencounters.com), an online dating community for people with disabilities, last spring. The site lets members join for free, peruse profiles and use blogs and message boards. The site has 200 members from around the globe.
Maxwell spent 20 years managing medical offices and says it was that experience with patients, combined with her own disability, chronic neuropathic pain, that led her to create the online space. She envisions Soulful Encounters as a community where members can talk about their lives, whether they are single or attached. Maxwell knows of members who have successfully met and struck up friendships. "With dating sites, it is much the same as offline dating. You keep trying until you get the perfect fit for you."
The website has been a welcome addition for users like Sandra Windsor, 48, of St. Thomas, Ont. She had a stroke six years ago, and she also has fibromyalgia. Soulful Encounters has given her the opportunity to connect with people who can relate to her experiences.
"The problem with regular dating sites is that the first question is ‘How disabled are you?’" Windsor says. "Like lots of singles out there, we are looking for somebody to share life with. Love, heartache, laughter, going to the movies with someone, or just out for coffee. I mean, just because the fender has a dent doesn’t mean the car can’t get you to where you are going to!"