Dating can be petrifying, but having a disability shouldn’t make things worse.
Josh Perry, a 26-year-old former marketer and Otago Polytechnic graduate, will next month launch a dating website called Enabling Love.
The site, which Josh hopes will soon also be available as an app for mobile devices, will be primarily aimed at disabled people. Non-disabled people are invited to join if they’re willing to date disabled people.
Josh, who has cerebral palsy, says he wants to “break down barriers”.
“I had spoken to a number of disabled people who told me that something like this needed to be set up,” he says.
“I rarely see disabled people in bars and dating and in relationships. I think it’s important that everyone has confidence, no matter what their background is and no matter what their disability is.”
He says the modern world is a difficult place for disabled people to date. He plans to include information on accessible dating locations on Enabling Love.
“I think a lot of disabled people don’t know where to start [in terms of dating]. And I also think they’re not sure what accessible services are out there. Enabling Love is about making dating accessible to all,” he says.
“I hope and believe in a few years things will be better.”
Josh, with the help of a small team including his parents, has been working on the website for about two years.
He will initially help facilitate dates, but hopes once enough people join, he can take a step back. He says friendship will, of course, be an option for people.
He hopes a decent number of non-disabled people join.
“I originally started this dating agency because I wanted disabled people to be more integrated into society, as well as forming new relationships,” he says.
“This is about enabling people to find love and achieve what they want in life, including relationships.”
Josh says he’s not dating anyone at the moment. “I’m working on it.”
Enabling Love will include a small cost. Josh says he’s still looking for further sponsorship.
Josh unsuccessfully ran for Dunedin City Council last year. He was unfortunately in the news when it was revealed councillor and mayoral candidate Lee Vandervis privately told him he was unsuitable for the job.
“He can barely breathe or speak, he's wheelchair-bound. To be able to make any speech he has someone hold a microphone for him, someone hold the paper in front of him and point to the words he has to say,” Vandervis later said.
Josh responded by saying he was standing so that disability issues such as bad street and public transport design were given more prominence around the council table.
"I would want to see by next election two disabled people standing in every part of New Zealand. I think it's important that we encourage people with all diverse backgrounds to stand."
Vandervis was elected to the council but lost the mayoral race.
Enabling Love can be found here.