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10 things to learn about dating a blind person.

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Perkins School for the Blind

There are few greater thrills than meeting someone amazing for the first time. So much happens in those first few moments.

Maybe it's their eyes and the way they sparkle in the light. Maybe it's their smile and how it makes the corners of their eyes crinkle in just the right way. Maybe. All you know is that with just one look, something is a little bit different. Just as Ed Sheeran says, everything has changed.

‌A woman looks into a man's eyes. Image via iStock.‌


For people who see, so much of what is felt in those first few moments comes from the way a person looks. But what if we couldn't see them? Would we still feel the same way about them after a first meeting?

It's a real question and one that people who are blind or have low vision get asked a lot. To get a better understanding, we asked a few individuals what they wish sighted people knew about dating them.

1. They may not be able to see you, but first impressions still matter.

"The concept of a first impression in a meeting for us is not quite similar to [what] you are familiar with," says Florian Beijers, a 24-year-old computer science student from the Netherlands. "You can see the style of their clothes, the way they look ... [but] we don’t get these details. There is, of course, someone’s smell, someone’s voice, but they don’t always tell the same story as what you would be seeing ... it takes us a bit longer to actually form an opinion on someone."

Still, if you didn’t make an effort to dress up for the date, if you are uncomfortable, or even if you're uninterested in the date, it is going to show.

"I don’t have to see their facial reactions to tell if they want to get out of there, if they are bored," says Tanja Milojevic, 27, who works in the library at Perkins School for the Blind. "I am also interested in how they look to a point ... [so] when I meet somebody, I give them a hug. The hug shows me what they look like in a sense, and that helps form my impression of them," she adds.

‌Two women hug at a coffee shop. Image via iStock.‌

2. Scent is important.

There's a lot of unseen stuff that folks notice that shapes their attraction to someone new. Smells — the ones we cultivate or the ones we don't even realize we have — are a big part of that.

"Body odor is a big one," says Milojevic. "If they smell like sweat and beer and they didn’t brush their teeth — I am not going to be interested."

3. Sound is too.

Like scent, the sound of a potential partner can go a long way to affecting how attracted a person will be to them. It's more than the timbre of a voice; it's everything from the sound of their breathing to their chewing to what their shoes sound like when they walk. Word choices and volume are key, too.

"Their voice is important to me," Milojevic says. "I pay attention to their conversation skills, but also what their voice sounds like."

‌A couple holds hands over a candlelit dinner. Image via iStock.‌

She continues, noting, "You can definitely tell when you meet somebody whether they put a lot of emotion and emphasis into their voice. I personally like that because I can learn a lot about them as a person [and] I know how they are reacting ... if they put a lot more passion into their voice, it’s easier to read them."

4. Spontaneity is fun, but dating is often easier for blind people when they can plan ahead.

Until Elon Musk and Google replace all cars with perfectly self-driving ones, getting around wide distances will continue to be a bit of a challenge for blind and low vision folks. Many people, blind and sighted, rely on public transportation and the schedules that come with it. Having the time to plan travel in advance is important.

5. Don't write off activities like going to movies or the theater. There are apps and tools for that.

‌A woman leans on her date's shoulder in the movie theater. Image via iStock.‌

Going to the movies or a play are time-honored dating activities. Those don't have to be off-limits because you're dating someone with a visual impairment. Lots of movie theaters are equipped with audio descriptions so that moviegoers can fill in the gaps for scenes without dialogue or narration.

And if you aren’t sure if it’s something a blind or low-vision friend would enjoy — just ask. "Better to not assume, better just to ask," Milojevic says.

6. Open communication is key to any relationship — and asking questions is OK.

Every relationship will eventually fall apart if the people in it don't trust each other enough to talk honestly. So talking and asking questions on a date is one of the best ways to get over any awkwardness.

"If you are unsure about something, just ask — we don’t bite," Beijers says. "People start walking on eggshells when they are around someone with a disability; that is something that you shouldn’t do."

"Asking questions is actually a wonderful way to get conversations going and putting yourself at ease," notes Milojevic. "We don’t get offended easily, for the most part, and sometimes just asking 'Is there something that I should avoid bringing up that might offend you' is helpful and will put them at ease because usually [we] will say no."

‌A man and a woman talk over coffee. Image via iStock.‌

Beijers adds, "When you start a relationship with someone that can see and you cannot yourself, at some point, these things are going to come to light anyway, so you might as well start out knowing what you are comfortable talking about, what you feel comfortable discussing, and what you don’t feel comfortable talking about — this is going to help you grow closer."

Beijers has been with his girlfriend, who is sighted, for more than two years. They met at a friend’s party, and he said they grew close because they had open communication from the beginning. "[If] both parties try not to be awkward with each other, I think you come a lot further and have this chemistry that will grow a lot faster," he says.

7. Don't diminish the relationship between a blind person and their guide dog.

‌A seeing-eye dog. Image via iStock.‌

For a relationship between a person and their service animal to work, they both need to trust each other implicitly. Potential partners need to be comfortable with always having a third (four-legged) wheel around and not distracting the service animal from their important daily duties.

"If they don’t like dogs or they are allergic, I don’t pursue it because it is not going to work out," says Milojevic.

8. They don't need a savior or a servant.

Having a partner who is helpful can be wonderful but not when it comes at the expense of being self-reliant.

In an interview with Tab's View, blind dater Abby described her experiences with an ex-boyfriend who used her condition as an excuse to do everything for her.

"I would ask him to not pick me up  somewhere, because I have a guide dog; I wanted to walk on the pretty days," she said. "He would pick me up anyway, and it just drove me crazy after a while, I would tell him, 'Hey! You can just meet me at home,' or something like that. He sometimes would be okay with it, but it got to a point where he would use my visual impairment to his advantage."

Milojevic also had a particularly bad — and creepy — date with a man who enjoying "helping" just a little too much.

"The person was very interested in the whole process of helping me out, even if I didn’t really need the help, and they liked the fact that traveling around an unfamiliar area, I was depending on them," she recalls. "It was more like they liked having the whole 'dependent/co-dependent thing' going on at that moment, and I don’t know. I didn’t like that. It kind of freaked me out."

"I am capable of doing things myself," she explains. "I don’t want the person to feel like they have to do everything. If I am in a relationship, I want to feel like I’m equal."

9. Blind people date using a lot of the same tools and apps you do — though nothing beats meeting in person.

There are a few specialized dating apps and websites for people who are blind or have low vision, but most don’t offer the same wide pool of potential dates. As a result, more and more people use the same dating websites and apps that everyone uses — or at least the ones that are accessible to screen-readers.

Milojevic says she used to have an online dating profile but that it isn’t her favorite way to meet people. "I had a few experiences on there where it just didn’t go anywhere," she says.

Also, not all parts of dating websites were accessible. "There was a lot on there, a lot of advertisements. And it would freeze up my page, so I got frustrated with it." She prefers meeting people at events or on websites like Meetup, where she can get to know someone face-to-face.

10. Relationships matter because we're people and we matter.

‌A couple walks holding hands by the riverbank. Image via iStock.‌

It's a fact: Not everyone one in the world will seem attractive to everyone else. But all of us, regardless of who we are and what we like, deserve the chance to find love and happiness. Whether you are sighted, blind, or in between, remembering our basic shared humanity is essential.

There are few greater thrills than meeting someone amazing for the first time. So much happens in those first few moments.

Maybe it's their eyes and the way they sparkle in the light. Maybe it's their smile and how it makes the corners of their eyes crinkle in just the right way. Maybe. All you know is that with just one look, something is a little bit different. Just as Ed Sheeran says, everything has changed.

‌A woman looks into a man's eyes. Image via iStock.‌

For people who see, so much of what is felt in those first few moments comes from the way a person looks. But what if we couldn't see them? Would we still feel the same way about them after a first meeting?

It's a real question and one that people who are blind or have low vision get asked a lot. To get a better understanding, we asked a few individuals what they wish sighted people knew about dating them.

1. They may not be able to see you, but first impressions still matter.

"The concept of a first impression in a meeting for us is not quite similar to [what] you are familiar with," says Florian Beijers, a 24-year-old computer science student from the Netherlands. "You can see the style of their clothes, the way they look ... [but] we don’t get these details. There is, of course, someone’s smell, someone’s voice, but they don’t always tell the same story as what you would be seeing ... it takes us a bit longer to actually form an opinion on someone."

Still, if you didn’t make an effort to dress up for the date, if you are uncomfortable, or even if you're uninterested in the date, it is going to show.

"I don’t have to see their facial reactions to tell if they want to get out of there, if they are bored," says Tanja Milojevic, 27, who works in the library at Perkins School for the Blind. "I am also interested in how they look to a point ... [so] when I meet somebody, I give them a hug. The hug shows me what they look like in a sense, and that helps form my impression of them," she adds.

‌Two women hug at a coffee shop. Image via iStock.‌

2. Scent is important.

There's a lot of unseen stuff that folks notice that shapes their attraction to someone new. Smells — the ones we cultivate or the ones we don't even realize we have — are a big part of that.

"Body odor is a big one," says Milojevic. "If they smell like sweat and beer and they didn’t brush their teeth — I am not going to be interested."

3. Sound is too.

Like scent, the sound of a potential partner can go a long way to affecting how attracted a person will be to them. It's more than the timbre of a voice; it's everything from the sound of their breathing to their chewing to what their shoes sound like when they walk. Word choices and volume are key, too.

"Their voice is important to me," Milojevic says. "I pay attention to their conversation skills, but also what their voice sounds like."

‌A couple holds hands over a candlelit dinner. Image via iStock.‌

She continues, noting, "You can definitely tell when you meet somebody whether they put a lot of emotion and emphasis into their voice. I personally like that because I can learn a lot about them as a person [and] I know how they are reacting ... if they put a lot more passion into their voice, it’s easier to read them."

4. Spontaneity is fun, but dating is often easier for blind people when they can plan ahead.

Until Elon Musk and Google replace all cars with perfectly self-driving ones, getting around wide distances will continue to be a bit of a challenge for blind and low vision folks. Many people, blind and sighted, rely on public transportation and the schedules that come with it. Having the time to plan travel in advance is important.

5. Don't write off activities like going to movies or the theater. There are apps and tools for that.

‌A woman leans on her date's shoulder in the movie theater. Image via iStock.‌

Going to the movies or a play are time-honored dating activities. Those don't have to be off-limits because you're dating someone with a visual impairment. Lots of movie theaters are equipped with audio descriptions so that moviegoers can fill in the gaps for scenes without dialogue or narration.

And if you aren’t sure if it’s something a blind or low-vision friend would enjoy — just ask. "Better to not assume, better just to ask," Milojevic says.

6. Open communication is key to any relationship — and asking questions is OK.

Every relationship will eventually fall apart if the people in it don't trust each other enough to talk honestly. So talking and asking questions on a date is one of the best ways to get over any awkwardness.

"If you are unsure about something, just ask — we don’t bite," Beijers says. "People start walking on eggshells when they are around someone with a disability; that is something that you shouldn’t do."

"Asking questions is actually a wonderful way to get conversations going and putting yourself at ease," notes Milojevic. "We don’t get offended easily, for the most part, and sometimes just asking 'Is there something that I should avoid bringing up that might offend you' is helpful and will put them at ease because usually [we] will say no."

‌A man and a woman talk over coffee. Image via iStock.‌

Beijers adds, "When you start a relationship with someone that can see and you cannot yourself, at some point, these things are going to come to light anyway, so you might as well start out knowing what you are comfortable talking about, what you feel comfortable discussing, and what you don’t feel comfortable talking about — this is going to help you grow closer."

Beijers has been with his girlfriend, who is sighted, for more than two years. They met at a friend’s party, and he said they grew close because they had open communication from the beginning. "[If] both parties try not to be awkward with each other, I think you come a lot further and have this chemistry that will grow a lot faster," he says.

7. Don't diminish the relationship between a blind person and their guide dog.

‌A seeing-eye dog. Image via iStock.‌

For a relationship between a person and their service animal to work, they both need to trust each other implicitly. Potential partners need to be comfortable with always having a third (four-legged) wheel around and not distracting the service animal from their important daily duties.

"If they don’t like dogs or they are allergic, I don’t pursue it because it is not going to work out," says Milojevic.

8. They don't need a savior or a servant.

Having a partner who is helpful can be wonderful but not when it comes at the expense of being self-reliant.

In an interview with Tab's View, blind dater Abby described her experiences with an ex-boyfriend who used her condition as an excuse to do everything for her.

"I would ask him to not pick me up  somewhere, because I have a guide dog; I wanted to walk on the pretty days," she said. "He would pick me up anyway, and it just drove me crazy after a while, I would tell him, 'Hey! You can just meet me at home,' or something like that. He sometimes would be okay with it, but it got to a point where he would use my visual impairment to his advantage."

Milojevic also had a particularly bad — and creepy — date with a man who enjoying "helping" just a little too much.

"The person was very interested in the whole process of helping me out, even if I didn’t really need the help, and they liked the fact that traveling around an unfamiliar area, I was depending on them," she recalls. "It was more like they liked having the whole 'dependent/co-dependent thing' going on at that moment, and I don’t know. I didn’t like that. It kind of freaked me out."

"I am capable of doing things myself," she explains. "I don’t want the person to feel like they have to do everything. If I am in a relationship, I want to feel like I’m equal."

9. Blind people date using a lot of the same tools and apps you do — though nothing beats meeting in person.

There are a few specialized dating apps and websites for people who are blind or have low vision, but most don’t offer the same wide pool of potential dates. As a result, more and more people use the same dating websites and apps that everyone uses — or at least the ones that are accessible to screen-readers.

Milojevic says she used to have an online dating profile but that it isn’t her favorite way to meet people. "I had a few experiences on there where it just didn’t go anywhere," she says.

Also, not all parts of dating websites were accessible. "There was a lot on there, a lot of advertisements. And it would freeze up my page, so I got frustrated with it." She prefers meeting people at events or on websites like Meetup, where she can get to know someone face-to-face.

10. Relationships matter because we're people and we matter.

‌A couple walks holding hands by the riverbank. Image via iStock.‌

It's a fact: Not everyone one in the world will seem attractive to everyone else. But all of us, regardless of who we are and what we like, deserve the chance to find love and happiness. Whether you are sighted, blind, or in between, remembering our basic shared humanity is essential.

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