Being in a relationship is complex. Successful couples must figure out how they communicate effectively, how they build trust and respect, how they navigate differences in priorities, how they interact with friends and family members, and how they handle sex and intimacy.
For people with disabilities, societal and systemic barriers make being in a relationship even more complex. Barriers include everything from transportation issues to biases and misconceptions about disabled people as sensual & sexual human beings.
Denise and Charles have faced these barriers both individually and as a couple. Through this they have nurtured a lasting relationship. Denise with her stylish hair, fashion forward glasses, and confident air and Charles with his twinkling eyes, smart beard, and gentle manner, are in love.
The two met at a LADD event in 2009 and have been dating since then. They go to movies, play croquet, go to Cincinnati Reds game, and watch TV together every weekend.
But it isn’t always easy.
For Denise and Charles, the biggest barrier they face is they can’t just easily be together whenever they want to. Transportation is a major systemic barrier for many people with disabilities, and especially for people like Charles who uses a wheelchair.
As Denise and Charles move forward in their relationship, they know they will continue to encounter the existing barriers they face. They also know there are further systemic barriers that could affect them. The two are considering marriage and are beginning to do the work to understand whether, and how, getting married could affect the level of aid they each receive. Meanwhile, they continue to appreciate the comfort from a relationship built on shared experiences, the mutual respect from years of caring wholly for another, and the joy of finding someone to share their life.