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This Valentine’s Day will once again see a celebration of love. Unfortunately for many people with learning disabilities, this is just a dream. 

Although they may want to be in a relationship, they are often faced with barriers and challenges that prevent them finding what many take for granted. But specialised dating agencies can help to provide the support they need to meet new people and find romance.

People with learning disabilities, like everyone else, have a need for affectionate and intimate relationships. Yet many people with learning disabilities don’t get to have this type of relationship because of a lack of social and practical support, and society’s negative and stereotypical attitudes. 

Although attitudes are changing, it is evident that some caregivers still hold these negative perceptions, which include the belief that people with learning disabilities are asexual or “childlike”. 

Not only do these beliefs hold people with learning disabilities back from relationships, they also infringe on their human right to privacy and a family life, as outlined in Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

This Valentine’s Day will once again see a celebration of love. Unfortunately for many people with learning disabilities, this is just a dream. Although they may want to be in a relationship, they are often faced with barriers and challenges that prevent them finding what many take for granted. But specialised dating agencies can help to provide the support they need to meet new people and find romance.

People with learning disabilities, like everyone else, have a need for affectionate and intimate relationships. Yet many people with learning disabilities don’t get to have this type of relationship because of a lack of social and practical support, and society’s negative and stereotypical attitudes. 

Although attitudes are changing, it is evident that some caregivers still hold these negative perceptions, which include the belief that people with learning disabilities are asexual or “childlike”. 

Not only do these beliefs hold people with learning disabilities back from relationships, they also infringe on their human right to privacy and a family life, as outlined in Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Stars in the Sky, one of the first to be set up, by two women with learning disabilities, is now unfortunately closing due to financial constraints. It also featured in The Undateables, and it is clearly evident from the series that support can enable people with learning disabilities to form relationships. And success is not only measured by a successful date but by the confidence that individuals gain by going on a date, too.

Samantha joined the dating agency because, she said: I was struggling to find anyone on my own. And I want, I guess what every girl, woman would like to have partner or companion to share things with.

Jane’s reason for joining was “because I didn’t want to be single anymore. I hate being on my own and being miserable.”

Relationships have a positive impact on mental health and the well-being of people in general. This also goes for people with learning disabilities, and for it to happen their sexuality must be acknowledged. 

They need support to allow them the opportunity to form and develop relationships, and they should be empowered with the tools they need to consent to sexual relationships. 

Hopefully, if we get these things right, people with learning disabilities will be able to enjoy forming relationships in a safe environment, and fulfil their need to love and be loved.

- The Conversation

The Conversation