As dating Web sites keep emerging online, a growing number of sites in this market are catering to the mentally or physically disabled in order to create a community without embarrassment. Ricky Durham created Prescription4Love after watching his brother experience embarrassment and loneliness that he saw could not be mended by traditional dating sites. His brother had Crohns Disease and "It was hard for him to disclose his disease to anyone, but it was really hard for him to tell someone he had a colostomy bag," Durham told Reuters. Durham wanted to create a place where people have similar conditions, therefore eliminating the need to disclose the information, let alone be embarrassed by it. Although the site launched after his brother’s death, within two years it has grown to over 5,000 members in five countries, with users living with over 50 illnesses, including Tourette Syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and sexually transmitted diseases. Australian Sara Fantauzzo observed a similar loneliness in her brother, who has Autism and found it difficult to make friends, let alone find a date. It reflected his trend of joining online communities for people with similar mental conditions, and by transferring that ability to share similar experiences in the dating world, Fantauzzo hopes to unite many people who are lonely because of their mental conditions. Dating Web sites are growing, with the Hitwise analysis company estimating there are over 1,350 dating services online, with 44% of those being similar niche sites. People are finding sites that cater to specific interests such as medical conditions, music, religion, and sports. Not only does it give people a place to feel comfortable with who they are, it also enables them to already have something in common with potential partners. Niche dating sites create a dating community separate from traditional services, and the growing number of such sites demonstrates it is a great idea.
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You are using an outdated browser For a better experience using this site, please upgrade to a modern web browser. The difficulties with walking and navigating, Sheypuk said, mean disabled teens are less likely to go on dates. Sheypuk said she is also using the Internet in her own private therapy practice by meeting clients over Skype to make it easier for teens and adults with disabilities to attend her therapy sessions. She said the problem of disabled teens not socializing like "normal" teens is a huge public health concern.
Sheypuk believes online dating sites for teens are a great way to "go in and start mixing," in all aspects, including with "normal" teens.


The presence of home attendants is another barrier for disabled teens seeking a more intimate interaction. Megan Fry, an ordinary 14-year-old girl on the inside who loves to paint, is in a wheelchair and cannot speak. She told Women's eNews in an email that when she does go on dates someone will have to be there for her to help with her physical needs. But online, no such third wheel is needed and the social connections made possible on the sites offer a gateway for teens with disabilities to go on in-person dates. She said people with disabilities are interested in romance, dating and sex just like everyone else. Karen Barker, vice president of the trust, safety and community team at Skout, a geosocial networking app based in San Francisco, also has a special-needs almost teen-aged son. Barker said in Skout teen community you can chat with someone immediately, however it is not a chat room. The sites offer geosocial networking applications for iOS and Android phones, or smartphones, that use Global Positioning System technology to spot nearby social contacts. Thirty-seven percent of American youth ages 12-17 now have a smartphone, the mobile devices used to access geosocial networking apps, up from 23 percent in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center study on teens and technology.
Female teens are especially likely to be cell-mostly Internet users; 34 percent of teen girls ages 14-17 say they mostly go online using their cell phone, compared with 24 percent of male teens ages 14-17. Barker said social networking sites offer teens the chance for social contact at all hours of the day in contrast to physical locations, which may be inaccessible due to safety concerns or transportation hurdles that affect all teens and particularly those with disabilities. Barker estimates that Skout--which is free--attracts between a million and 1.5 million new users every month and a significant portion are teens all over the world who hold deep conversations and build meaningful relationships. In June of 2012, Skout suspended its teen site after three allegations that contacts that had begun with interactions on the site ended in rapes. Barker said Skout began studying ways to boost the safety of its community members, particularly teens. Barker said teen chats and photos on Skout are now heavily moderated and teens who violate the rules will be quickly banned from the site and their mobile devices will be blocked to prevent them from opening another account. Barker says Skout has a trust and safety advisory board of people in FOSI (Family Online Safety Institute), ConnectSafely and Online Safety Journalists to help ensure they run a safe and fun community for teens.
The Skout teen community does not allow anyone under the age of 13 or over the age of 17 to join.
Rosette Pambakian, publicist for Tinder, a geosocial networking site based out of California popular among college students, said it has the same age restrictions for its teen community.


A recent survey of Facebook users found that the most common source of frustration on the social media site was envy caused by browsing others' profiles. To turn down the social media stress in your life, avoid turning Facebook into a game of keeping up with the Joneses.
Like the previous examples, it gives people a place to feel at ease with their condition while looking for romance. Wheelchair New York 2012, said she wishes the sites--which many teens are accessing through special applications on their mobile phones-- had been around when she was a teen.
She doesn't favor dating sites specifically for disabled people because it would perpetuate the unhealthy attitude of belong to a separate group. In the "Meet People" screen you are presented a group of pictures of people and you can read about each person on their profile.
In a chat you have a conversation either in text or, as of recently, you can leave up to a 30 second voice chat. For safety reasons, most apps do not give the exact location of a person, especially the teen communities. In July 2012 Skout re-launched and broke the adult and teen community into two separate groups moderated around the clock by staffers. When a teen signs up they are first required to provide their age, which Barker said is called age-gating. Instead of browsing through classmates' photos to see who had the best summer ever with their siggo while you were at home working (and single), use the network exclusively to talk to friends and share fun updates on your life. The Xining Orphan and Disabled Children Welfare Center, established in 1998, now houses about 134 orphans and disabled children. She uses a computer called a Dynavox Eyemax to communicate, using the retina in her eye and blinking to type and even paint using software called Art Rage, where she has to dip the paint brush just like everyone else. Unfortunately no site can be 100 percent certain of anyone's age but some apps do require users to login through Facebook, which helps verify that a person is who they say they are.
The center has developed into an integrative welfare institution providing fosterage, rehabilitation, medical treatment and education for orphans and disabled children.



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