I often find myself isolated and a bit lonely. It’s quite common in people with disabilities, and indeed in the general population.
In a survey of 1004 disabled people by the disability charity Scope 67% said they had felt lonely in the past year. This figure rose to 75% in working age disabled people. In my age group (18–34) a whopping 85% said they felt lonely. I’m no exception.
My disabilities make it difficult for me to socialise with people. My hearing loss, in particular, causes me a good deal of social anxiety. In noisy places, I find it very difficult to understand what people are saying, so it’s hard to follow conversations. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t really help either. A lot of able-bodied people seem to be nervous about interacting with people with disabilities. So it’s hard to start conversations with some people.
Plus there isn’t an awful lot of places where I can go to meet people my age. I wanted to join a board game club in Lincoln. I found two of them. One met upstairs in a Victorian pub, so that was off-limits. The other one was accessible, but all the toilets were upstairs, and they had no lift. So I couldn’t go to that one either.
It’s annoying because the boardgame club would have been ideal for me. It would have been a fairly quiet atmosphere so I could have conversations with people, and actually be able to understand what they’re saying. But funny old thing, they weren’t accessible.
The Outsiders Club
Thankfully there are some groups that can help disabled people to make friends. One such group is the Outsiders Club. Outsiders is “a social, peer support and dating club, run by and for socially and physically disabled people.”
Outsiders members all have some sort of physical disability or social anxiety who have found it difficult to socialise. Members meet up every month for lunch, in various areas around the country. The lunches are run by volunteers who each have a disability and help to facilitate discussion in the group.
I’ve been to 2 lunches so far, one in London and one in Nottingham. The Nottingham one was one of the Midlands regional lunches, which moves to different places around the Midlands. Midlands members decide amongst themselves where would be easiest for everyone to get to. They also have regional lunches in other parts of the country such as the south-west for example. So you can hopefully get to the one that is nearest to you.
On both of these occasions we met in a pub, which unfortunately for me was quite noisy. So I found it difficult to understand what people were saying. I’m going to go to more lunches though. Hopefully, I will be able to understand better next time.
Outsiders also run a private Facebook group where members can socialise online. Members share their profile picture and write about themselves so other members can see if anyone takes their fancy. There are often some interesting discussions in the group on a wide range of topics. Plus we can share stories relating to sex, dating and disability with each other. I’ve met some nice people in the group and at the lunches, so I think it’s worth joining if you have a disability and feel lonely.
Outsiders was founded by Tuppy Owens who is a qualified sexual therapist. She is always on hand to provide advice about sex, relationships, and dating.
To join outsiders you have to fill out a form and you are then vetted by some of the volunteers to make sure that you are not an undesirable. I do recommend is that you join if you have a disability because it’s a good way to meet people in a similar situation to yourself. People that have experienced social isolation and anxiety and who understand what it’s like.
Check out their website here: http://www.outsiders.org.uk/outsidersclub/