A Cornwall dating service wants to help people with disabilities find lasting love and companionship.
Hand in Hand was founded by 29-year-old Cornish man Samuel Gillaspy who said he noticed a specific need for this type of service throughout his many years working with disabled people.
Sam, who lives in Penzance, has worked in the learning disability sector for over a decade and is trained in specialities such as epilepsy, first aid, mental health, autism and acquired brain injuries.
But during his time he had noticed that often disabled people were unsuccessful in their search for long-term companionship and found it difficult to find love on mainstream dating apps.
“At a home I worked in, me and a couple of colleagues were asked by a resident if we could help him open a dating account which ended up not going very well.
“That sparked a conversation over whether it would be good if there was a niche site, site for people specifically with disabilities in Cornwall and what started as just a conversation ended up in me taking that further.”
After a lengthy planning process, Hand in Hand was setup in 2019 and Sam began providing individual support and guidance – without the computer algorithm.
Sam said it was important for him to not have a database of people that can all access each others profiles because of the sensitive nature of the information discussed.
“A lot of people don’t know how to socialise with people with disabilities in a way and it is difficult to look at people with a disability and understand exactly what that means.
“A lot of people generally don’t spend time around people with disabilities.”
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Sam’s approach allows him to get to know clients and gain a deeper understanding of what the individual is looking for in order to match them up with someone like-minded.
He says he also provides constant one-on-one support as well as advice on finding a safe-zone for them to meet or he offers to join couples on the first date as a chaperone.
“Think about how difficult it is being on a first date regardless. Then imagine that with being on the autism spectrum or having any other kind of physical or learning disability.
“Sometimes there is so much excitement building up to that meeting that it is important to have someone be there and help people along because dating is hard under any circumstances.”
When people sign up to Hand in Hand they are required to add information to a bio so that Sam can get an insight into that individuals interests and aspirations.
He then might arrange to ask some further questions that will aid in the matchmaking process.
Hand in Hand also hold a seasonal event where people can attend even if they are not signed up to the website as a way of meeting new people.
“We offer a dedicated service for finding you the companionship that you are searching for and undoubtedly deserve.
“Specialising in match-making for clients who are differently abled, we personally search through all of our other lovely members to hand pick potential matches for you, based on your hobbies, aspirations and preferences.”
For more information you can visit the website here.