“I have been a quadriplegic for five years now and I have accepted that my mobility to a large extent depends on my wheelchair. I go out with friends often and it is great but no one seems interested in me as a person anymore? It seems as if people are too scared to even approach me? I need to love and be loved by someone too – is this too much to ask?”

I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments! Many of my clients have the same complaint.

However, the problem does not necessarily lie with the person in the wheelchair but with the public at large who are either uninformed about disability, or just couldn’t care less. Common misconceptions about people in wheelchairs include that they are also mentally impaired, deaf or dumb and that they are smelly and dirty because they have no bowel, or bladder control!

I am certain that your spinal cord injury has not affected your mental capacity, your speech or hearing at all. By now you will have acquired a healthy and normal bowel and bladder regime that is totally inoffensive and manageable.

So what to do?

You mention in your letter that you go out with friends which is great and already a big step towards integrating back into society. Initially disability does affect body image and self-confidence and often spinal cord injured people withdraw from society and some even prefer to rather associate with other disabled persons who ‘understand’ their disability.

You have already been accepted by your friends and they have become comfortable with you and the wheelchair and this is your first step in finding a man!

However, your journey to finding a partner who will accept you starts within. You need to feel good about yourself first - so pull up your wheelchair to a full-length mirror and look at yourself. Do you look comfortable and do you sit upright in your chair? I have friends in chairs that are so comfortable and move so smoothly that I forget about the chair completely.

How do you dress? What does your hair look like and what about make up? There is absolutely no reason why you cannot dress in the latest style and look really sexy and appealing. If you do there is going to be a smile on your face saying ‘here I am, look at me!’

When you go out with your friends engage in the conversation and activity like you did before. If you notice someone noticing you and he is not one of your regular friends you need to make the first move. Remember all the misconceptions about people in chairs? Move up to him and start a conversation. This will give him the opportunity to see that you are normal besides being in a chair. Once you start talking about your or his interests he will relax into the conversation and realise that it is not so ‘different’ talking and reacting to a person in a chair. At some stage he will probably start asking about your injury and disability and here you need to give information on a need to know basis. The way you tell your story can indicate that you have accepted your disability and that you are managing it with confidence and grace, which will prompt him to do the same.

As I write to you Valentine’s Day is approaching and a unique opportunity to ‘engage’ with someone presents itself. So buy a nice card, get a great outfit ready and let Cupid do the rest!