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New app hopes to make dating accessible for all

The Harrison Review - 8/29/2017

After experiencing discrimination for being blind while using online dating services, Andrew Kranichfeld decided to create his own dating app in hopes of making dating more accessible for disabled people.

Kranichfeld's brainchild is Love is Blind, LIB, a dating app with a goal of creating a safe space for disabled people to make meaningful connections.

Kranichfeld, a Westchester native who lost his eyesight from cancer in 2010, said that since going blind he's found online dating to be difficult, between meeting his ideal match, and finding apps that are accessible for people who are blind.

For an app to be accessible to people with disabilities, it must meet the standards set under the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, a civil rights law that prevents discrimination of people with disabilities in public and private places.

The ADA says that an app must follow the guidelines under the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C. The W3C is a community that works to create standards for the web to make it accessible for everyone.

In 2008, the W3C released its updated version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which said that web developers should include alternatives to text by offering things like content in video form, video captions and sign language interpretations.

Yet, most of the dating sites out there offer any of the above.

"A lot of [dating apps] out there are not fully accessible for blind people," Kranichfeld said.. "There are certain things that aren't labeled correctly for screen reader [software]."

He noted Bumble specifically, saying, "I couldn't use it at all."

The other issue that he found with apps like Tinder was even though he put that he was blind in his profile, he would still receive negative reactions from matches.

Kranichfeld said that when his disability would come up over private messages, he would get "all kinds of reactions from anger to confusion."

These reactions are something that people with disabilities often face when participating in online dating.

"Disability and sexuality [are] still so taboo," said Andrew Gurza, a Canadian-based disability awareness consultant and a wheelchair user living with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor functions. "It's still so taboo that nobody wants to talk about it."

Gurza explained that he attributes the negative reactions he receives while using dating apps to people being scared of disability.

"The things [disabled people] face online is just blatant ableism," he said. "[Users who're] behind a keyboard, or behind a screen, feel a lot more comfortable to say inappropriate things."

Gurza discusses some of these issues on his weekly podcast "Disability After Dark."

In the episode "Gimps on Grindr," Gurza opens up about his experiences with being gay and disabled on Grindr, a social networking app for LGBTQ men, where he found users would immediately turn him down because of their own assumptions on how he was able to perform sexually while being wheelchair-bound.

"When people say [hurtful] stuff to me and type those things online, when I'm simply trying to connect with somebody, it's one of the most painful things I've experienced," he told the Review.

With LIB, Kranichfeld intends for disabled and nondisabled to be open about their dating preferences without judgment.

"I want [users] to pre-select who [they're] willing to date," he said. "Then [they] wouldn't match with anyone outside of those subcategories of people."

Kranichfeld plans to go beyond these specifications, by requiring users to make more detailed profiles that include things like video clips and photo captions.

"I'm trying to get a lot of feedback from the disabled community," he said.

Working with Kranichfeld on the dating app is Jaime Urteaga, founder and CEO of Digital Chair, a a digital marketing and web development company based in White Plains.

"There's a definite need, a definite problem to solve. [Kranichfeld's] experienced it, I think a lot of other people have experienced it, too," Urteaga said. "The more people hear about it, the more they become aware this is an issue."

Urteaga said that the app is only in its first phase, which has involved creating a landing page at LoveisBlindapp.com, and encouraging people to sign up for the app's newsletter.

The app doesn't have a set release date, but Kranichfeld hopes to launch it by April 2018. For more information and updates on the app, visit LoveisBlindapp.com.

 
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