Ask Ada: Should You Disclose Your Disability On Your Tinder Profile?

Plus: Ada helps a woman stressing out over taking time off work due to an eating disorder relapse.

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

Dear Ada,

My sister is in her 20s and has never dated before. She’s decided that she wants to try online dating, and asked me to help her write her profile since I’ve had a few profiles in my day. Here’s what I’m so anxious about. My sister uses a wheelchair, and she doesn’t want to admit to it in her dating profiles. I feel like that’s a huge lie by omission and will unnecessarily complicate any potential dating situation she gets into. I think she should mention her wheelchair, and I’m not sure I should help her write the profile unless she does. What should I do?

Ultimately, your sister is the only person who can decide whether or not to mention her use of a wheelchair in her dating profile. She’s certainly old enough to make her decisions, and she’s the only person who knows what it’s like to be a young woman interested in dating who also uses a wheelchair.

You might have a dating perspective you can share with your sister, but you certainly don’t have the perspective she does.

Now, I’m a truth-first and never-lie-by-omission kind of person, so of course, I think she should be her true self on her dating profile. But then also I think about all the other dating profiles out there. Must someone with an invisible autoimmune disease mention this in their dating profile? What about someone who uses contacts to help with their vision? What if someone’s second toe is longer than the first? Should someone who suffers with sweaty hands make a note of this in their short online introduction? I doubt you’d refuse to help a friend who might be living with one of these conditions, so it’s a bit ableist to refuse to help your sister for not mentioning her wheelchair.

If someone decides to quit talking with your sister after they learn she uses a wheelchair, it’s their loss.

I think you’re projecting your fear of your sister being rejected because of her use of a wheelchair onto her. If someone decides to quit talking with your sister after they learn she uses a wheelchair, it’s their loss. I know that sounds flippant, and of course your sister may feel the sting of hurt if this were to happen, but a wheelchair does not automatically deliver a rejection.

Just like you likely had to edit and alter your dating profile as you moved through the world of online dating, your sister will too. And maybe, in the future, she’ll decide to include a picture of her in her wheelchair. Maybe she’ll write about it in her profile. Or, maybe she won’t mention it at all.

That’s her choice.

If lying by omission is bothering you, then you don’t have to help her. Tell your sister that you’re not comfortable leaving her wheelchair out of her profile and go on with your day.

But whatever you do, don’t give her an ultimatum to include it.


Worried About Taking Time Off From Work After A Mental Health Relapse

Dear Ada,

I have an eating disorder. I feel much more in “control” of it now that I was just a few months ago. I’ve definitely gotten better and feel much safer and healthier, but I know mentally, I’m not okay. Here’s my problem: I desperately don’t want to go into inpatient treatment. I want to work on myself, and I’m improving, so I think I can do it myself without having to take a leave of absence from my job and leaving my husband and animals until I’m “better”. What can I do to work my way back to being healthy?

First, you deserve praise for the work you’ve done to get healthier and the mental recognition that even though you’ve come a long way, you’re not “okay.” It’s very brave to know that you need more help than you’re currently getting.

But you cannot do this alone. You might have brought yourself this far (and you deserve all the kudos for that!) but you need to allow for professional help to take you even further.

I’ve got some great news for you. Inpatient treatment isn’t your only option for an eating disorder. Partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs will help you gain “control” and treat your eating disorder and any underlying issues that are fueling your condition.

In a partial hospitalization (PHP) setting, you’ll attend for five-to-seven days a week, and treatment can last anywhere from three to twelve hours a day. All meals will be provided for you and you’ll be attending group and individualized sessions for therapy, nutrition, and psychiatric treatment. Sure, that may seem like a huge commitment, but people who enter PHP treatment are able to receive the inpatient experience while still able to return home at night to see their spouses, children, and animals. Depending on the severity of your situation and treatment options, you may even be able to get treatment without having to take a full leave of absence from your job.

Depending on the severity of your situation and treatment options, you may even be able to get treatment without having to take a full leave of absence from your job.

Intensive outpatient (IOP) programs are similar in that you’ll spend three-to-seven days a week there, though the amount of time you’re in treatment is significantly less, usually about three hours at a time. Another difference is that it will be your responsibility to bring your own food for meals. However, like PHP, you’ll also receive group and individual therapy and nutritional classes. IOP programs may even offer the option for family therapy, so that your loved ones can help play a role in your treatment and future success. IOP programs work well for individuals who absolutely cannot take a leave of absence from work, but still need a formal treatment program.

While both PHP and IOP are enticing options so that you can still maintain a work/life balance, what needs to come first is your health. You might not want to take a leave of absence from work, but if it’s absolutely necessary to get you in the healthiest physical and mental shape, then please give yourself permission to do it. Your leave from work will only be temporary. Your health — or lack thereof — is permanent.

Are you currently working with a counselor? If so, they should be able to refer you to programs in your area, and they can help you determine what you’re looking for in a program. Just make sure you’ve been completely honest about the severity of your eating disorder with your counselor so they can make the appropriate referral.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.