By Rohini Banerjee:
These days when we hear of online dating – of couples who met on Tinder, Facebook, and so on – we rarely blink an eye. But while resorting to an app or website, to find one’s romantic partner is becoming increasingly common, what this route doesn’t offer is equal opportunity for those how are differently-abled. But the times, they are a-changing, as a new app on the block – Inclov (Inclusive Love) – is creating a unique, safe, prejudice-free space for people with disabilities to find love and commitment.
The app is the brainchild of 23-year old Kalyani Khona, who started out with a matchmaking agency in 2014, because she was disheartened by the lack of opportunities that people with disabilities had in finding romantic companionship. Overwhelmed by the increasing number of people who signed up for the agency, Kalyani decided to give more power to the users and increase the reach of the initiative by taking the experience online.
She had developed a personal connect with the issue after interacting so closely with differently-abled people, and realised the need to create this platform and turn it into a business opportunity. Kalyani was later joined by fellow entrepreneur Shankar Srinivasan, and the app soon got crowdfunded within a month of its launch, gaining an unprecedented number of users who began connecting with each other.
“We realised that people across the globe have no inclusive matchmaking platform like Inclov, which is made accessible to every user irrespective of their disability or age,” says Kalyani. “The idea was to eliminate such discrimination and provide equal opportunities for everyone to look for love.”
The stigma around disability, especially when it comes to forming romantic or sexual relationships, is one that has been around for years. Disabled people are often seen as asexual – or are reduced to their disability, which completely negates the fact that they can want romantic and sexual partnership too! Inclov seeks to challenge these stigmas head on and provide people with disabilities a much-needed opportunity to find love and companionship. It is also the first official app, which matches disabled people globally on the basis of criterion like cure availability, medical condition, level of independence, lifestyle choices and so on.
“We are adding local Indian languages to tap the Tier 2 and 3 cities. Once, people get on the app, start developing social skills and meet new people, the social stigmas will not matter in the bigger scheme of things,” she says. A video feature is also being added to benefit people with speech disabilities.
The success stories have been numerous and extremely uplifting. Anu, who in the past had to face a lot of rejection due to her disability found love in Imran through this app, and had all positive things to say about how it helped her find the right kind of partner.
On Valentine’s Day, the team of Inclov organised a date for two of its users – Sagar, who is visually challenged, and Nadiya, who has no disability. When asked how the date went, Sagar joked that it was his first “blind date”, and talked about how he had thoroughly enjoyed Nadiya’s company. Nadiya, too, had only positive things to say about the date, which went rather well.
“Disability and matchmaking are tough domains and I’m glad Inclov is solving such a deep social need – that of having a companion to come home to,” says Kalyani, who took it upon herself to be the change.