Sherry Nevius, single and 52, is looking for a mate with all the important adjectives — caring, sincere, intelligent, funny. Oh, and one more thing: disabled.Born with cerebral palsy, Ms. Nevius uses a wheelchair. She is independent and mobile, but would prefer to meet a man who could roll alongside her.
“That way we’re on equal ground,” she said.
Ms. Nevius has dated several perfectly nice able-bodied men, but none seemed willing to start a serious relationship.
“I think they were a little bit scared because they didn’t know how to treat me,” she said. She lives in Normal, Ill., a town with few single men around her age, let alone familiar and comfortable with disability.
“It’s hard enough to find someone with similar interests,” she said. “Finding someone O.K. with your disability just makes it harder.”
So this fall Ms. Nevius took her search online.
Several dating Web sites for singles with health problems have started up in the last few years. Ms. Nevius joined Dating 4 Disabled, a site for people with an array of disabilities, including paralysis and multiple sclerosis. Other sites include NoLongerLonely, for adults with mental illness, and POZ Personals, for people who are H.I.V.-positive.
These sites are generally small and run by one person or a small group. They are all free, although some have a few ads to cover costs.
Michael T. Maurer, 57, a professor of applied psychology at New York University, came upon POZ Personals while doing research for his work and found it to be a welcoming community where it was easier to get to know someone.
“As a gay man from Bucks County, Pa., I thought dating would be easy in New York, but it didn’t prove to be so,” Dr. Maurer said.
He said the worst part of dating was the anxiety over disclosing his H.I.V. status. Getting to know someone in an online community of people with H.I.V. allows relationships to form without the burden of the big reveal hovering overhead.
“Here everyone knows you have H.I.V.,” he said, “so it gets that barrier out of the way.”
Another site, Prescription4Love, has communities dedicated to sexually transmitted diseases and physical disabilities, but also to other diseases that don’t conjure images of romance and intimacy, like diabetes and Parkinson’s. The site was created by Ricky Durham, whose late brother suffered from Crohn’s disease — a condition that came with literal baggage.