It's not a special effort to plan holidays that are accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities. Nearly all families include people with disabilities of some kind. Nearly every person has at least one neighbor, friend, coworker or colleague with a disability. A mobility impairment could mean someone who uses crutches, wheelchairs, canes, or scooters. You might have some vision or hearing loss, whether it is permanent or caused by illness, injury, age, or other causes. It could be a cognitive impairment, such as Down Syndrome, autism or learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer's Disease or other general age-related memory and intellectual disabilities. Even though they may not consider themselves disabled, many people experience chronic pain or illness. This can impact their ability to tolerate events and make it more difficult for them to be with others. Holidays can be difficult for people suffering from mental illness, particularly if they are related to trauma in the family. There are many ways holidays can be made more accessible and inclusive. These are the three steps that will get you started. Don't assume that disabled people won't be able to attend family gatherings, shopping trips or community events. Invite them if you are unsure. Don't be afraid to ask them if they don't say yes.
You should also be ready for people with disabilities to accept your invitation. Accessibility is the ability to design spaces that accommodate people with disabilities seamlessly and with maximum independence. Wheelchair users require easy access to the bathroom, no steps and wide walkways to move indoors. To be able to fully participate in festive gatherings, people with visual and hearing impairments must have effective communication and some consideration. People with cognitive impairments require understanding, openness about social expectations, and a spirit of inclusion and respect. Being able to accommodate means being open to adapting to unexpected or new needs. "Reasonable accommodations" are not just for work. When someone has a disability, or runs into access issues, you need to be able to modify plans and methods quickly. If they accomplish their task, it is usually acceptable to accept less than ideal accommodations. It is important to listen to the needs of disabled people and to respond to them with positive, helpful suggestions. It is important to ensure that you check accessibility at the locations where you plan to host them. One step too small can create a barrier that is as severe as a flight of stairs. A blocked hallway with junk can make an accessible bathroom inaccessible. It's not easy, but when it is difficult that inclusiveness is tested. If you have physical barriers or are unable to host the party at your home, it may be necessary to go to another restaurant or bar. Give adaptive products. There are some products that are specifically made for people with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, walkers and bathroom adaptations. Some are available 'off-the-shelf' for all customers. Others are designed to be easier to use and more useful for people with disabilities. You can also gift ideas to help people with disabilities make ends meet. Gift certificates can be used to purchase gift cards for restaurants, specialty shops, or other general shopping sites. You can also buy annual memberships to your favorite TV streaming channels or home delivery and shopping services. Don't forget about luxuries. Not only are they important, but often very appreciated. While many disabled people can make ends meet with basic necessities, it is not always possible to purchase items for pleasure. Think about the person you are gifting to and not their disability. Is it possible for them to appreciate a gift that is related to their disability and can be used? Listening to those with disabilities in your life is the best way to make holiday events more accessible and inclusive. In a spirit authentically generous, do your best to meet their needs. Don't get too involved in your brilliant idea. Also, you don't have to be inclusive in order to feel good. It's important to include disabled people in your holiday celebrations, just like gingerbread and eggnog.