Creating a More Inclusive Holiday Season

Submitted by Jessica Luzanilla on Tue, 12/20/2022
Summary
Here are some tips to make sure that your next holiday get-to-together is inclusive to all.

‘Tis the season to be an ally! With the holiday season upon us, it is that time of year to gather with family and friends to celebrate the end of year festivities. Creating a gathering where all guests --- with or without disabilities--- feel welcomed, respected and included just takes a little bit of planning. Here are some tips to make sure that your next holiday get-to-together is inclusive to all.

Include EVERYONE

As hosts, we want to make sure that all of our guests feel comfortable and if you know that one of your guests has a disability, ask them what they need to feel fully included in the event. Sometimes people with disabilities are not invited to events or they do not go because they feel embarrassed that someone has to do extra things for them.

By reminding them that their presence is valued and asking them what they need, then a new level of appreciation is developed. For example, if a loved one has difficulty getting a ride to your house, offer to find a carpool or a rideshare service to pick them up and bring them home.

Accommodations in RSVPs

When creating an invitation to your holiday event, consider adding a section about accommodations in the event’s RSVP. While not all disabilities are visible, you might not know that someone you are inviting to your event has a disability. By adding this line about accommodations, it lets your guests know that everyone is welcome! For example, if the guest has a special diet, you can help by providing alternative options for them to enjoy and participate.

Removing Physical Barriers

Depending on the location of the event, there may be some physical access barriers that might make it difficult for guests to attend. If possible, move your event to a place that has physical accessibility. It might be as simple as changing the room to one that has access to ground level entrance or one that has ramps. If your guest has a mobility device, such as a wheelchair or a walker, check the entrances ahead of time and find some ways to accommodate for their disability. For example, put food on a table that is low enough so that they can serve themselves. 

Special Diets and Allergies

Some people might have allergies, but you probably will not know unless you ask ahead of time in an RSVP. Make sure that there are options for food, desserts, drinks, or snacks as a thoughtful way to have everyone enjoy and participate. Another thing to keep in mind is fragrances. Some people are allergic to certain smells, and it can trigger headaches. Avoid heavy scents whenever possible.

Avoiding Sensory Overload

With all the twinkling lights and loud music, holiday events can cause sensory overload for some people. Some people with sensory processing disorders can be overwhelmed. Offer guests an opportunity to take a break or have a quiet room ready for them if they need to step away. Minimizing music or stimulation can also be useful. For example, avoid flashing lights to help reduce the possibility of seizures in people who have epilepsy.

Effective Communication

If you have a guest who is nonverbal or uses American Sign Language to communicate, ask how you can best accommodate them. Have a notepad or software that can help you speak with someone who is deaf and help transcribe what you are saying. If possible, have an interpreter present so all people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Always remember to speak directly to the person whether they are verbal or not. Check out the Rocky Mountain ADA Center’s course on Effective Communication for more tips.

Have fun!

Don’t let the stress of the holidays get to you! Implement as many of these tips as you can and know that you are already doing more than most. Stay positive and have a great holiday season!


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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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