By Andrew Pulrang, Forbes
The year-end holiday season is a complex time for people with disabilities, and for their family and friends. It’s a time for celebration, sharing, and togetherness that can provide a break from everyday cares and strengthen supportive bonds. At the same time, the holidays bring disabled and non-disabled people together in more extensive and sometimes demanding ways that can put inclusive values and good intentions to the test.
Amid all the joy and celebrations, familiar routines and coping mechanisms are disrupted. Disabilities we know about in theory become suddenly very real and immediately practical. Disabled and non-disabled family and friends struggle to anticipate and accommodate each other to ensure everyone has a good time and nobody feels put upon or left out. And that’s in the reasonably functional families and friend groups. In others, the holidays often uncover hidden layers of ignorance, ableism, exclusion, and petty resentment.
So how can we make the holidays better all around for disabled friends and family?
1. Ask disabled people
Most disabled people know on some level what they need, and what they are and aren’t comfortable with. So the first, best source of help is to ask disabled people themselves. It’s not hard. Just ask, “Is there anything we can do to make it easier and more comfortable for you?”
Of course, if you have specific questions or ideas, ask about them. For example:
How do we provide comfortable places to sit and rest where disabled guests can be fully a part of the group?
Are there accessible pathways to places where different activities will be happening?
What can we do for family and guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, especially where background noise can make individual voices hard to hear? What about people who may be neurologically sensitive to loud or startling noises, like sudden laughing or cheering?
Dim lighting helps set a holiday mood and highlight Christmas decorations, but it also makes it hard for people with visual impairments to get around. What can we do to compensate?
Are there easily accessible and comfortable areas where guests can get away from the main group and rest for a bit?
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