The winter holidays are a time of joy and celebration, when communities come together to revel in the magic of the season. However, for individuals with disabilities, this time of year can present unique challenges when it comes to participating in festive activities. As we aim to create an inclusive society, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone can partake in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, many events and activities are becoming more accessible.
Sensory-Friendly Winter Wonderland
It’s not a holiday season without elaborate light displays, festive music, and performances. Here are some ways to participate:
Sensory Nights at Festive Light Displays
Some holiday light displays now feature designated “sensory hours.” During these times, the lights are dimmed, and the sounds are softened to create a more soothing environment for those sensitive to sensory stimuli. The Bronx Zoo in New York City and Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago offer sensory-friendly nights for their holiday light experiences. Check your local zoo and community websites to see if sensory-friendly events are offered.
Theatrical performances and concerts often have sensory-friendly adaptations. By incorporating softer lighting, lower sound levels, and the freedom to move or take breaks, these adaptations create a welcoming space for all. The San Francisco Ballet will offer a sensory-friendly “Nutcracker” performance in late December, and the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Pennsylvania will have a sensory-friendly performance of “A Christmas Story” in December too. Theater websites should list sensory-friendly performances.
Accessible Activities for All
Adaptive Ice Skating Sessions
Local ice skating rinks increasingly offer adaptive skating sessions with devices like ice skating adaptive walkers or skate aids, making gliding on the ice more accessible. You can search for adaptive skating lessons by location here or here. According to USFigureSkating.org, you may want to ask skating rinks questions like, “Is there a ramp to get onto the ice?” and “Are there accessible changing rooms?”
Wheelchair-Accessible Winter Festivals
Winter festivals and markets can ensure accessibility by providing wheelchair-friendly pathways, designated parking spaces, and accessible seating areas. Make sure to do research before going so you know that your local winter festival is ADA- compliant.
Inclusive Winter Sports Demonstrations
Sporting events showcasing adaptive winter sports, such as sled hockey or adaptive skiing, are great opportunities for individuals to see what they may be able to try. The Adaptive Sports Foundation provides hands-on experiences in adaptive winter sports.
Creating Inclusive and Enjoyable Experiences
While there are an increasing number of opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in holiday season activities, there is still a great deal of work to be done to make sure more events and activities are accessible and ADA-compliant. Event organizers can:
Collaborate with Disability Organizations
Encouraging event organizers to partner with local disability advocacy groups ensures better insight into addressing specific needs and fostering inclusivity.
Provide Comprehensive Accessibility Information
Detailed accessibility information on event websites and promotional materials is vital. This includes wheelchair access, sensory accommodations, assistive devices, and parking facilities. Transparent information empowers attendees to plan their visit.
Train Staff and Volunteers
Conducting training sessions for event staff and volunteers educates them on respectful communication and understanding diverse needs.
Continuously Improve through Feedback
Creating feedback channels for attendees with disabilities helps organizers continually improve events. Implementing suggestions from the community fosters an environment of constant growth and inclusivity.
Celebrating Diversity in Holiday Festivities
Winter holidays signify unity and celebration. Embracing inclusivity ensures that everyone can enjoy the spirit of the season. Let’s make this holiday season an embodiment of joy and inclusivity.