The holiday season is upon us and I am excited to celebrate as much as possible! Wheelchair users are just like everyone else – some us of LOVE the holidays, and some of us just muddle through somehow. Either way, you should invite us to your holiday events just like you would invite any of your other friends or family members. If you’re worried that it will be difficult to make your celebration accessible for power wheelchair users, think again! With just a few easy steps, your event can be more inclusive and welcoming to people who use motorized wheelchairs.
Celebrate in Accessible Locations
Not all houses are accessible, in fact, most houses are not accessible. Because of this, it’s a great idea to schedule your get together in a public place (bonus: you won’t have to clean your house before guests arrive or pick up after they leave!). The key is to find a place that has an entrance without any steps, pathways inside that are wide enough for a wheelchair user to navigate (usually 36 inches will do the trick), and an accessible bathroom. Consider having your event at restaurant or renting out a lodge at your local park. Looking for something even cheaper? Check out local religious organizations – many churches and temples are accessible and allow the community to use their space for a small donation or free of charge!
Be Thoughtful about Where You Place Things
Once you have an accessible location for your event, you want to make sure that the environment inside is welcoming to people in motorized wheelchairs! Check the length of table clothes to make sure they’re not so long that they drag on the floor, otherwise the tablecloth may inadvertently get stuck in a wheel and be pulled off the table! Also, consider where you place decorations to make sure there’s still clear paths for a person in an electric wheelchair to get through. For example, if you want to put a Christmas tree up, make sure it does not block the path to the tables or bathroom. Lastly, think about where you place your food. Placing food on bars or high tables can make it impossible for some wheelchair users to reach the food if they do not have an iLevel wheelchair!
Plan in Advance to Ensure Wheelchair Users Can Come
People who use power wheelchairs often rely on public transportation because wheelchair accessible vehicles are expensive and most wheelchair users cannot afford them. Additionally, many cities do not have accessible taxis or ridesharing, so this means electric wheelchair users rely on the bus or paratransit services (the wheelchair accessible bus service the complements the bus service). Telling a wheelchair user about a party at the last minute may mean that they won’t be able to make it at all. The best way to ensure that an electric wheelchair user can come to the celebration is to tell them a week or two in advance!
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.