If there’s anyone on your holiday party guest list who uses a power wheelchair or another mobility aid, you have an important role as host to make sure that everyone on the guest list can enjoy the fun!
Putting together an accessible holiday party takes a bit of extra planning but with attention to detail and a little help from this guide, you can create a welcoming, inclusive and positive environment for every guest.
Give Attendees Plenty of Notice
Party planners recommend sending out invitations three to four weeks before an event date. This gives attendees plenty of time to make transportation arrangements (whether they use a wheelchair or not), so do your best to give as much notice as possible. Why is this such an important component of an accessible holiday party, or any other event where wheelchair users are in attendance?
Many people with disabilities don’t use personal vehicles for travel. For one thing, wheelchair-accessible vehicles are expensive. Fortunately, accessible public transit is a reality in many metropolitan areas in the U.S. Typically, people with disabilities end up traveling as passengers more often than people without disabilities.
While it’s courteous to give all attendees as much notice as possible, people using wheelchairs may have more transportation logistics to sort out in the days (or weeks) leading up to the event. Giving them enough time to arrange rides to and from the event is just one way to make your celebration as welcoming as possible.
Choose an Accessible Location
Take your time and conduct diligent research when choosing a location for your event. If you invite attendees who are wheelchair users (or use other mobility aids, like walkers or canes), your location should be as accessible as possible.
Some of the most critical elements of an accessible event space include:
- Public transit access – A public bus or public wheelchair van may not be able to reach the door if you’ve chosen a venue at the end of a long, private drive. Consider a more publicly accessible space, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Community centers, movie theaters and schools are likely to meet ADA requirements and they’re likely accessible via public transit.
- Accessible parking – If wheelchair users take a personal vehicle or hitch a ride with a friend, they’ll still need space to deploy a vehicle ramp or transition from a car seat to their chair. Accessible parking spaces aren’t just big, they’re also close to the entrance and offer additional space between other vehicles. If there’s not a marked accessible space onsite, make sure to reserve an area for this purpose.
- Ease of entry – Your venue’s primary entrance should feature a ramp or zero-step option, even if it’s alongside a stairway. A smooth, hard surface is ideal, especially for guests using power wheelchairs who might have difficulties getting their chairs through grass or gravel.
Accessible Interiors for Power Wheelchair Users
The interior of your space is just as important as the exterior when it comes to accessibility. During your venue research, keep a close eye out for the following:
- Accessible restrooms – Large restrooms with grab bars and fixtures at wheelchair height are critical for accessibility. And, if you have more than one wheelchair user on the guest list, try your best to find a venue with more than one accessible restroom.
- Wide doorways and hallways – The ADA recommends that doors and hallways provide at least 36 inches of clearance. This width should accommodate even a large power chair. 
- Stair-free interiors – While you can certainly host an event in a multi-story space, every level you occupy should be accessible to every guest. If you’re using a space with a balcony or second floor, ensure that there are elevators or lifts that can transport your guests to the second level.
Once you’ve chosen a venue and sent out invites, it’s time to decorate. The holidays are the perfect opportunity to have fun with decorating, but keep the following tips in mind as you deck the halls:
Keep the floors clear for people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Prevent tablecloths from dragging on the floor. Skip streamer curtains or other decorations that dangle in front of doorways. Keep extension cords out of the way (or use a floor cable protector).
Offer surfaces for placing drinks or snacking on appetizers at different levels. Not everyone’s power chair has power adjustable seat height, so try to diversify your surface height options. Focal areas should be accessible, too. Spots like the bar, the buffet and the dance floor should be simple to navigate in a power wheelchair or with a cane/walker.
Celebrate the Holidays with a Quantum Power Wheelchair
Parties are always a highlight of the holiday season. If someone on the guest list (or their plus one) uses a wheelchair, hosts should do their best to make the celebration as accessible as possible. By following the steps above, you can create a party space that’s welcoming to all.
At Quantum Rehab, we’re proud to support and empower people using mobility technologies all year long. Our power chairs are user-inspired, comfortable and reliable. We deliver confidence and stability to keep up with all of life’s seasons.
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- Shutterfly. When to Send Party Invitations?. https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/when-to-send-party-invitations/
2. U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Travel Patterns of American Adults with Disabilities. https://www.bts.gov/travel-patterns-with-disabilities
3. ADA. ADA Guide for Small Businesses. https://archive.ada.gov/reachingout/entrancedoors.html