As you get ready to host friends and family over the holidays, check out these five accessibility tips for ensuring a happy and inclusive day for all.
It's that time of the year again when frost decorates your windshield and fall foliage appears in all its glory. With pumpkin spice filling our nostrils, we’re all getting excited about spending time with friends and family over the holiday season. Some of our guests may be using a wheelchair, walker or a cane. If this is your first time hosting with accessibility in mind, the following is a great guide to get you started. Check out these 5 accessibility tips to help you offer a fun and memorable time to everyone.
1. Ensure Accessible Parking and Entryways
As you’re greeting your guests, nothing says “Welcome Home” more than a parking space with enough room to let people in and out of their car, especially when they carry luggage and presents. Make sure to direct parking to areas where there’s at least 3 feet of space around a car. This helps people open the door and transfer onto a wheelchair, or maneuver more conveniently around a car. Sometimes, you may need to park your own car on the street to clear up a driveway. If there are irregularities on the sidewalk or uneven slopes, be sure to point these out to prevent someone from tripping or losing balance, especially if it’s dark or slippery. Try navigating the path to your house or apartment yourself to anticipate any accessibility issue. Outdoor steps, doorsteps and thresholds, even small ones, can quickly become a problem. No one likes to spend extra time waiting outside for assistance, especially with a chilly breeze.
Consider assigning someone to help your guests with special needs get in and out of your place more easily. Depending on your building, you may need to rent a lightweight portable ramp to provide safe and reliable access for users with walkers, wheelchairs, scooters or powerchairs. Most temporary ramps are available in a variety of lengths and configurations to best suit house and make for a smooth welcome.
2. Make Room Around Your Home
Sometimes, all it takes is some furniture to get in the way and make someone miss adorable laughter from a grandchild. We’re all used to our own narrow and twisty living spaces, so it’s easy to overlook small things like a side table that may inconvenience a family member with an ambulatory disability.
“Home is where love resides,
memories are created,
family and friends always belong,
and laughter never ends.”– Anonymous
To ensure that everyone has an easy time moving around your home, look out for walkways cluttered with pots and vases, tripping hazards on the floor like rugs or shoes, or an oversized couch preventing easy access to a room. Try adjusting your space and relocating any furniture that would make it difficult to move with a manual or power wheelchair, or may even fall if someone would press on it for support.
3. Arrange the Dinner Table
You found your new favorite side dish recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and you’re ready to serve some delicious turkey and pumpkin pie. Around the table, everyone is having a great time catching up and enjoying warm bread. Be sure to leave enough room around the table for easy access and comfortable sitting, using additional tables or removing chairs if necessary. Also, some guests may prefer seating at the head of the table to come in and out whenever they need.
Watching family and friends dining around your majestic heirloom dinner table make for Instagram-perfect holiday memories. However, be on the lookout for furniture designs that may get in the way of wheelchairs or leg space. Notoriously inconvenient features like aprons or skirts (underneath the table) or table legs with unusual geometries, traverses, or fancy-shaped table feet designs can be annoying. If you’re not sure if your table is mobility-friendly, you can always borrow a folding table as a backup option. If you already know that someone will be using a wheelchair or seating with their rolling walker, ask if they require a minimum table height to seat comfortably – in which case you may need to lift the table with furniture risers (you can find them at most stores).
4. Organize the Restrooms
As soon as you know that friends and family are coming over, ask if someone need special accommodations for using the restroom or bathroom. Sometimes, little things like an extra garbage can, more towel supplies or discreet disposable bags can make a huge difference in how accessible your house feels.
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned”– Benjamin Franklin
Also, remember to check for decorative objects that may be easily bumped over and fall down, like a candle or a loose picture frame. Tight spaces are notoriously hard to navigate with reduced mobility. If your bathrooms are equipped with handlebars or adaptive equipment, make sure that all hardware and fittings are tight and secure. In particular, if your bathroom looks too narrow or unsafe for a wheelchair user, give a heads-up to your guests and inquire about any dimension requirements they may have or if they’d like to use an alternate room instead, provided that it offers similar amenities, privacy, and comfort.
5. Host in the Perfect Accessible Vacation Rental House
If you are vacationing for the holidays and renting a house to host family and friends, you probably already booked a house offering must-have amenities using your favorite vacation rental house website like Airbnb or Vrbo – especially since these sites are now making an effort towards accessibility. Make sure that you’re satisfied with square footage, room sizes, staircases, bed height, or shower accessibility. If the listing does not provide details on the layout, reach out to the owner to make sure that every doorway and entryway is accessible. In particular, there may be a balcony, deck space, outdoor area or path that may be great to enjoy together as a group – no one wants to miss out great singing!
Often, enjoying the perfect home retreat or vacation rental comes down to having the right equipment to make the space more comfortable. Renting mobility equipment is an affordable and easy way to improve accessibility without the hassle of transporting or risking your own medical equipment. Popular items include:
- Power wheelchair and scooter
- Walker, cane and crutches
- Shower chair, bathroom rails, and commode
- Adjustable hospital bed
- Lift chair
- Hoyer lift
- Outdoor ramps and thresholds
Have fun hosting friends and family! Don’t forget to share this post on Facebook or Twitter to promote inclusion awareness. Also have a favorite accessibility tip? Add it to the comments below. Enjoy your holiday season!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A teacher and lifelong learner, Susanne Bonaquist is the proud mother of Brandon. Her son lives with paraplegia from spinal cord injury and his experiences from travelling with a disability are the inspiration for HandyQuip.com that makes it easier to rent medical equipment. As a parent, Susanne advocates for accessibility and hopes to encourage other wheelchair users and their families to explore the world and share in life opportunities.