Planning a merry and accessible Christmas

Portrait of beautiful young happy girl

The silly season is upon us. Shops and community centres are adorned with tinsel, carols are playing, and people are out and about catching up with friends. It’s a busy time of year, and it can be complex and stressful for people with disabilities.

Think about it. Big family get-togethers, trips to the beach, or visits to busy shopping centres can be overwhelming or challenging if you have a disability. And, at this time of year, all these overwhelming experiences can quickly add up.

Let’s take a moment to pause and consider ways we can all make the festive season more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. Here are some ideas for an accessible Christmas for your loved ones.

Do your Christmas shopping during quiet hour

Many shopping centres around the country offer ‘quiet hour’ on a monthly or more basis. They dim the lights, turn off the music, and even stop staff from stocking the shelves. If you or someone you know experiences sensory overload, this is a great time to visit the shops and get Christmas shopping done.

If you’re lucky, your local shopping centre will also host sessions with ‘sensitive Santa’. If your child finds the idea of sitting on a stranger’s lap (particularly one dressed in a funny red suit, their face covered in a big white beard!) a little overwhelming, this could be a way to get your family photo with Santa in a quiet, non-threatening environment.

Give extended family a heads-up

If you haven’t seen Auntie Joan for 12 months, and either you or a loved one has a disability, it can help to give them a quick update about before you arrive for a big Christmas lunch.

Little things, like letting the family know what activities you enjoy, or the things that might be challenging for you, is a great way to avoid stressful moments on the big day. A quick email in the weeks leading up to the event is all it takes.

Give people with disabilities a Christmas job

To help make all people feel included at your Christmas lunch or dinner, think of jobs you can give out to those with disabilities. Chief photographer, for example. Or Santa, if they love dressing up, when it’s time to hand out gifts.

In the lead-up to the big event, they could be in charge of the table decorations or help with the cooking – depending on the disability, there are loads of ways to make the day more inclusive.

Host parties in accessible venues

If you’re the host and you’re planning a get-together for family and friends, make sure to consider everyone’s needs.

From wheelchair access for those with a physical disability, to quieter venues for those who are hard of hearing, or comfortable spaces where guests can get away for some time out, different people have different needs. Don’t be afraid to ask everyone how to make the even more comfortable – a simple, “Is there anything we can do or provide to make the party more comfortable for you?” is all it takes to show you care.

Plan inclusive Christmas games and activities

While backyard cricket is an Australian Christmas staple, it’s not for everyone. Think about games and activities the whole family can enjoy together.

It might be a session of silly Christmas craft, where everyone creates crazy hats using tinsel and pipe cleaners. Or a sculpture challenge, where everyone makes a model of the person sitting next to them out of playdough. It could be as simple as a friendly game of charades.

Most of all, have a Merry Christmas!

From all of us here at Scope, we hope you have a wonderful festive season full of fun and laughter, and we wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday.