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The Holiday Season - Fun Accommodation and Inclusion

  • Synopsis: Published: 2008-12-08 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-24) - Manual wheelchairs power chairs walkers and other forms of adaptive equipment to consider when making travel arrangements. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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The holiday season began for many of us with Thanksgiving, and for me it was no different. Wendy and I were invited to our daughter's house, where the, "kids," had taken on the responsibility of preparing the meal for the holiday.

The travel we were required to make was not all that difficult, it was across town, but there were still some issues to be dealt with where travel was concerned. I had to ask myself whether I would be using my cane, or whether using the crutches provided to me by the Veteran's Administration would be a better choice. Understand that there was a parking lot to cross, as well as a set of stairs to tackle upon arrival at our daughter and son-in-law's house.

I chose to use my cane, it is just easier to get in and out of the car than the more cumbersome crutches; besides, I was the one driving the car. For many persons with disabilities, the choice is not as simple. There are things such as manual chairs, power chairs, walkers and other forms of adaptive equipment to consider when making travel arrangements. Many people use vans with lifts, and there are companion animals to be taken into consideration as well. When your loved one with a disability is coming to visit you, it is wise to take into consideration the adaptive equipment and any companion animals that may be accompanying them.

When Wendy and I arrived at the kid's house (I really shouldn't refer to them in such a manner, Jennie is a manager at a hardware store, and Don is a Firefighter), I found myself facing a split-level entrance into their home. What this meant to me is that once inside the door I had to decide whether to go up eight stairs or down eight stairs immediately. For a guy like me who is about to go through knee surgery shortly, this was not a pleasant decision to have to make. Everyone was upstairs, so I decided to fight my way up the eight stairs and into the living room area. It was a wise choice; the kitchen, living room, dining room and a bathroom were all on this level, and everyone stayed on this level of the home for the entire time we were there.

For people who use wheelchairs, a scenario like the one I have just described would have presented significant issues. The split-level entrance into the house would have been impossible for someone using a wheelchair. For families with a member who is visiting that uses a wheelchair, it would be wise to look for an alternate entrance, if possible, that a wheelchair can access. If there is no entrance that a wheelchair can access, consider holding the festivities at the home of a family member or friend that is accessible. If there is no accessible home available, there may be the possibility of either renting or building a ramp that can be used to make the home accessible for your loved on who uses a wheelchair.

There are companies that you can rent a temporary ramp from, if you wish. One of them is americanramp.com.

A search for wheelchair ramps on the Internet should reveal a number of other companies that rent temporary ramps as well.

During our Thanksgiving dinner at Don and Jennie's house, Wendy and I were happy to contribute. My efforts included peeling a sink full of potatoes, and with my usual skill I got down to the last four before cutting my finger with the peeler (ouch). Sometimes it is a good thing to have a Firefighter who is also an EMT in the family. Oh well; it has become a near-tradition, and somebody does it almost every year. Wendy received the honor of carving the turkey, and Don did most of the cooking; Jennie is expecting a baby in a few months. It is important to involve the persons with disabilities in your family in the holiday process. We want to participate just as much as everyone else does, and we are certainly able to participate.

Family members who have not encountered people with disabilities on a regular basis may have questions about the disabilities that their relatives experience, and it is important that their questions are answered openly, honestly, and with candor. For some families it is more difficult to accept and understand a disability than others, and sharing knowledge about a disability helps everyone to understand, as well as build acceptance. The more open we are about our disabilities with our families and friends, the more awareness everyone has, and the more enjoyable the holiday season is.

It wasn't long at all before the conversation at the table turned to the notorious, "Black Friday," sales about to occur. Wendy and I groaned, knowing what was to come - crowds, early hours, and frenzied shoppers looking for specific, high-demand products. The general consensus around the table seemed to be one of, "forget it, we'll wait." For me personally, I just wasn't up to battling my way through the crowds in a mart-cart while hoping that I didn't run someone over who jumped in front of me. For the others, it was a matter of knowing that this particular year, the sales would only get better.

For many people with disabilities, there are different obstacles to deal with where holiday shopping is concerned. One of these obstacles has to do with transportation to and from the various stores. For some of us, loading into and out of a van in the cold, while dealing with slick surfaces in parking lots and in the front of stores is enough to deter us from attempts to fight with holiday crowds. Road conditions also have a great deal to do with the amount of effort many persons with disabilities will put into going shopping at stores. Do we really want to go out in the snow, cold and icy weather, drive down the slick streets to a store to do shopping? For some of us it is a matter of having to sit in the cold while we wait for public transportation - there and back. Some of us are braver than others, and do not let the weather deter us from shopping.

Another obstacle that might occur to people with disabilities, and was definitely on both Wendy and my minds, were the crowds of people that would undoubtedly be at the major department stores and other places to shop at this time of year. Wendy doesn't like crowds, and I don't blame her. As for me, with my knees in their current state, as well as osteoarthritis to aggravate them, it is shopping by mart-cart; period. There are a seemingly endless number of non-disabled persons in stores who seem to assume that these mart-carts are able to stop on a dime; brave souls. I am concerned that I will eventually hit one of these non-disabled persons who insist on darting in front of me, with a complete lack of manners, and harm them quite unintentionally.

The crowds are indeed a nuisance, and make the holiday shopping experience far less enjoyable than it might be for both Wendy and me. For others, the crowds may be something that is enjoyable. The behavior of non-disabled shoppers seems to grow worse during this time of year where respect for persons with disabilities in stores is concerned at times. A person using a wheelchair or mart-cart is at a lower height than someone who is standing and walking, usually, and it is very important to watch where you are going in a store if you are a person who is walking - there just might be someone where you are about to step.

For people with disabilities who do go shopping during this busiest time of year, the need for patience is at a height. Safety is always a priority when you go out shopping during the holiday season. Make sure that you keep your valuables safe, as well as yourself. Do not take unnecessary risks such as crossing streets dangerously, attempting to take your wheelchair down the street instead of the sidewalk, or riding your wheelchair through areas of a parking lot that are not well lit and safe. Beware of people you do not know, and stay away from people who look dangerous. If you need assistance, ask a store representative for it. Do not sit outside in the cold for extended periods of time waiting for transportation.

When Wendy and I heard that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) was coming to Colorado on December 4th, we purchased tickets for Don, Jennie and ourselves. The TSO is a holiday event we enjoy, and like to attend if we have the opportunity. Like any other event, it took some planning, and I once again had to decide whether to take my cane or the crutches; I chose to take my cane, a mistake. The TSO presented their concert at the World Arena here in Colorado Springs, and the tickets that were available for the show were all the way up at the top of the bowl.

Wendy and I found that there was disability parking available right out front of gate A, so we parked there. What we did not understand was that the seats were on the other side of the arena. I wobbled along behind the gang, through the crowd, with Wendy reminding Don and Jennie that I couldn't walk as fast as them, all the way around the arena to the other side. I then wobbled all the way up the steps to the seats at the top of the bowl, where I felt like passing out from a nose-bleed. Crutches would have been a much better choice, Thomas.

Climbing done, the concert itself was magnificent. TSO has a light show that is not to be beat, with lasers and fireworks and multicolored lights that move everywhere. The music is very much Christmas-themed, and of a variety that is mind-boggling. They even made it snow on the floor crowd. Wendy and Jennie were singing along with the songs, and it was a wonderful time.

There were a number of persons with disabilities at the concert, and they were seated in various places around the arena. For people who used wheelchairs, the seating was on the floor level or the same level as the gate entry. Other people with any number of visible disabilities sat everywhere else. I was not the only one who had some amount of trouble getting around the World Arena; there were a number of people I noticed who were having trouble with the steep steps and narrow isles. Not every place events are held during the holiday season are as accessible as they might be, and it is wise to have an idea of what you are going to be dealing with beforehand.

After the concert, Wendy, the kids and I fought our way out of the World Arena and out into the parking lot. The lot was just as iced over and snowy as it had been when we went in, although some rock salt had been spread around. For a person using a cane it was treacherous at best. The people I saw who were using wheelchairs were having a slip-and-slide time as well. I was grateful for the disability parking out front, even if I had to make my way around half the arena to get out the door to it. From the looks on faces of persons who used wheelchairs; they were too.

The weekend of December 13th will find Wendy and I attending a party with her fellow nursing staff at the home of one of the Nurses. The party is a themed one titled, "Who Has the Wildest Christmas Clothing." For me it is the party before the storm, so to speak; surgery on my knees comes the following Monday. Parties are a part of the holiday festivities that many of us pursue, and enjoy. Both Wendy and I are looking forward to this particular party. When we went looking for clothing that was appropriate for this themed party, we promptly went to our local Arc Thrift Store.

At the Arc Thrift Store we found a wide variety of Christmas apparel that was very suitable for the theme of the party we are going to attend. Our purchases help to support fellow persons with disabilities, and we are going to have a blast at the party. I am going to wrap my cane in red and white ribbon. It is important to share holiday cheer with everyone, and there are a number of people I am looking forward to seeing at this party. Including everyone is important, and spending time with family and friends helps everyone to feel included.

The holiday season is a time of year when everyone can share good times and the joy of the season with each other. It is a time for remembering your family, friends, and neighbors. The holiday season is also a time for remembering people in society who are often forgotten, something that needs to happen on a year-round basis. With proper accommodation and inclusion everyone can enjoy this time of year.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!





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