Tag Archives: Holiday Season

Tips For Including People With Disabilities At A Party

With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to hold a party where all guests — with and without disabilities — feel welcomed, respected and have fun. All it takes is some planning.

 Don’t be afraid to include guests with disabilities
People with disabilities have their disabilities 24/7, so they know how to create work-arounds so that they feel comfortable. If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included. All too often people with disabilities are not invited to events, or don’t go because they feel embarrassed to “put someone out” by asking for a simple thing that will help them attend. By telling them that their presence is valued, and asking what they need, you will build a new level of trust and affection. For example, one of the biggest things that aging loved ones need is a ride. So help them find a carpool or send an accessible taxi or ride to pick them up and return them home.

RSVP
Not all disabilities are visible, so you may not know that someone you want to include in your event has some special needs. By including a line about accommodations in the invitation’s RSVP, you are already letting guests know that everyone is welcome. If it’s a party for children, parents can tell you, right off the bat, what their child’s needs might be to attend the party. They will be happy you asked! “We want everyone to have fun — please let us know if you have dietary restrictions or require other special accommodations to attend! We will do our best to meet everyones needs.” Note that you aren’t promising to meet all needs — if you can’t find a sign language interpreter at the last minute or there is another issue, for example, you will be able to let your guest know in advance. Indeed, they may be able to help you find a solution!

Physical Access
Most public places are accessible. However, because religious institutions are exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many of them are not fully accessible. Thus, if your event is at a venue that is not physically accessible to all, move it to a place that is. That can mean a different room in a place of worship, or to a completely different place. Venues should have a ground level entrance or ramp, an elevator if it’s upstairs, and accessible bathrooms. Most public places (hotels, restaurants, bowling, video games, pools, bounce houses, etc.) are usually equipped for people with disabilities. Just check with the venue ahead of time. If you have someone coming who uses a wheelchair, you should also put the menorah on a table that is low enough for them to also be able to light candles.

Special Diets
Anyone can have allergies, celiac disease or lactose intolerance, but you won’t know unless you ask on the invitation RSVP. Making sure there is an option for cake, snacks, treats and other food for these guests can be as simple as picking up a gluten free cupcake to serve with the cake. It is thoughtful to have refreshments that everyone can enjoy.

Addressing attitude
Kids and adults can be daunted when encountering someone who is different from them. If it’s a children’s event you can talk to the group at the start of the party about kindness and respect for each other and each others differences. A party is a great opportunity for kids to learn about one another.

Involving parents
Parties can be exhausting for the hosts. Asking a parent or two to volunteer to help at the party, particularly if it’s a big group, can lighten the load for the hosts. Parents may feel more comfortable, especially if their child has social anxiety issues, if they are invited to stay or help as an option.

Sensory overload awareness
Parties can cause sensory overload for any child or adult. But for a person with autism or a sensory processing disorder, a party can be really overwhelming. Offer opportunities for guests to take a break, perhaps in a quiet room away from the crowd. Some venues may have options for turning down music or minimizing stimulation — and that is useful anywhere there are a lot of kids! Latex allergies (balloons) and chemical sensitivities (use of highly scented cleaners or staff wearing perfumes) are real issues. Solutions: Use alternative mylar balloons. Ask people to not wear strong scents, and choose unscented cleaning products.

Communication
If a guest attending the party is non-verbal or communicates in other ways such as American Sign Language or a communication board, talk about it with the guests. Installing free Dragon software onto an Ipad in advance can enable you to speak with someone who is deaf as it instantly transcribes what you are saying. Having an interpreter can be worth the cost, as all the people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Remember to speak directly to a child or adult whether s/he is verbal or not.

Reading, Cognitive Access and Vision Issues
Children and adults with cognitive, learning disabilities or vision impairments might not be able to read the menu, instructions for a scavenger hunt or a game score sheet. Pictures and verbal instructions are useful, as well as pairing children with those who can help. It’s always great to have an extra pair of reading glasses around if you are inviting seniors. But you can always tell someone who can’t see or read what they will need or what to know.

Enjoy the party!
Don’t let inclusion stress you out. If you are reading this list and considering these tips, you’re already doing more than most! Stay positive, smile and throw that PARTY!

Adaptive and Accessible Wintertime Activities

The colder months have a tendency to leave us feeling sluggish and craving extended naps. Although getting enough sleep is important for all of us, keeping our bodies and minds active, especially in the winter when our bodies are running slower, is essential. Here are a few ideas to keep you engaged this holiday season.

Change It Up
Don’t fall into the Netflix void this winter. While the online streaming service can help you host the perfect movie night, complete with hot chocolates and warm blankets, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Learn Something New
Master your camera’s manual functions or brush up on your own cooking skills by adding a few new recipes to your repertoire. With endless video tutorials and online resources, winter is the perfect time to pick up a new skill.

Out and About
Just because the temperature’s dropped doesn’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. If you have access to a wheelchair accessible car or van, you can go check out that new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, go explore a museum or even attend a play or concert. Some zoos even offer indoor exhibits. If you are in the mood for something a bit wilder, get out and discover all your city and neighboring towns have to offer.

Stay Active
Staying active doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours at the gym. Joining a bowling league or going for a stroll or ride around the neighborhood on days when the snow’s cleared can help you keep yourself warm this winter. You can also check with your local YMCA or other recreational centers to see if they offer accessible swim sessions or wheelchair basketball or wheelchair rugby leagues. If they don’t, talk to management about starting your own!

How To Make Your Kitchen Wheelchair-Friendly For the Holidays

Brisk air, shorter days and finding a pumpkin patch on every corner can only mean one thing—holiday season is upon us and with it come delicious feasts enjoyed with loved ones. For some of us, this also means lots of time spent in the kitchen. Whether you’re cooking, washing dishes or just gathering in the house’s social center, a kitchen that’s accessible to all family members makes for an inviting place to enjoy time together. Making your kitchen space more wheelchair-friendly can seem overwhelming, but with a few adjustments and considerations, you, and any other wheelchair user in your circle, can feel comfortable taking part in holiday traditions.

Kitchen Counters
Because the typical height of a wheelchair armrest is about 29”, a recommended counter-top height for a person using a wheelchair is a minimum of 28” and should be no higher than 34”. There should also be a space of at least 24” in height and 30” in width to accommodate the wheelchair underneath while working at the counter. This way, you, or any person with a disAbility in your family, can easily reach the counter for food preparation, storage or sneaking a bite of that side dish before it’s quite ready.

Sinks
An important tip to keep in mind when installing a wheelchair accessible sink is to place the drain near the back of the sink. This keeps a space clear of obstructions under the sink where a person using a wheelchair can move into without issue. Also be sure any hot water pipes are insulated to prevent burns. Finally, accessible kitchen sinks should be only 5” to 6 ½” deep with a single lever faucet to make for simple operation

Wall Cabinets
Lowering wall cabinets by about 3” (from the standard 18” above the counter to 15”) would make the second shelf accessible for persons in wheelchairs. By also including pullout cutting boards and drawers with full extension glides, your kitchen could be transformed into an accessible haven. An alternative solution would be to install shelving lifts inside cabinets. These will lower the shelves, and their contents, to an accessible height for those with disAbilities.

Appliances
Installing or lowering wall ovens, microwaves or other mounted appliances to approximately 31” from the floor can make them more convenient to operate from a wheelchair. When it comes to a stove-top, positioning control knobs at the front of the appliances eliminates the need to reach across a hot cooking surface and makes it easier for those with mobility limitations to feel more comfortable cooking up something yummy.

These adaptations can help make your kitchen easy to navigate and give you the perfect space to try those holiday recipes you’ve been eying.

Adaptive and Accessible Wintertime Activities

The colder months have a tendency to leave us feeling sluggish and craving extended naps. Although getting enough sleep is important for all of us, keeping our bodies and minds active, especially in the winter when our bodies are running slower, is essential. Here are a few ideas to keep you engaged this holiday season.

Change It Up
Don’t fall into the Netflix void this winter. While the online streaming service can help you host the perfect movie night, complete with hot chocolates and warm blankets, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Learn Something New
Master your camera’s manual functions or brush up on your own cooking skills by adding a few new recipes to your repertoire. With endless video tutorials and online resources, winter is the perfect time to pick up a new skill.

Out and About
Just because the temperature’s dropped doesn’t mean you have to be stuck indoors. If you have access to a wheelchair accessible car or van, you can go check out that new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, go explore a museum or even attend a play or concert. Some zoos even offer indoor exhibits. If you are in the mood for something a bit wilder, get out and discover all your city and neighboring towns have to offer.

Stay Active
Staying active doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours at the gym. Joining a bowling league or going for a stroll or ride around the neighborhood on days when the snow’s cleared can help you keep yourself warm this winter. You can also check with your local YMCA or other recreational centers to see if they offer accessible swim sessions or wheelchair basketball or wheelchair rugby leagues. If they don’t, talk to management about starting your own!

Holiday Mail for Heroes: Give Something That Means Something

Holiday Mail for Heroes- Give Something that means something 2014

Program Overview

With many service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays, the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes (HMFH) program empowers people to “Give Something That Means Something” by sending a card of thanks and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

Beginning in 2014, the program will take on a different look, as Red Cross chapters across the continental U.S. and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards are sent.

Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distributing the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities. Local Red Cross offices will:

  1. Hold events to sign or make holiday cards
  2. Schedule card-sorting times.
  3. Coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.

These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community—neighbors helping neighbors.

Questions & Answers

What is the Holiday Mail for Heroes Program?
The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables Americans to “Give Something That Means Something” this holiday season. We are inviting the public to send cards of thanks, encouragement and holiday cheer to members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and military families, many of whom will be far away from home this holiday season.

What is the address of the P.O. Box for the program?
There is no longer a national P.O. Box for the program. Instead, Holiday Mail for Heroes is being conducted at the Red Cross office in your local community. Check with your local Red Cross for times and locations of events and for opportunities to get involved.

Why is the Red Cross changing the format of the program?
We have made this change for several reasons including:

  • A reduction in U.S. military forces overseas, particularly in the Middle East and across Europe.
  • Increased costs of conducting the program.

I contacted my local Red Cross office and they are not participating in the program this year. Where do I send my cards?
There are two options for sharing your holiday cards:

  • Ask your local Red Cross office for military and veterans organizations in your community where you can send your cards directly.
  • Check the participating chapters tab for updated information regarding the closest Red Cross chapter in your area participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes.

I don’t know anyone in the military; how do I participate?
You don’t need to know anyone in the military. Red Cross workers will distribute cards to members of the military and veterans around the world. Contact your local Red Cross for times and locations of card-signing and card-making events.

Cards are not addressed to anyone specific, so who gets these cards?
Participating Red Cross chapters will determine how to best distribute cards to service members, veterans and family members in their local communities, across the nation and around the world. Cards may be delivered individually, included in care packages or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.

Can I drop cards off at my local Red Cross office?
Yes.

Will my card be distributed to our troops stationed overseas?
Cards are distributed to hundreds of locations domestically and around the world, including military installations, military and VA medical facilities and veterans organizations. Please understand that it is difficult to determine which cards will be sent overseas and which will be sent domestically.

What is the goal for the 2014 Holiday Mail for Heroes Program?
The goal is to share season’s greeting and holiday cheer to the members of our Armed Forces. We do not have a goal for a total number of cards.

Are there other restrictions and guidelines for cards?
In order to make cards as meaningful as possible to a wide audience, we recommend that the public use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member, Veteran, or Military Family Member” when writing the cards. Cards should not contain glitter because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues.

Can I include calling cards, money or other items in the cards?
We ask that people not enclose any items with the holiday cards. Any items enclosed with the holiday cards will be removed, including photos and other gifts. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.

How can people get involved in the Holiday Mail program beyond mailing a card?
  • Word of Mouth: Check with your local Red Cross office for up-to-date information about the program.
  • Social Media: Connect with fellow card senders through social media channels and help us get the word out through Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #holidaymail.
  • Help Sort and Deliver Cards: If you are interested in helping sort and deliver cards, please contact a participating chapter in your area to see how you can help.

How can people support other Red Cross programs that help members of the military and their families?
Supporting Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces work is simple and we encourage you to make a financial donation by donating online or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

**Contact your local Red Cross chapter directly to find out if they are participating**

How To Make Your Kitchen Wheelchair-Friendly For the Holidays

Brisk air, shorter days and finding a pumpkin patch on every corner can only mean one thing—holiday season is upon us and with it come delicious feasts enjoyed with loved ones. For some of us, this also means lots of time spent in the kitchen. Whether you’re cooking, washing dishes or just gathering in the house’s social center, a kitchen that’s accessible to all family members makes for an inviting place to enjoy time together. Making your kitchen space more wheelchair-friendly can seem overwhelming, but with a few adjustments and considerations, you, and any other wheelchair user in your circle, can feel comfortable taking part in holiday traditions.

Kitchen Counters
Because the typical height of a wheelchair armrest is about 29”, a recommended counter-top height for a person using a wheelchair is a minimum of 28” and should be no higher than 34”. There should also be a space of at least 24” in height and 30” in width to accommodate the wheelchair underneath while working at the counter. This way, you, or any person with a disAbility in your family, can easily reach the counter for food preparation, storage or sneaking a bite of that side dish before it’s quite ready.

Sinks
An important tip to keep in mind when installing a wheelchair accessible sink is to place the drain near the back of the sink. This keeps a space clear of obstructions under the sink where a person using a wheelchair can move into without issue. Also be sure any hot water pipes are insulated to prevent burns. Finally, accessible kitchen sinks should be only 5” to 6 ½” deep with a single lever faucet to make for simple operation

Wall Cabinets
Lowering wall cabinets by about 3” (from the standard 18” above the counter to 15”) would make the second shelf accessible for persons in wheelchairs. By also including pullout cutting boards and drawers with full extension glides, your kitchen could be transformed into an accessible haven. An alternative solution would be to install shelving lifts inside cabinets. These will lower the shelves, and their contents, to an accessible height for those with disAbilities.

Appliances
Installing or lowering wall ovens, microwaves or other mounted appliances to approximately 31” from the floor can make them more convenient to operate from a wheelchair. When it comes to a stove-top, positioning control knobs at the front of the appliances eliminates the need to reach across a hot cooking surface and makes it easier for those with mobility limitations to feel more comfortable cooking up something yummy.

These adaptations can help make your kitchen easy to navigate and give you the perfect space to try those holiday recipes you’ve been eying.