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  • Writer's picturePayton VanVarick

Tips for Hosting a Disability-Friendly Thanksgiving

It's that time of the year! The air has chilled, the leaves browned and fallen, and pumpkins are aplenty. Thanksgiving is a holiday that which many view as an opportunity to reflect on their blessings, joined by their closest loved ones, around the dinner table. We look forward to the copious amounts of delicious food, the warmth and connection of our family, and gratitude-filled conversation late into the evening.

But for some, Thanksgiving is an isolating holiday that further distances them from the celebration. For the disabled community, Thanksgiving can be an overwhelming event of forced interaction, filled with sensory overload and limited coping options. But it doesn't have to be. Here are some simple ways that you host a Thanksgiving celebration that is more disability-friendly and accessible to all.

Make transportation arrangements.

For many, transportation can prove to be a major barrier to attending celebratory events. Be mindful of those who are unable to drive themselves or may experience limitations to their driving -- for example, pain flareups that can impede driving abilities, or the inability to drive at night. Providing or arranging for reliable transportation offers individuals the opportunity to attend Thanksgiving events who otherwise may not have been able to.

Provide seating for everyone -- yes, even those in wheelchairs.

Being confined to using a wheelchair can oftentimes become uncomfortable to the user and having the option to switch over to some more comfortable seating can be game-changing. Some may prefer to remain in their wheelchair, however the option to utilize additional seating -- and the thought -- will certainly be appreciated.

Offer a quiet area to recharge.

Large social gatherings can be overwhelming to anyone, especially those experiencing an intellectual or developmental disability. By providing a quiet area for one to retreat to, you give individuals the option to step away for a moment and recharge. This opportunity may help them gather themselves and return to the festivities after centering themselves in private.

Consider serving some non-holiday food options.

Thanksgiving has a notoriously specific holiday food spread -- while these staples are sure to make an appearance, consider offering additional options that are more simplistic in nature, as well. For those with dietary restrictions or food aversions, some familiar sights would be a welcome surprise at the buffet! Options such as cheese and crackers, chicken strips, or even mac and cheese can help ensure everyone leaves with a full belly.

Most importantly of all... be patient and open-minded.

You aren't expected to cater to every individuals specific need or request, but rather just asked to be kind and open to all abilities. It's unrealistic to plan for each and every circumstance. Sometimes, a few questions and good intentions can make all the difference for an individual with a disability.

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