Accessible Holiday Gatherings - Hearing and Speech Agency

Accessible Holiday Gatherings

With the arrival of Thanksgiving, Americans of all backgrounds and religions dive into holiday season and its seemingly endless preparations and celebrations. As exhausting as this can be, a few simple considerations can make your gatherings accessible, inclusive and enjoyable for all.

First, if possible, know your guests’ needs in advance. Does grandpa hear a little better out of his right ear? Does your cousin like to find a quiet space to unwind if things get a little too loud? Does your brother need somewhere to take care of the baby? Understanding what people may need can help you give them guidance before the big gathering. Mention to your cousin that the living room will be quiet while everyone is eating, offer your brother use of a bedroom, remind your grandpa that you saved him a seat at the table that will make it easier for him to engage.  While these accommodations might feel like small adjustments, not knowing what your guests need could result in frustration, short fuses and affect the mood of the gathering.

Even if you do not know all of your guests, you can still host an accessible event! For parties like office get-togethers or celebrations with extended friend groups, you may not know guests-of-guests (significant others, children, friends, etc.). In this case, you can’t go wrong by taking a few inclusive steps and letting all your guests know. First, identify a quiet space. This can be used to care for a dependent, take a moment to recharge or anything else a guest may need private space for. If you have multiple quiet spaces, make that known as well! Second, keep music low (and turn it off if requested). This helps guests with hearing loss and those who may benefit from a bit of extra focus in conversation, without guests having to reveal needs that they may consider too personal. Finally, be judgement-free! Many diagnoses that can make holiday gatherings a challenge are also considered invisible; you may not be able to recognize on face-value if someone has sensory processing challenges or if they have hearing loss. Do not be judgemental if the young, social butterfly at your office mentions she is having trouble hearing because of the music or if a parent must take their overwhelmed child to decompress in a quiet space.

A few inclusive statements can help your guests feel truly comfortable and have the best time possible. Make yourself a resource. When guests arrive, point out all of the key landmarks, including quiet areas. Remind them to let you know if the music is too loud or, alternately, if they have any song requests when/if dancing begins. Like any accommodation you provide, a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere will create inclusion by helping guests feel comfortable to request what they need.



Do you have any tips for hosting inclusive holiday gatherings? What has worked (or not worked) in your experience? Let us know in the comments!

HASAHarry and Jeanette Weinberg Building 5900 Metro Drive Baltimore, MD 21215 410.318.6780