I love Christmas. The smell of the Christmas tree, wood fires, mince pies, and the dinner cooking … the spicy taste of mulled wine … the sounds of carol singers, Christmas choirs, paper rustling and bells jingling. It’s a busy time. Shops are crowded and there’s lots to be done in the run up to the 25th and that magic can soon turn to mayhem. In this post we share some tips for an inclusive Christmas.
Most people who can’t see well aren’t able to read standard Christmas cards. I’m lucky in that my friends usually try to find one with a tactile picture on the front so I can identify the card. However, it’s even better if I can read the message inside. You can buy talking or musical Christmas cards from good card shops; you can even record your own. These tend to be more expensive than your standard card, so it depends on your budget. One year, my parents attached a ‘record your own’ gift tag to my present. It made for a nice personalised touch.
If you know someone who’s a braille reader, there are several ways to give them a card with a braille message inside. Clinton Cards sell braille Christmas cards, as do Guide Dogs for the Blind and the RNIB. Nowadays, there are websites which allow you to create a personalised braille card.
Sites such as Braille Tactile Greeting Cards
and Braille Cards
allow you to create personalised cards which can be sent to and read by a braille reader. If you’re feeling creative, do a Google search for the alphabet and braille it yourself! My friend uses a needle to raise the dots; another friend sewed a braille message in beads onto fabric.
Alternatively, e-cards might be the way forward for those who can access them from the comfort of their own device and they’re good for the planet too!
Making things tactile can help to identify whose presents are whose. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be time consuming; simply attaching an elastic band or a piece of sellotape will do the job. Different textures of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and tags can also assist with this venture. You could even rub festive scents onto the paper.
And, with all sorts of wrappings to choose from, you can have fun making presents extra shiny and visible, appeal to someone’s liking for fun patterns or keep it plain and simple. Struggle to wrap presents. You’re not alone. I suggest giving tinfoil a try as you can get all sorts of pretty foil online. If you know someone who finds presents difficult to open, we suggest using tissue paper or dispense with wrapping altogether and use gift bags.
The Accessible Tree
The tree can be turned into a feast of enjoyment for anyone with specific requirements. Have a think about the sort of lighting you want to use, if any, and where you position the decorations. Higher branches tend to be better for people with limited mobility and are a way to keep the more fragile decorations out of harm’s way! It’s worth remembering that, whilst some people love groovy lights, flashing and other effects can make things difficult. If in doubt, stick to the plain, peaceful bulbs and baubles.
The decorations are a lot of fun to touch and play with, particularly if you buy those with different textures, smells and sounds attached to them. When I was a child my parents bought (and probably regretted buying!) musical Christmas lights. These played carols in time with the flashing lights and I loved them.
The Big Day
We think pacing is the key to this one. It can be easy to dive into Christmas, unwrapping presents and cooking the dinner at the same time! This can be exhausting, particularly for those who find the change in routine difficult. It’s an exciting time which can be made more peaceful for all by having sessions of present opening and different activities throughout the day. A family discussion beforehand will help to agree a timetable and prepare everyone for the day ahead. It’s Christmas tradition for my family to have a debate called ‘What Time We’re Allowed to Wake Mum and Dad’, with the children suggesting some unearthly hour of the morning and parents bargaining until a deal is made!
Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to be at the centre of the celebrations. Some people need time out from the magical mayhem and may go to a quiet space for a while. They say silence is golden!
There are many ways to make Christmas more inclusive, so pick what works for you! With my festive tips exhausted, it only remains for me to wish you all a merry sensory, peaceful Christmas, and I hope that 2021 will be a particularly inclusive year for us all.