How to Make Summer Plans Accessible for Friends With Disabilities
It's finally summer, and everyone's group chats are filled with plans for the season.
While most of us are ready never to plan virtual hangouts again, some of us are beginning to leave people with disabilities out of our plans. COVID-19 was difficult all of us, including people with disabilities. Still, companies and people offered many helpful and accessible options to accommodate the stay-at-home order. Unfortunately, now that we're slowly resuming "normal" life, people with disabilities will lose many of these accessible options.
We all have FOMO from time to time when we see our friends hanging out without us, but people with disabilities experience this often. We all want to be good friends, which means taking the time to make plans that are accessible to friends of all abilities. The best part about making accessible plans is that it's not that difficult. It just takes a little more time, but it's worth it because all your friends will be able to enjoy this summer fully!
1. Always Extend an Invitation
Many people assume that their friends with disabilities can't or won't want to go to a planned event. This isn't right for a couple of reasons. First, your friend may want to attend, and you shouldn't assume what they can't or can do. Second, you exclude them, which makes them feel left out and isolated. Imagine if your friends always hung out without you because they assumed you wouldn't want to go! An easy fix to this problem is to always extend the invitation. They may not want to go, but at least you're giving them an option. If they want to go but can't because the event is not accessible, work with them to find an alternative.
2. Research Venues and Accessible options
When planning an event, ask yourself what features you need to make it accessible to everyone. Is the building wheelchair accessible? Is the restaurant quiet for people with anxiety, hearing impairment or autism? Are there flashing lights that could potentially trigger epilepsy? Do they allow emotional support animals? Do the stairways have handrails on both sides for people who are visually impaired? Will there be closed captioning or sign language interpreters? You want to keep in mind what your friend will need to enjoy the event safely and comfortably. Also, many activities we currently do can be made accessible with the right resources. You can add closed captions when watching movies, choose allergy-friendly restaurants, ask for audio tours or braille options when visiting museums and galleries, find stores that allow emotional service animals or bake with diabetic-friendly ingredients. You can always ask your friend how they do certain activities, so you can use that as a guide.
3. Give Your Friend Time to Prepare
Most people without disabilities don't understand how disabilities can be very time-consuming and your friend may need time to plan for the event. While every person and disability is different, and they may not need the time, it's always kind to give your friends a heads up before the event if you can. It's also good to realize that no matter how much time you give them to prepare, your friend may have to cancel last minute. You shouldn't become upset when they cancel because you don't know how their disability impacts their day-to-day life. It's best to respect their privacy, express that you understand and ask when they would like to reschedule for a later date.
4. When in Doubt—Keep it Lowkey
There is always the option to have a lowkey hangout if you're having problems finding suitable accommodations for your friend. It's fun to plan a girls' night in or bring over Starbucks for a coffee date. It takes the pressure off everyone, and it won't make your friend feel like they are ruining plans. The most important aspect of a hangout is being with your friends, in the end, it doesn't matter where you go or what you do.
5. Ask Them
You can always ask your friend what they can and want to do. Including your friend in plan-making from the beginning will not only make them feel included but allow you to understand your friend better. Able-bodied and neurotypical people usually avoid discussing physical and mental disabilities because they don't want to offend anyone. While some people may not like to discuss their disabilities, others are open to having that conversation because they want you to know it's okay to acknowledge their disability. It is a part of who they are, and as a friend, you accept every part of them. You will see where the boundaries are in your relationship and if you're unclear, ask them if they're comfortable with the conversation. Letting your friend know they can always talk to you and suggest ways to improve will strengthen your friendship and help the world become a more accessible place.
Now that you have all your accessible plans ready, you're going to need cute captions for your new Insta content! Check out THESE sizzling Instagram captions for hot and sweltering summer selfies.