Feeling Holiday Isolation

It’s the holiday season! The season for family gatherings, work parties, parties with friends, the list goes on. The time between October and January is so filled with parties and gatherings that you need a vacation in February to rejuvenate from all the socializing you did in the previous three months.

While this time of the year is when people look back and feel grateful for everyone surrounding them and supporting them, it is also the time that highlights how excluded and isolated people with disabilities are from society and within their own families.

If you are someone who has a physical disability that limits mobility, it can be a challenge attending a family gathering or a party thrown by friends. Most festivities are held at a person’s home. As most of us know, most homes are not built with accessibility in mind, resulting in the person with the disability not being able to attend or having to give up a piece of their comfort and independence to enter the location.

Even if one can successfully enter the party, there is no guarantee that they will be fully included in the festivities. Frequently people who use wheelchairs are put off to the side to keep their wheelchairs out of the way of the comings and goings or are stuck in one area to accommodate the inaccessibility of the house. This results in one not being fully included in all the excitement or hoping someone will come over and start an interaction with them.

To combat the inaccessibility of other people’s houses, the weight of hosting holiday events often falls on the caregivers or the person with the disability to ensure they have access.

When discussing this topic with a couple of friends, one of my closest friends stated that, “I hate going to family events because it’s a challenge even to enter the house. Then once I am in, I feel like I am shoved into a corner out of everyone’s way.”

Or others are asked to sit with the kids during events even though they are adults, isolating them from the adult conversation. This gives the impression that having a disability equates to being a child, no matter how old you are.

The feeling of isolation during holiday festivities not only affects people with physical disabilities but people with all types of disabilities.

People with autism often struggle with isolation during holiday festivities due to sensory overload. Parties often include lots of people, music, and loud conversations and laughter. The flurry of activity can be a lot for one to process and may require someone to take breaks away from the chaos to regroup. Depending on the location, this accommodation may not be possible. It may be challenging to ask for some quiet time without offending others who do not understand.

People with disabilities are often seen as the absent population, that we are not thought about because we are not there. This leads to the idea that inaccessibility is not a problem because people with disabilities do not attend events, and inaccessibility should not be fixed until they do so. Little thought is given to the idea that we are absent due to the inaccessibility; Instead, it is believed that inaccessibility exists because we are absent.

About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzy for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Isabella.