This holiday season, many people are skipping the traditional gifts of toys or clothes and giving “experiences” to family and friends. These could include tickets to live theater, restaurant certificates, classes to learn something new, scavenger hunts or escape rooms, or trips to destinations near or far. With a little research, you can make sure the experience includes everyone.
Are you considering tickets to a play, opera, or musical? Many theaters offer accessible seating and headsets for enhanced hearing, and some may offer closed captioning. Check the calendar for the production you’re interested in to see if they offer interpreted or sensory-friendly performances. Are you a manager or director for an arts organization? The ADA National Network recorded a series of webinars covering accessibility in the arts and recreation.
Dinner for Two?
For the foodie in your life, a gift card to a hot new restaurant may be a great choice. Visit the website of the restaurant and look at photos to identify any possible physical barriers like stairs up to the door or tightly packed tables. Call the restaurant to ask about physical access, including whether there are stairs to the bathrooms. If you’re making a reservation through a website or on the phone, tell the host about any special needs like a large print menu or dietary restrictions. Some review and reservation sites include information about wheelchair access. For example, the Washington Post now features restaurant reviews that include wheelchair accessibility of DC-area restaurants. The reviews also include decibel ratings and a description of how loud the restaurant can get.
Owners and managers of restaurants, bars, and cafes may want to visit the Hospitality and Disability website to learn about inclusive customer service. The nearest ADA National Network Regional Center can also provide information about physical accessibility and inclusive customer service.
Class in Session?
A class may be on the list for the person who never stops learning. A quick search will lead you to online classes for everything from architecture to Zumba. Take a few minutes to check the accessibility of the online platform. Sites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning have information about the accessibility of their platforms (if you can’t find it in the Support section, contact their customer service or tech support). Many museums have educational programs that are inclusive of patrons with disabilities, like the Access Programs at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. For in-person classes or educational programs, ask about the physical or programmatic accessibility of the facility or instruction: Can you get into the building, into the room, or up to the table or counter? Are the instructional materials available in large print or digital format? Are there safety considerations for a service animal?
Solving a Mystery?
Escape rooms and scavenger hunts are increasingly popular experience gifts. In an escape room, participants work together to solve small puzzles or collect clues, eventually solving a bigger mystery or riddle to unlock the room within a time limit. Scavenger hunts involve using clues to find objects, with participants ranging throughout the play space to find all the objects. Scavenger hunts can be a fun way to explore a city. These hunts often involve an app or online tool to get clues or collect photos of found objects. Check that the app will work with any accessibility settings in the participant’s smartphone or tablet. As with restaurants, it’s a good idea to check the company’s website to learn about the location and type of games. Contact the site managers to discuss specific needs or potential barriers like stairs.
Escape room and scavenger hunt companies are often small business, which have responsibilities under the ADA not to discriminate against patrons with disabilities and to provide reasonable accommodations. The ADA National Network Regional Centers can help business owners understand their responsibilities and can demonstrate how most accommodations are low cost and relatively easy to implement. In fact, one escape room designer learned that the most important accommodation may be spending a few minutes at the beginning of a session for inclusion training for all participants.
Planning and researching ahead can make a big difference if you’re giving someone a big trip by land, sea, or air. Many theme parks offer services for families with disabilities and should have this information on their website. Cruise ships that dock in the United States are required to meet standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Hotels are required to provide information about the accessibility of their rooms and amenities, and many will post this information on their website. Vacation rental websites may include information about the accessibility of a property, but this information may be inconsistent or inaccurate. With any of these accommodations, it’s always a good idea to confirm that the place really meets your access needs: call, email, or chat with a customer service representative. We recently wrote about accessible travel over the holidays and shared many pointers for an inclusive travel experience.
These are just a few examples of experience gifts you might consider this holiday season. As we learned in our visitability blog post, open communication about access needs will help you plan the experience so that everyone can join in. Whichever experience you give, you’re ultimately giving the gift of great memories to last a lifetime.