Summer is a great time for a get-together, whether it’s a big family meal, a kids’ party or a few friends having drinks al fresco. It should be a time for everyone to enjoy each other’s company and feel included, but for some children it can be quite a challenge. Those who have accessibility needs often require extra preparations to be made before they can move easily around a building, and this can make attending parties with friends and family much less simple than it should be.
It can be quite daunting for a child to enter an unknown household without knowing whether there will be appropriate facilities for them inside, and of course this can cause some children to turn down their classmates’ invitations. These children may use a wheelchair or crutches, may have difficulty using some doors and stairs, and may lack the confidence to speak up about their needs. Follow this simple guide to make your home a welcoming and safe environment for all children this summer.
Do Your Homework
When planning a party or meal, make sure you consider in detail the needs of everyone attending. Of course you’ll be asking about allergies and dietary requirements, but what about mobility needs? If you’re inviting a large group of children, say your child’s entire class, there is a good chance that at least one of them will have accessibility needs that could prevent them from enjoying themselves, or even from attending altogether.
Prevent this by asking parents to inform you of any particular needs on the invitation, and be sure to come across as open and helpful. They’ve probably had a great deal of negative experiences, where their child’s needs have not be considered, so try to be as accommodating as possible. It could make a big difference to that child’s social life and confidence, just by showing that you have thought about it.
Make Some Changes
If you do not have a child in your family who has accessibility needs, it can be easy to forget just how much of a difference a few changes can make. Simple things, like making sure the furniture is arranged in a way that allows room for a wheelchair to move around, can make things so much easier for people who come to visit. Other minor changes could include moving items such as soaps down to a height that a wheelchair user could reach, and making sure that the path or driveway is wide enough and does not contain any obstacles. If you are inviting someone into your home for the first time, the best thing to do is simply ask them what they would find helpful.
If you have a child with mobility needs in your own family, or as a part of your inner social circle, it may well be a good idea to invest in some larger changes to your home, so that they can be as comfortable as possible. Spending time outside can be a challenge for many children with accessibility needs, so make sure they can get around the garden easily. This may require a ramp to be installed, as well as external bifold doors, to ensure that they can easily move from house to garden or patio. If you do not have a downstairs bathroom, you may consider a small conversion, or a lift or stair lift installation. If you are planning on making any of these changes, discuss it with the child and their parents first, to be sure that you are making the right choice for them.
Change Your Plans
When organising an event that includes children with accessibility needs, it is important to be flexible and willing to change things from the norm. If you have hosted your child’s birthday party in the treehouse for the last five years, but this year are inviting one or more children with mobility needs, it is important that you put their safety and comfort first. It may well be that you need to change your plans and host it on the patio instead, but this will only be a positive thing when you see the benefits of being inclusive to everyone.
Sometimes it is not necessary to make big changes to what you are planning, as minor adjustments can be made for individuals without changing the bigger picture. By putting yourself in their shoes, making small changes to the layout of your home and discussing things with them, you can make your home events completely inclusive and beneficial for all.