As the holiday season approaches, many of us find ourselves planning gatherings with friends and family. However, it's important to keep in mind that not everyone celebrates or experiences the holidays in the same way.
In fact, the last place you’d want to make others feel unwelcome or excluded is when celebrating the holidays with family and friends. In order to ensure that your holiday gathering is inclusive and welcoming for all, we've put together some helpful tips for your upcoming gatherings.
Have you heard of Dinner Table Syndrome? Not many hearing people have. It means the way in which Deaf or hard-of-hearing people are excluded from conversations. Unfortunately, it happens too often. So now you know. Awareness means empathy means taking action.
Provide visual cues
For those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visual cues can be incredibly helpful in understanding and participating in conversations. Consider using table tents with names for food or conversation topics written on them, or providing a printed menu for your guests to reference. This can help make sure that everyone is on the same page and can easily follow along.
Technology is your friend
With advances in technology, there are now many tools available to aid communication. For example, have Ava ready for live captions during the entirety of your holiday gathering. Invite users to your Ava room and utilize an Ava Group Conversation so each person in the conversation can be easily identified with what they’re saying. This will enable live captioning for all users and ensure that everyone can participate in conversations without feeling left out. As a company that caters to the specific needs of Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, Ava recommends all guests have quick access to live captions so anyone can join any part of a conversation at any time.
Light it up and turn it down
Make sure to have adequate lighting for any guests who may rely on lip reading or sign language. Additionally, try to minimize background noise as much as possible, which can make it difficult for those with hearing loss to focus on conversations. If you're hosting a larger gathering, consider using a microphone and speaker system to amplify sound and make it easier for everyone to hear.
Provide alternative forms of communication
Some guests may feel more comfortable communicating through written notes or text messaging. Make sure to have pen and paper available, or consider setting up a group chat for your guests to use throughout the event. How about bringing someone to your gathering that knows sign language so they help interpret hearing voices and vice versa.
Hearing people: Get on the sign language bandwagon. Start with a few signs like “thank you”, “hello”, “my name is”, and work your way up to “You look fabulous!” and more. Learn the alphabet. Keep learning!
All alternative types of communication help reduce the anxiety that can happen when there are difficulties communicating.
Be flexible and willing to learn
No matter how well you plan, there may still be instances where misunderstandings occur or adjustments need to be made. It's important to remain flexible and willing to learn from your guests in order to create a truly inclusive environment.
Hosting an inclusive holiday gathering takes time, effort, and consideration, but the end result is worth it. By understanding different communication needs, providing visual cues and utilizing technology, promoting inclusion, and remaining open-minded, you can create a welcoming and enjoyable holiday experience.
In fact, this holiday season, let’s make a pact to think of inclusion beyond the holidays. Meaningful conversations happen every day, all year long — and it’s up to all of us to remember to be inclusive and offer accommodations all the time!