All I Want is Equity: Embracing Accessibility Beyond the Holidays

Graphic of three presents that have "All I Want" text on them.

By Andrea Jennings

Inclusivity and accessibility should not solely be a mindset for the holiday season but a mindset and lifestyle that people can carry into their workspaces, family life, and community throughout the year.

The connection between inclusion, accessibility, and the holiday spirit is simple; it is the fusion of holiday cheer and the fundamental values of fostering an inclusive environment.

In my line of work as an accessibility strategist, I encourage embracing each individual’s uniqueness, recognizing that our differences contribute to the rich tapestry of humanity – just as we celebrate diverse traditions during this time,

A black woman wearing a black shirt and pants is sitting on a white chair in front of a tall Christmas Tree decorated with Robin's Egg Blue ornaments and decor.During the holidays, people worldwide do their best to make others feel welcome, practice generosity, and go above and beyond to ensure their guests and loved ones have enough to eat and are comfortable. When planning dinner parties or events, they check in with their friends to see if they have allergies or preferences. Hospitality should be a year-round practice.

Moreover, the understanding exhibited by employers, acknowledging the additional financial strain during this period and offering holiday bonuses, reflects a commitment to the well-being of their employees.

Let’s look at some proactive ways to help bring the holiday season forward.

Wellness and Accessibility in The Workspace:

  • Foster a workplace culture prioritizing employee well-being through wellness days off, adaptive yoga, fitness programs, mental wellness resources, and ergonomic and accessible workspaces.
  • Provide and encourage sensory and focus breaks.
  • Create a sensory room or quiet space where employees can focus, listen to music, read a book, or simply reduce stress.
  • Encourage remote work to provide accessible options.

Create Accessibility and Inclusive Design Job Positions:

  • Hire specialists and individuals with lived expertise! Bringing in accessibility and inclusive design experts demonstrates a commitment to creating products, services, and environments that cater to everyone.
  • Comprehensive Teams: Forming a dedicated accessibility team, including experts in design, compliance, and user experiences, ensures a holistic approach to accessibility.

Accessible Events, Content, Media and Technology:

Promoting accessibility in media, technology, and entertainment during the holiday season is crucial to ensure inclusivity for everyone. Here are some ways to prioritize accessibility in these areas during the holidays and New Year!

Closed Captions and Subtitles:

  • Ensure that television shows, films, and online content include accurate closed captions. It is essential for d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

Audio Descriptions:

  • Incorporate audio descriptions for blind or low-vision individuals to provide a detailed narration of visual elements, actions, and expressions during holiday-related programs or events.

Accessible Websites and Apps:

  • If you have a website or app related to holiday events or services, ensure it adheres to web accessibility standards (such as WCAG).
  • Provide alternative text for images and keyboard navigation and ensure compatibility with screen readers.

Virtual Celebrations:

  • Consider hosting virtual celebrations or events that allow people to participate from the comfort of their homes.
  • Ensure the virtual platform is accessible to disabled individuals, providing features like closed captioning and compatibility with assistive technologies.
  • Remember to include brief self-descriptions for an accessible experience for all.

Inclusive Social Media Campaigns:

  • Create holiday-related social media content that is accessible to all. Use descriptive image captions, provide alt text for images, and use hashtags that promote inclusivity.

Accessible Decorations:

  • If you have physical locations decorated for the holidays, make sure the decorations don’t obstruct pathways so there is an accessible path of travel.

Accessible Events:

  • If hosting in-person events, ensure the house or venue and path of travel are barrier-free and accessible for disabled individuals – including parking, ramps, elevators, accessible restrooms, and designated wheelchair-accessible spaces.
  • Send notifications to attendees to contact the host or planner regarding access requirements.
  • Ensure that printed material is available in alternative formats for blind or low-vision individuals.
  • Provide assistive listening devices, real-time captioners, and sign language Interpreters for d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

Content Creation:

  • Use Camel-Case for hashtags, don’t overuse emojis, and don’t substitute text with an emoji.
  • Enable Closed Captions and provide CART (real-time captioning) for reliable captions.
  • Provide accessible print media using large print or Braille, numbered and bulleted lists, and agenda or meeting materials in advance when possible.
  • Add alt-text to describe images.

Three white women holding red and white balloons dressed in red, white, and green are sitting on a sofa in front of a brick wall.


Accessible Entertainment Spaces: Performances, Live Events & Award Shows

  • Advocate for entertainment spaces such as concert venues, prioritizing accessibility and ensuring venues are accessible.
  • Having dedicated employees to assist individuals with access requirements, as well as having all staff trained in best practices in accessible guest services, is the goal.
  • Relaxed performances and sensory-friendly performances with dimmed lighting.
  • Ensure designated and accessible seating that has an unobstructed view.
  • Provide seating for caregivers or personal care attendants.
  • Hiring on-set accessibility coordinators for productions and studios highlights a commitment to compliance and proactive measures to create accessible workplaces and services in front of the camera and behind the lens.

Accessible Gift Ideas and Holiday Shopping:

  • Explore accessible gift ideas that consider diverse preferences. People appreciate these kinds of thoughtful gestures.
  • Online gift certificates for various businesses include books, media, clothing, food, healthcare, and wellness goods.
  • Consider purchasing music subscriptions and gifts with accessible, innovative technology such as hand-held motion-controlled music mixers, fitness trackers, headphones, adaptive remotes, or gaming tools.
  • Consider adaptive makeup and hair-care tools for individuals experiencing fatigue and chronic pain.
  • An excellent website for adaptive gifts year-round is FFlora.
  • Support businesses prioritizing accessibility and choosing products and services catering to diverse customers.
  • Train all employees on assisting customers with access requirements.

 A Black woman wearing a black and white polka-dotted dress stands beside a decorated Christmas tree.As we revel in the joyous moments of the holidays, my call to action encourages us to carry this spirit of inclusivity into the rest of the year. Doing so enhances the festive season and contributes to a world where respect, understanding, and empathy become year-round traditions.

May the warmth and kindness experienced during these holidays remind us that creating an accessible, inclusive, and psychologically safe environment is a gift we can give one another daily.

Andrea Jennings, M.Mus., is a Disability & Accessibility Strategist, actress, and filmmaker passionate about music, law, and entertainment. Her journey led to creating Shifting Creative Paradigms – Leveling The Playing Field® Multi-Media Production Co., advocating for social justice through Disability culture, film, music, and art. Her work has graced prestigious platforms like Park Avenue Armory, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Rutgers University. Her work is also recognized in Forbes, Billboard Magazine, The Atlantic Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, and The New York Times.


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