Some may be surprised to learn that religious entities are exempt from compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 1990. However, as Disability Rights Advocate, the late Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, once declared, “Despite the legal exemption, the ADA is a moral mandate for faith communities.” As with other sectors of society, inclusion within the faith community is progressing. A recent survey of Jewish individuals, fielded by RespectAbility, found that a strong majority — 65 percent — of respondents felt the Jewish community was “better” at “including people with disabilities” compared to five years ago. Of course, there’s room for all to be more mindful of inclusivity! So, as the “Festival of Lights” nears, here are tips for hosting an inclusive Hanukkah Party.
Tips for Hosting an Inclusive Hanukkah Party
Plan to Be Accommodating.
When drafting invitations, include verbiage that expresses willingness to welcome guests of all abilities. For example, “In an effort to host an inclusive, accessible event, please inform us of your requests for accommodation needs.”
If you’re unable to meet such requests, such as securing a sign language interpreter, do inform the guest and explore collaborative solutions.
Examine Venue Accessibility.
Does your event space include accessibility features, like a ground-level entrance, elevators, ramps, accessible restrooms, adequate signage, advanced technology, etc.? What about sensory stimulants, such as lighting and sound levels?
Food for Thought.
Should guests have food allergies, celiac disease or other dietary needs, ensure that offerings are safe for consumption. And are you keeping kosher?
Accessible Items for an Inclusive Hanukkah Party
1. Allergy-Friendly Gelt
Made by No Whey Foods, these Hanukkah-themed chocolate coins are free of the top eight most common allergens; plus, they’re vegan, artificial color/flavor free and kosher pareve. Because approximately 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children – equating to 1-in-13 kids – consider these gift goodies.
2. ASL Holiday Videos
Chabad.org, a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, offers several videos pertaining to Jewish holidays, including one titled “A Chanukah ASL ABC Story.” If you plan to host an ASL-friendly event, consider informing the Jewish Deaf Resource Center, which is compiling a list of accessible events.
3. Battery-Operated Menorah
Ideal for those who can’t lift heavier items, this mini blue-colored menorah is compact and lightweight. Plus, candles illuminate via battery power or USB so there’s no need to fuddle with matches or lighters.
4. Hanukkah Braille Books
Path to Literacy, a website collaboration between Perkins School for the Blind and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, sells a variety of Hanukkah books in braille. Plus, The Jewish Braille Institute offers free downloads of Hanukkah blessings in both large print and braille.
5. Design Your Own Dreidel
Art therapy is considered an effective rehabilitative method to aid both physical and emotional health. As with physical therapy, repetitive exercise (i.e. painting strokes) of weakened muscles can help stroke survivors, for example, gain elasticity, strength and balance. For mental well-being, art therapy boosts creative expression, ignites a calming effect and can relieve stress. This DIY pack of wooden dreidels is great for encouraging creativity amongst budding artists of all abilities.
6. Flexible Neck Lighter
Featuring a long, flexible neck, candles can be lit with ease. This accessible lighter utilizes flameless plasma technology and is rechargeable. Plus, it has a helpful auto-stop safety feature.
7. Gluten-Free Potato Pancake Mix
Traditional latkes can be enjoyed, even without gluten, which can’t be consumed by those with celiac disease or certain food allergies/intolerances. Each order contains two 6-ounce boxes of simple, ready-to-mix ingredients. That means you don’t have to grate the potatoes!
8. Hanukkah Emoji Decals
For some non-verbal children, such as those with childhood apraxia of speech, visual supports can aid communication, especially as it pertains to one’s feelings. Children can choose Hanukkah emoji dreidels to display their feelings. And these fun and silly emojis easily adhere to windows and certain boards, thus doubling as festive decor.
9. Hanukkah Rolling Pin
This handmade rolling pin is made of beech wood and laser engraved to be Hanukkah-themed. It measures 40 cm in length (with handles) and 6 cm in diameter. Use this tool either in the kitchen to roll dough or in the playroom to roll play-doh. Both of these exercises can aid fine and gross motor skills in a beautiful way.
10. Hanukkah Straws
Necessary for many with mobility and/or oral challenges, this four-pack of reusable drinking straws is fun and festive. Adorned with a dreidel or a menorah, each sturdy straw measures 10.5″ tall.
11. Menorah & Dreidel Popper Set
Especially appealing to children with ADHD, autism and sensory processing disorder, this pop-it fidget set provides desired tactile stimulation. Choose either the pastel design, featuring pink, light blue and yellow hues, or the more classic combination of blue and white.
12. Odorless Lamp Oil
Scents can be overwhelming to those with a heightened sense of smell or a sensory-related disability. Common culprits can include detergent, perfumes, shampoo, food, etc. That’s why this smokeless and odorless lamp oil is a disability-friendly choice.
Happy holidays to all!