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  • Abigail Dreyer

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Holidays with a Disability

Updated: Mar 27

Halloween. An exciting holiday filled with candy, costumes, and the scariest thing of all: inaccessibility.

A young girl with long dark brown hair  and is wearing a dress with flowers on it smiling at the camera.

With the holiday season underway, I’ve been reflecting upon accessibility, or lack thereof, during the holidays, and I wanted to share my own experience particularly during Halloween and advice on making the holidays more accessible and inclusive.

This past Halloween, some friends and I went trick-or-treating. It had been a few years since I’d gone trick-or-treating, so I had partially forgotten the extent to which this fan-favorite holiday was inaccessible.

However, no sooner had the night begun than all the memories came flooding back.

On Halloween night, I met up with two friends, one, an able-bodied individual, and the other, a power wheelchair-user, like me. A regular barrier I’ve faced on Halloweens past is inaccessible sidewalks, complete with a lack of curb cuts and several cracks and tree roots growing, making them uneven. This year we trick-or-treated in my friend’s community, which happened to not have sidewalks (which, looking back, wasn’t safe either), so we set out on our night, and with no sidewalks to worry about, I thought nothing could go badly. I was wrong. Throughout the night we were met with seemingly endless inaccessibility and ableism.

Many houses had steps to the door, one of the larger barriers facing wheelchair-users, as it renders independence practically unfeasible. While it is a hindrance, it by no means renders the night unenjoyable. We had our able-bodied friend with us, who was happy to retrieve us candy from those inaccessible houses. However, we shouldn’t need someone else to ensure we have access.

Our accessibility problems persisted. Several times when our friend went to get us candy from an inaccessible house, she was met with skepticism and rudeness. People assumed she was scamming them, and only after they realized they were incorrect, would begrudgingly give candy. In one instance, a man answered the door, and initially he was also skeptical about giving my friend candy for the three of us. However, he then proceeded to look directly at my other friend and me; and while giving her the candy, asked our able-bodied friend why we didn’t want to come up to the door. Our friend politely told him that we couldn’t due to the stairs leading up to his home. The man then, without saying much of anything, perhaps realizing the absurdity of his question, simply went back inside.

While that was the extent of inaccessibility we faced during the night, many wheelchair-users face similar situations and worse every holiday. While we still enjoyed our night (after all, hanging out with friends and getting candy is what Halloween is about), the ableism and inaccessibility did put a damper on a holiday which is supposed to be fun.

Even though we faced unsavory interactions, we also experienced good, accessible ones. Several individuals came down the steps to us when they saw us approaching; accommodating us, so we could pick our own candy. Some people passed out candy from their garage or had tables in front of their homes, allowing us to easily roll up to retrieve it. While I doubt most of the homeowners that passed out candy this way had accessibility in mind when setting up, it still made for an inclusive alternative.

As I discovered that night through those alternative and accessible methods, the holidays can easily be made accessible, it just takes effort, creativity, and awareness. With all the holiday-related struggles wheelchair-users face with holiday gatherings at inaccessible locations, I feel that this sentiment is applicable to any holiday.

If nothing else, these experiences allowed me to reflect on the lack of accessibility, and general lack of awareness surrounding disability during the holidays. The holiday season can be tough for people, and I hope that disabled individuals know they’re not alone in their holiday-related struggles. And maybe we can raise awareness to make sure the holidays are happy and inclusive for everyone.

Abigail (Abby) Dreyer is a high school senior from Rhode Island. As an individual with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), Abby is passionate about disability rights and inclusion. In her free time, she enjoys going to new places, writing, baking, and watching movies.


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