Have yourself an inclusive little Christmas

Christmas is nearly here. A time for eating too much, giving gifts, watching rubbish TV (maybe that’s just me!) and seeing friends and family. But, in among it all, it’s important to remember that for many, Christmas can be a difficult or lonely time of year.

A Christmassy scene with a mug and an open book with a Christmas tree in the background

Last year, a survey found that one in six people would be spending Christmas alone. We know that loneliness and social isolation impacts disabled people more than others.

Our Left Out of Life campaign highlighted that almost two-thirds of disabled people are chronically lonely, and that a third of disabled people are limited to under an hour of interaction with someone each day. The impact of the pandemic has made this even worse. For many disabled people, the prospect of Christmas might increase feelings of loneliness and isolation.

That’s why it’s important that we all play our part in helping to tackle loneliness in the coming month. Here are my three top tips to make sure no one is left out of life this Christmas.

Tip 1: Make your Christmas gatherings accessible

 For many people, Christmas is all about parties and getting together with family, colleagues or friends. And while everyone loves a good celebration, sometimes, the venues or spaces used for events can present practical challenges because they’re not accessible.

Cafes or bars don’t always have wheelchair access or might have loud background music playing, which can be challenging for people with hearing impairments.   

Our Left Out of Life research showed us that a lack of accessibility in local communities can lead to disabled people feeling unable to participate. But over half of disabled people told us that they’d feel less lonely if local communities were more inclusive.

So, what can you do?

Well, if you’re booking a space this Christmas, make sure you check in advance if anyone coming has additional needs, and ask what you could do to support them. Check if your venue is accessible and ask how they can help. If someone in your party has a hearing or sight impairment, ask the venue if you can book a quieter or better-lit area. Small actions can make a big difference.   

Check out our handy Think, Ask, Include tips to make your community more inclusive.

Tip 2: Learn some festive British Sign Language

 British Sign Language (BSL) is the preferred language of over 87,000 deaf people in the UK.

Learning even a little sign language could go a long way to making someone feel included. Last year, we launched Sense Sign School, a series of free video lessons taught by a 15-year-old teacher, Mr Tyrese.

Mr Tyrese shared some sign language for his most loved Christmas foods – including my personal favourite, pigs in blankets! Why not try and learn a couple of signs? Head to our sign language page for the basics.

Tip 3: Keep in touch

Perhaps my most important tip is to check in on people that you think might be on their own this Christmas.

Many of us got a taste of spending Christmas on our own or in smaller groups last year, because of the Covid restrictions. And even this year, with restrictions lifted, some might feel anxious about going out and mixing with others.

Remember that statistic I shared earlier? A third of disabled people get less than an hour’s interaction with someone else each day—and that includes Christmas day!

It takes five minutes to send a text or give a quick call, and it really can make such a difference.

It only remains for me to wish you a happy, inclusive Christmas! We can all take small steps to include those around us in the coming weeks. Let’s make sure no one is left out of life this Christmas.