Holiday Accessible Style By: Mary Ellen Pfeil

It’s the holiday season and many have different ways of enjoying it. I love this time and all the activities that come along with it, including spending time with family, watching holiday movies, listening to the Soulful Christmas Station, and wearing my festive pajamas around the house. Sometimes, when a person has a disability, barriers need to be removed so that an individual can enjoy and participate.  My good friend, and today’s guest blogger, Mary Ellen, who also loves the holidays, agreed to share how accessibility has made the holidays great and memorable. Enjoy as she shares.


Christmas is absolutely my favorite holiday! The season leading up to Christmas is filled with festive events which gives me great joy! I enjoy Christmas music, plays, shopping, and various get-togethers with family and friends.


My favorite author, Richard Paul Evans, writes a heartwarming Christmas novel every year. Most years he comes to my area for a book signing. It is extra special this year since world events and other circumstances have prevented his visit for 3 years. His discussion of his current Christmas novel always puts me in the Christmas spirit.


I am also looking forward to attending Trans-Siberian Orchestra this year with a couple friends. It is the 2nd time I have seen the show. Christmas music adds to my Christmas spirit. I also enjoy attending church choir Christmas concerts for the spiritual lift.


Decorating for the season gives me a special joy. I have many decorations to set around my apartment. It does not seem like Christmas until the apartment is decorated. Over the years, I am grateful for the many friends who are my “decoration elves.”


Most every year, I go to South Bend, Indiana for a few days to celebrate Christmas with my family. To get there in my accessible van, I have a good friend, who is willing to drive me halfway there. We meet my sister and her husband in Fort Wayne at an Italian restaurant along the highway. After eating, we switch vehicles. My sister drives my van to South Bend and my friend drives the vehicle they drove to Ft. Wayne. It is a clever way to cut down on the 5-hour one-way trip!


Last year, I stayed with my brother who also has needs for accessible living quarters. This arrangement worked out great. In past years, my sister and her family accommodated me at their two-story home. Steps were the issue getting in and out of the house and up to the full bathroom on shower days. Fortunately, the way into the house from the garage only had 2 steps and with help, I can walk up the steps and meet my wheelchair. It would be waiting for me in the doorway.


Now that my brother is completely paraplegia, the same walking assistance no longer works for him at my sister’s home or my dad’s place. The track ramps stored in my garage to occasionally bridge inaccessible places, finally had a greater mission, to get both of us in and out of family homes.


I find Christmas shopping is much more enjoyable when gifts are picked up from various stores, catalogs, and community events throughout the year (festivals, bazaars, etc). When it is time to Christmas shop, looking at what you already have bought, reduces the number of gifts still on the list. My golden rule is not to go into the mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as retailers use every inch of floor space to maximize their profits, which substantially limits accessible aisles needed by people who use mobility devices.


Merry Christmas, everyone! Enjoy the season!

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