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Preparing for the Holidays with a Disability

preparing for the holidays with a disability

With shopping, parties, family visits, and more, the holidays can be a stressful time for anyone. Add a disability, and it becomes even more challenging. However, having a physical disability doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday season like everyone else. As a woman living with a spinal cord injury and Myasthenia Gravis, I’ve learned that having a physical disability means you just have to modify your approach to certain situations.

After I was first injured, I was determined to plan my Christmas celebration all by myself. However, I soon discovered that my wheelchair left me unable to fully decorate our entire Christmas tree alone, so it was only half decorated. On top of that, I only managed to cook a few of the dishes I originally planned to serve. My experience helped me realize that I have to be more mindful about preparing for the holidays when living with a disability. I’d love to share some of my personal tips and suggestions for helping you do the same.

Going Holiday Shopping with a Disability

Be like Santa before you plan to shop: make a list and check it twice! These days, most people do their shopping online for good reasons: it’s easier on you, your packages are shipped right to your door, and it’s often cheaper too! This is definitely a recommendation for people living with any kind of physical disability, challenge, or limitation.

Personally, being a part of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping gets me in the holiday spirit. However, I am in a wheelchair, so I also completely understand it’s not everyone’s top choice. After all, stores around the holidays can be crowded and have long lines. I try to keep shopping convenient by choosing one-stop shops like supercenters, so I can buy most of the gifts on my list as well as purchasing any ingredients I may need to make my special Christmas dinner.


If you prefer shopping in stores like me, take a look online first. This way, you can compare prices and find relevant coupons. In addition, check your local newspaper for manufacturer coupons. You may be able to combine coupons and save some additional money on certain items.

Decorating for the Holidays

First, I suggest buying large non-fragile tree ornaments. Larger hanging loops made of rope or ribbon also present less of a hassle for hands and fingers that don’t have much dexterity or sensation. If you drop a non-fragile tree ornament, it won’t break and create a potentially dangerous mess to clean up. An added bonus is that it won’t take a lot of money for your tree to look really nice. I also like to buy the big premade bows to nestle in between each branch, which cuts back on decorating time and energy too.

christmas tree decorating limited hand dexterity

For decorating outside the house, net lights are a great option. With assistance, you can spread them over shrubs, bushes, and short trees. No need to fiddle with bulbs, fuses, or complicated wires. Invest in a good timer with a multi-plug surge protector and an extension cord for outdoor use. Personally, I have an Amazon Echo Dot, which I program to have Alexa turn on the lights when and where I want.

Finally, you might ask your lawn maintenance company if they offer an outdoor Christmas light decoration service. This way, they can handle all the hard work for you. It may even be cheaper than many of the advertised professional light installation services.

Adaptive Cooking

Many people living with physical disabilities find it’s easiest to order groceries online and have them delivered. You might check with your local Wal-Mart if they offer online ordering in your area. At my local Wal-Mart, I can order all my groceries online. Then when it’s time to pick them up, their employees handle loading the groceries in my car for me. If you prefer to have your groceries delivered, take a look at Instacart to see if this service is available in your area.

Additionally, many local restaurants and grocery stores offer options for ordering a fully prepared meal including side items, desserts, and turkeys around the holidays. This is incredibly helpful when cooking by yourself is simply not an option.

Planning to cook at home for your big holiday feast? Consider making it a fun new tradition to cook with your loved ones. It can be a great way to create new memories while passing down family recipes to your children and/or the younger members of your family.

adaptive cooking for holidays

When cooking in a wheelchair, I like to use a strong wooden chopping board that I can lay over my lap. This method helps prevent hot dishes from touching your skin, which is especially helpful if you’re like me and have limited sensation in your legs. Plus, I suggest getting plenty of dishtowels and oven mitts to go around so no one gets burned on a hot stove or oven door.

Lastly, keep an apron on while you’re in the kitchen. It’ll keep your clothes clean and free of any spills or messes, which will help you avoid extra unnecessary clothes changes during the day.

Planning Ahead and Getting Help

Many of us living with a physical disability need to accept that we simply may have to ask for help. However, think about how much more you’ll be able to achieve if you set aside your pride or fear and reach out. Personally, I’ve found that people love to help, especially during the holidays!

Think about creating your own holiday planning committee with family, friends, and even your caregiver. This way, you can delegate certain tasks according to the level of difficulty. Even if you have a higher level of spinal cord injury or severe disability, you may still be able to take part in the planning and preparation.

Adaptive tools can also make a real difference. One thing I’ve found especially helpful is an adaptive tool known as a grabber. You can find grabber tools at most mobility stores online, as well as popular sites and stores such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, and E-bay. Over the years, I’ve learned that I actually need two grabber tools to help me. Why? Because eventually, you’re probably going to drop your grabber, and you’ll need a second grabber to help pick it up.

Now that you’ve got a few tips and tricks under your belt for the upcoming holiday season, why not pass on some good cheer to others? If you’re blessed with some extra time or money, consider giving back. You can do this by volunteering or donating to charitable organizations, including non-profits that help provide toys to children of families in need or your local Red Cross.

I truly hope my tips help you and your loved ones have a spectacular holiday celebration.

Meena and son Christmas
Me with my son Jamie
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About the Author
Preparing for the Holidays with a Disability
On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges, and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

Since then, she has begun writing memoirs, blogs, and a book series featuring a young girl named Mattie who is in a wheelchair. She has been featured in magazines, fashion shows, radio shows, and on local news to speak about her life as a disabled woman, wife, and mother. Through her work, she hopes to inspire others with disabilities.