Consider people with disabilities this season

Shari Cooper is one of our regular community contributors.

One of my favorite well-known holiday songs is “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?,” performed by the R&B group The Emotions. You can find it pretty easily on YouTube.

Although it’s a beautiful song with a lovely melody, I used to think it was the saddest song I’d ever heard. The holiday season is not a happy time for everyone, especially if your funds are low or you have no one to spend it with.

Often, people with disabilities fall victim to the holiday blues; many do not have much money, and true friends are sometimes hard to come by. Most people attend parties or celebration festivities around the holidays. Many people with disabilities, however, are often left out of joyous occasions due circumstances beyond their control.

If I want to attend a holiday party, most likely I won’t go by myself because I need assistance, whether it is having someone transport me or assisting in fixing a plate of food. Also, what if the place where the party is being held has steps and I assumed it didn’t? Yes, I’m fully aware the responsibility is on me to check accessibility ahead of time — but at that moment, I’m not only embarrassed for myself and whoever is with me, but also feeling tremendous anxiety because I can’t get in.

This is just one of my dilemmas, but think about people with other disabilities. A person who’s blind may rely on a seeing-eye dog and the public establishment where the party is being held may not allow service animals (although it’s against the law to deny access to a public space for this reason, according to Americans with Disabilities Act). What’s one to do? You could speak up and possibly cause a scene, but who wants to do that when all you really want is to have fun? This can really be another real “Debbie Downer” situation.

So, what can one do to help with holiday depression? Here are a few tips from the Mayo Clinic:

• Stick to a budget: Money is tight, so don’t let your wants to buy expensive gifts outweigh your pockets.

• Try DIY gifts: One year, I created my mother a gift basket with all her favorite things, from perfume to cough drops, and she loved it!

• Reach out: There are many groups that cater to assisting people over the holidays. Volunteering is another way one can lift their spirits and make new friends.

• Plan ahead: Use time management. Don’t try to do everything in a small amount of time. Bake, shop, clean or wrap gifts ahead of time.

Finally, one of my own personal tips for helping with holiday depression:

• Create your own fun: If you can’t go to the party, bring the party to you! Don’t forget to invite people who might be in the same situation so they can have fun, too.

Perhaps these holiday tips will help cure or at least ease holiday depression this year. Let us all be aware of others who may be feeling blue this holiday season and give the gift of friendship.

‘Often, people with disabilities fall victim to the holiday blues; many do not have much money, and true friends are sometimes hard to come by.’