09 Dec 2011

‘Tis the season for gatherings. Beginning with the upcoming holidays and ending with the Super Bowl in February, Indianapolis will be host to a series of unforgettable parties and events, many of which will show our community at its absolute best.

Mary Beth and I understand how much work goes into planning events. We probably attend hundreds of receptions, dinners, parties and luncheons each year. It’s one of the many aspects of our work that we really enjoy. We also have thrown our fair share of gatherings over the years. In September, we hosted a number of colleagues, neighbors and friends for an informational evening about the new Eskenazi Health.

In our years attending and hosting events, we’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned. It may rain at an outdoor event. Perhaps a caterer gets stuck in traffic and is late. That’s why most event planners and hosts begin planning well in advance, compiling detailed lists of tasks and responsibilities. Considerable care is taken to ensure the needs of guests are met, so everyone can fully participate in the festivities.

Recently, I attended a luncheon where I, along with numerous colleagues, was honored for a professional accomplishment. At the appointed time, everyone proceeded to the stage for a photo. But, because the location wasn’t accessible, I couldn’t get to the stage to participate. I couldn’t even leave my table because the tables had been placed close together, so much so that it was impossible to navigate my wheelchair in a crowded room. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to share in this special occasion with my colleagues.

Why do I share this? Because I hope others learn from my experience. Just as a host would note a guest’s dietary restrictions, accessibility also should be on the checklist. As our population ages and Baby Boomers turn 65 at a record pace, it’s very likely that someone at some point in time will require accessible accommodations. At the same time, I strongly encourage people with disabilities to take the initiative and make their hosts aware of their accessibility needs. All too often, misunderstandings arise because of a lack of communication. With the holidays and Super Bowl fast approaching, this is a timely topic for all of us to consider.

In this “teachable moment,” I hope – and encourage – all of us to open the lines of communication with each other so we can all focus on the joy of the holiday season. Just add it to the list.

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