Accessibility and Your Event

So you’re hosting a Shabbat! Yay! Welcoming friends and new guests into your home is truly an incredible experience. There’s definitely a hosting high after everyone has left that can carry you straight through the week to the next Friday night.

Of course we all want to be the best hosts we can be, and a big part of that is being sensitive to, and accommodating of, different types of accessibility needs. I’ve put together this guide on how to be inclusive at your table.

Before the Event

It all starts with the dinner description and invitation itself. What to tell them about the venue:

  • Is there parking nearby your home reliably? Are there any wheelchair vehicle spots near your home?
  • Are there stairs? Even small steps or stoops should be described.
  • Are there ramps or elevators? Is the elevator really small?
  • Narrow hallways?
  • What is your bathroom like? For bathrooms to work for people with wheelchairs or walkers, they need to be able to fit the device inside with the door closed.
  • Will you all be sitting on the floor or standing the whole night?
  • Do you have pets? What kind and how many?
  • Is there anything to note about the air flow/temperature of your home?
  • Will the lighting be too dim to lip read? Or the music/acoustic of your apartment too loud to hear easily?
Architecture Perspective Stairs

What to ask them before the event (send this in your pre-event email to all guests along with a reiteration of the above information and a reminder of your address and the event time):

  • Any food allergies?
  • “Are there any accommodations I can make for anyone?”
  • “What do you need to fully participate?”

At the Event

The short and sweet of it is to remember that every single person has different needs. Being considerate and making small changes can go a long way. Here are some things to consider:

  • If you’re planning on doing the rituals in Hebrew, remember that not everyone may be knowledgeable about your customs. We suggest printing our Shabbat Dinner Guide for guests and making them readily available, without singling out people you think might not know them. Want to learn the blessings is ASL? Here they are for candles, wine, and challah.
  • Don’t assume that anyone is or is not Jewish.
  • Not everyone with a mobility device wants to sit in a designated area just for them, or worse, on the margins of the room. If someone has told you they’ll be using a mobility device make as much room as possible in the gathering spaces of your home.
  • Dim lighting can be hazardous for anyone, particularly guests with low vision or those who need to navigate with a mobility device. Keep lights on when possible. Be careful about carpet edges that may bunch and impede access as well, and ensure stair edges are noticeable.
  • Tell people where the bathroom is as part of your welcome speech.
  • Refrain from using heavily scented sprays or candles.
  • Put food and ritual items easily within reach.
  • Label food with any potential dietary concerns. (ie: gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, nuts, etc)

Finally, please read OneTable’s Statement of Welcoming:

At OneTable, we foster a climate of purposeful inclusion, an environment where all can feel safe, valued, and given an opportunity to form meaningful connections with each other. We cherish the diversity of humanity, which includes all styles of Jewish practice as equally valid and honored, and all are welcome regardless of ability, religion, ethnicity, race, social or economic status, sexual or gender identity. While Shabbat offers quiet meditative moments, Shabbat dinner is an essential social gathering. We cherish the differences among the Jewish people, and OneTable provides support that allows for the practice of ritual according to varying interpretations and understandings. Every Jewish person and Shabbat dinner attendee is unique; we all celebrate Shabbat differently.

Al Rosenberg

Al Rosenberg is the Director of Marketing & Communications at OneTable. She lives on the west side of Chicago, loves food festivals, is a member at Mishkan, and knows a lot about video games.

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