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9 tips for hosting a more inclusive Thanksgiving

hosting a more inclusive Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving gatherings have changed a lot since the COVID pandemic started, but this year we’re finally ready to start gathering with friends and family.

We have much to be grateful for in 2021. For many of us, this will be the first post-pandemic Thanksgiving where we risk travel and in-person gatherings to be with our families. This means two years of updates to catch up on. That translates to a lot of jokes, debates, gossip swaps, and merriment. Some of us are going will strain to take it all in.

Gatherings of such scale are a challenging time for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is especially true in the case of children. Such events require preparation. We take precautions on our part to make the most of a holiday. We’ll have our noise reduction levels set, speech-to-text apps ready, and will be scouting for the most optimal seat the minute we walk in.

Want to make it easier? Read on for our tips on hosting a more inclusive Thanksgiving for guests with hearing loss.

1. Find Your Guest’s Preferred Mode of Communication

Not all deaf people are the same. Check with your guest beforehand for their preferred mode(s) of communication. Would they like you to place a microphone in the middle of the table? Do they have single-sided hearing loss and have a favored location at the dinner table? Knowing this information will go a long way in making the joy more accessible.

Read more: 5 tips for communicating at Thanksgiving with hearing loss

2. Cut Out the Cacophony, Tone Down the Epiphany

Given that Thanksgiving is a time when only your near and dear ones would be present, there’s merit in informing everyone in attendance to take their turns talking. You could also make the conversations more audible by keeping the background noise low.

3. Reserve a Quiet Room

As bellies fill up and moods rise, it could get increasingly difficult to implement the above suggestion. One solution is to reserve a quiet room for your guest’s relief from auditory fatigue and keep it accessible throughout. Naps being a Thanksgiving tradition, this could be the place where you give your guest special rights – naps at any hour of the day!

4. Interiors Matter

Gargantuan centerpieces and fountains of flowery arrangements can hinder conversations even for those with fully functional ears. But for us, such an object on the dinner table can be an absolute nuisance to lipreading efforts. It would be considerate indeed to keep the décor simple and lighting bright. Also eliminate any backlighting to avoid visual obstructions.

5. Turkey What?

Ever heard of “Dinner Table Syndrome?” It’s how we define our experience of making sense of the auditory chaos that takes place at the table. This includes not hearing what food is being served. The solution: Label the dishes. Easy peasy.

6. Pick Your Entertainment Wisely

Turn closed captions on the TV. Keep music to levels that are more comfortable, less scratchy, and allow for conversation. Pick a game that doesn’t require oral cues. Or hey, how about sign language playing cards?

7. Sign Your Thanks

Isn’t “thank you” among the first words you’d learn in a local language while navigating a foreign land? This Thanksgiving, when you go around the room to share your gratitude, thank your guest in sign language provided they know it and use it to communicate. If funds allow, you could also go the whole mile by hiring a professional ASL interpreter for the evening.

Read more: How to learn sign language

8. Use the Opportunity to a Loved One’s Advantage

Got a sibling who’s hard of hearing but scoffs at tech? An uncle who’d prefer spoiled cranberry sauce over the hassle of adapting to hearing aids? Holiday get togethers are a great time to make polite nudges in the right direction. Tell them to try out a pair at Thanksgiving dinner and see if tech doesn’t save the day!

Read more: Buying Hearing Aids

9. And You Shall Be Thanked for Your Patience

Be patient. Use a phone to text your guest or pick up a notepad. Avoid shouting as it makes lipreading harder. And no, please don’t skip details. Your guest might really like to know how exactly you messed up the pumpkin pie all those years ago. These are the tidbits that add up to a successful celebration. What’s more, by following all of these tips, you’ll come out the most gracious of all Thanksgiving hosts!


Author Details
Mineli is an India-based writer with unilateral hearing loss and multilateral appreciation for all things silent. She’s a content writer by the day and a poet by night, and whenever there’s a moment free between the two, she takes off to the nearest forest for a quiet chat with the birds.