Deciding on a gift to get your loved ones, friends, and colleagues at Christmas can be a difficult and strenuous task. For many, gift-giving is an annual minefield where we worry ourselves about everything from settling on a socially acceptable price, whether a gift is too generic and impersonal, and perhaps whether we are trying too hard. However, for the hundreds and thousands of people living in the UK with a disability and their loved ones, deciding a gift based on factors of practicality is thrown into the mix.
As a team of almost entirely disabled people, Direct Access understands this grievance and then some, so we are proud to present an accessible suggestion list for those hoping to surprise a partially sighted, hard of hearing, or autistic loved one this Christmas, covering all ages – (based a tiny bit on our personal preference!).
Gift Ideas for Visually Impaired People
We recommend that gifts for those with visual impairments should generally rely more on touch and sound.
Braille and Large Print Playing Cards – Easily one of the cheapest options on this list and simply a great stocking filler, a pack of playing cards is a gift that can be used again and again by people of all ages with their friends and family. They also allow card games to become an accessible activity for all.
Spotify Premium Subscription – We would first like to take this opportunity to say that we are in no way affiliated or sponsored by this streaming service, however, due to its status as a fully accessible app, as well as being reasonably priced for the consumer, we can only recommend it as a great Christmas gift – especially as the service offers its own gift range! With Spotify Premium, you can explore endless personalised and public playlists and listen to both new and classic albums without being forced to sit through advertisements.
Futsal Ball – The futsal ball is a low-bounce ball that is smaller than a normal outdoor football and a perfect gift for children with an enthusiasm for the sport. They are fairly cheap but can be absolutely priceless to a child. Particular for the younger ones, a futsal ball can be key to nurturing their confidence in their other senses. However, if football isn’t their cup of tea, you can find many other sporting goods that are specially designed for blind and visually impaired people.
UNO Braille Card Game Edition – A classic card game embossed with contracted braille in the top left and bottom right corners. Suitable for ages seven and upwards, the pack contains 108 cards that are easy to see. A fun game that is great for families and friends.
iPad/iPhone – If you’re feeling particularly generous, this piece of tech is packed like many apple products are with great accessibility features, including an advanced screen reader that will read the screen for you at a single touch, the Siri AI assistant that will help do everyday tasks on the phone or iPad, colour inversion and greyscale, Speak Screen. allowing users to have their emails read to them, and Dictation which allows your voice to type the replies for you.
Large Print Word search/Crossword/Sudoku Books – Perfect for visually impaired people who are older and less attuned with technology, there’s a huge variety of puzzle book options on the market that are both challenging and addictive.
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) products – The RNIB is a UK charity that offers support to millions of blind people, with a history going as far back as the 19th century (1868). Their website has an entire section dedicated to Christmas gifts tailored specifically for people with visually impairments. Below we’ve listed some of our favourites;
In Your Pocket – An accessible smartphone alternative that combines all the elements of a smartphone, media player, and personal assistance tools into one convenient device.
Tactile Draughts Set – A wooden draughts board with raised black squares and drilled holes in the squares to keep pieces in place.
Tactile Watches – RNIB offers high-quality tactile watches in a variety of sizes. For cheaper alternatives, they also stock a very popular talking pocket clock.
Gift Ideas for Hard of Hearing People
TV Listening Device/Soundbar – Understanding television can be difficult for those with hearing loss, but there are many devices available that can help make the TV listening experience more enjoyable. These can take form in everything from wireless headphone devices that allow the user to adjust the volume of the TV independent of others present to soundbars that can be hooked up to the TV and improve general sound clarity as well as built-in hearing aid compatibility.
Smart Jewellery – A great glamorous gift that looks aesthetically pretty with practical use to boot, Smart Jewellery will vibrate and/or flash a light when an important phone call, message, email, or alert comes in on your smartphone. This would make a perfect gift not only for anyone who struggles to hear their phone but also anyone who never remembers to keep their phone on their person!
Books – There are many books out there that can help ease children’s transition into wearing hearing aids or simply adjust to the reality of hearing loss. The National Deaf Children’s Society website lists several of which suitable for children of various ages.
Painting Kit / Camera – One of the facts of experiencing hearing loss is the eventual strengthening of our other senses, although any deaf person with a sharp eye hoping to take up a new hobby would be perfectly suited to this gift. In fact, many of us on the Direct Access team enjoys drawing and photography in our pastime because pursuing artistic hobbies has only lead to positive effects in our lives beyond pure enjoyment. Furthermore, getting someone with a hearing impairment a painting kit or a camera can lead to them finding a talent they never knew they had.
Hearing Loop System – A Hearing Loop system is a device that unlocks a deaf person’s ability to enjoy life’s pleasures like music, watching TV, and listening to the radio. It’s not the most glamorous gift out there, but these devices can be truly life-enhancing if not life-changing.
Direct Access has partnered with industry pioneers Ampetronic to offer our own hearing loop systems that comply with the international standard IEC 60118-4. Our founder, Steven Mifsud MBE, as well as our company’s Chief Operating Officer, are both deaf themselves and personally approved this device after much scrutiny.
Gift Ideas for Autistic People
Marble Runs – This one is a tad based on my personal childhood taste, but when I was a child I was obsessed with marble runs, and even as an autistic adult find them fun to watch, as does my brother who is also autistic.
Lava Lamps – Lava Lamps are an aesthetically pleasing and calming presence in any room. They can add warmth and colour to an environment with a brightness that isn’t too intense or overwhelming visually. A bubble lamp or any of that fun sensory stuff would be a great addition to any autistic person’s stocking.
Noise Cancelling Headphones – Another based on my personal experience, I was overjoyed to receive a pair of these for Christmas next year as I am a huge music buff and find listening to music in public environments with chaotic and contradicting noises extremely distracting. These would be a great gift for an autistic person of any age, especially if they are particularly into gaming or tech in general.
Anything Pokémon-related – Another one from my childhood, I sincerely believe there’s a reason that Pokémon has endured nearly three generations and remains the most successful media franchise of all time; the possibilities and the sheer number of creatures in the world of the show, cards, and video games are enormous, endless and utterly enveloping. The creator of the franchise, Satoshi Tajiri, is autistic himself, which I firmly believe has something to do with its success and popularity with autistic children. A fascinating article about this can be found here.
Ask us! – This applies to all family members, friends, and colleagues regardless of their disability. Often, people can get caught in the trap of getting a disabled person a gift related specifically to that disability, when the reality is that most disabled people have specific interests that bares little relation to the way our disability forces us to live our lives slightly differently. We may communicate differently and learn differently from a neurotypical or non-disabled person, but inside we all have the same likes, dislikes, and wishes!
Written by Michael Miller