Tips for a Wheelchair Accessible and Disability-Friendly Halloween

People all over the country love Halloween for different reasons. Some people love the opportunity to scare their family or young trick-or-treaters. Others love having fun-size candy bars and watching scary movies. For children with disabilities, Halloween is the chance to become whatever they want to be and load up on lots of sweet treats. However, for many children with disabilities, accessible trick-or-treat experiences or an adaptive Halloween costume may be hard to come by. Luckily, we’ve compiled a few tips to help make Halloween accessible for all.

What Is an Adaptive Halloween Costume?

Major retailers like Target and Amazon sell adaptive Halloween costumes. For those who like Disney characters, the Shop Disney website has adaptive Halloween costumes based on popular movie characters. Many of these costumes have both adaptive and decorative elements to meet the needs of wheelchair users while still allowing them to dress up. Adaptive costumes can have Velcro or zippers to make putting on and taking off the costume easier. Some costumes have small openings in the abdominal area to allow access for feeding tubes and others have covers for wheelchair spokes so children can decorate their wheelchairs to complement their Halloween costumes.

Sensory-Friendly Halloween Costumes

Children with Autism or sensory processing disabilities may find traditional Halloween costumes to be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean they can't dress up. If your child is bothered by fabric, texture, or tags, you can consider simple and soft clothing items like t-shirts or athletic pants, which often have special designs to reflect a child’s likes.

Choosing Halloween Costumes for Disabled Children

When selecting the perfect Halloween costume for a child with disabilities, there are several important factors to keep in mind, including:

1. Weather

Some people with certain medical conditions may struggle to regulate body temperature, so you may need to add layers of clothing over the top or underneath a costume to keep warm.

2. Footwear Selection

For children with mobility disabilities, and especially those who use leg braces, finding the right supportive shoe is crucial. Ensuring a seamless blend between shoes, leg braces, and the costume will enhance your child's comfort and overall trick-or-treating experience.

3. Mobility-Friendly Halloween Costumes

For children who use mobility aids, you’ll want to pay attention to costume elements that can affect movement. For example, certain parts of a costume, like gloves or loose pieces, might impact a child's ability to move their wheelchair or other mobility aids. A good rule to follow is to avoid any loose costume parts that could become entangled in a mobility aid, as these can cause a tripping hazard or other mobility challenge. Prioritizing mobility and safety when choosing a costume will create a more enjoyable and stress-free Halloween for your child.

DIY Wheelchair Halloween Costumes

If your child has a particular idea or an elaborate costume in mind, you may need to put your DIY skills to the test. But don’t worry, there are a few easy ways to make an adaptive costume for a wheelchair. For example, you could use cardboard and paint to turn a wheelchair into a racecar. Or you could use yarn to make wheelchair wheels into spider webs. The opportunities are endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative.  

Common Materials for Homemade Halloween Costumes

When designing your own Halloween costume, a few basic craft supplies can help you create everything from a car to a plane to anything in-between. Common costume materials include:

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Pool noodles

  • Cardboard

  • Tissue paper

  • Felt

  • Paint

  • Tape

Custom Wheelchair Costumes

A nonprofit, Magic Wheelchair, makes custom costumes for kids in wheelchairs at no cost to their families. These adaptive costumes can be used for events from Halloween to parades to Comicon. These costumes are funded through donations and help to make a kid’s Halloween extra special. To be eligible for a costume, your child must be between the ages of 5 and 17 and primarily use a wheelchair for their mobility. A costume build averages 8 weeks (about 2 months) until completion. You can apply for a custom adaptive costume on the Magic Wheelchair website.

How Do You Make Halloween Inclusive?

If you know you have children in your neighborhood with disabilities who may be trick-or-treating, you can follow these tips to make your house more accessible for trick-or-treaters:

1. Pass out candy from your porch or driveway.

If your porch has steps, bring candy to a location that is accessible to all. This may mean placing a bowl of candy at the bottom of your porch steps or passing out candy closer to the sidewalk or on your driveway. This could make longer trips for you for refills, but it will make a world of difference for kids with disabilities on Halloween night.

2. Keep pathways well-lit and debris-free.

While decorating for Halloween can be fun for people of all ages, make sure not to make the journey up to the candy too difficult or too dark to see any potential obstacles.

3. Turn off strobe lights and other décor.

For children with epilepsy or sensory processing difficulties, flashing lights and unfamiliar items like décor that moves or makes noise can be startling. Consider stationary décor, and turn off any decorative lights, fog machines, or other sensory décor items during trick-or-treating hours.

4. Pass out non-food items.

Any child can have food allergies, but some kids with disabilities may have feeding tubes or other food sensitivities. Stickers, pencils, glow sticks, bouncy balls, or other Halloween-themed trinkets are just a few items you could pass out for children who do not want or cannot have candy.

5. Be patient.

Some trick-or-treaters may have intellectual disabilities or be non-verbal. Others may have low vision or low motor skills. Understand that these children may be doing a task that is largely unfamiliar to them, so your kindness and patience can go a long way.

How Do You Make Trick-or-Treating Accessible?

If you or someone in your group has a disability, consider going to a trunk-or-treat event. These events are usually put on by local community organizations and will often take place in a local parking lot, so they allow kids to trick-or-treat in a smaller and less stimulating environment, which may be ideal for children with mobility impairments or other disabilities.

Want to learn more about creating accessible holidays for people with disabilities? Read our guide to the Top 5 Tips for Hosting an Inclusive Holiday Party or check out our related articles below.

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