Every time I go to any convention I know, I will physically pay for every conversation I have and every booth I visit. That’s the price when it comes to my disability. This latest Con, the Long Beach Comics Expo was a special one because we were able to participate in our first panel, but it is going to go down in my memory as the Con I didn’t use my wheelchair.
I am a part time wheelchair user. Now I know when some people hear “part-time” it brings up thoughts like; “If she only needs it part-time why does she use it at all?” or “She must be lazy.” I get this a lot as a person with an invisible illness, and as someone who needs mobility aids part-time. There is a stigma for guys like me who can walk short distances but do need the help of a wheelchair or cane, or any other device when moving about for extended periods of time.
Now with that said, at Long Beach Comic Expo I was unable to bring my current wheelchair because I had outgrown it. That’s just a fancy way of saying I got fat and couldn’t squeeze into the chair, and can’t really afford a new one. So I decided I would just take my cane and make it work.
I was in so much pain that I couldn’t really think straight most of the time. I had to lean on my fiance, on random booths, and at one point I was slowly hunching forward, subconsciously trying to get some weight off of my back and legs, to alleviate the pain. I looked like Zorak from Space Ghost, using my hands to balance all my weight onto my collapsible cane.
The Convention was fantastic, the people I met were smart, fun, engaging, and I learned so much from the panel experience I had. But my takeaway was the fact that there was literally nowhere to sit in the exhibition hall. Not a chair or a rest area for disabled people or older people, or just people who need a break from running booth to booth. Every spot to sit was either outside ( it was raining a lot of the time this weekend), the lobby entrance area of the Convention Center, or if you found a well-situated planter out front.
With every convention, I go to I am constantly reminded of how non-inclusive the experience is when it comes to disability. There are no rest points or well-placed signs for elevators, and no quiet spaces for people who suffer from sensory overload. Now I was lucky enough to know individuals in artist alley who let me sit at their booth to rest. But it’s not entirely fair for those who don’t have that privilege.
Now I’ve heard arguments against this topic that go like “Then maybe you shouldn’t go to Conventions.” I shouldn’t have to forgo the things I love to do because of my disability and the organization’s inability to accommodate me. I think it is in the best interest of any major event to be as inclusive as possible. So whether or not I can fit my big ass into my wheelchair is irrelevant, because there should be suitable rest areas available to me.
It’s a topic that is always in the back of my mind when I enter any convention. It’s always a struggle when in 2017 it really shouldn’t be. But alas it is, and I am sitting here reaping the benefits of not having proper places to sit all weekend. My back is shot, I can’t walk, and I most likely will be spending part of my afternoon in the emergency waiting room.
This is the second time I have written about inaccessibility for disabled people at conventions (See SDCC article for BGN), and I will continue to share my experiences until I no longer have to. Now with that, I need to lay down.