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Preliminary note: There may be spellos, typos, or screwed up sentences.  It's a bad pain day, I'm out of spoons, and I'm just getting this OUT.  I need to say it.  I may or may not be answering comments, because, well.  I am tempted to make this f-locked, or screen comments, but I won't, for now.  I'm tired and I'm discouraged, but I'm also feeling silenced.  So I'm speaking out.  I EXIST.  I may be a minority, but I EXIST. 

I'm not eager to post about this, but I've decided to anyway.  I'm sad.  I'm sad and I'm discouraged.

At the moment, I can walk, but not always.  It's difficult sometimes.  When I went to London, I put the leg under a great deal of strain, despite a lot of care and medical attempts to prevent problems, it flared up.  I did not post about this at the time, but it flared to the point where it quit working.  This means exactly what it sounds like: the leg would not hold, would not move, and was not willing to bear full weight.  I had to let go and just rest, take extra care and medication, and not walk until it was better (fortunately for me, overnight, although it was shaky for a time after).  This flare-up was caused by mild tourist activity.  I was not climbing mountains, I was wandering through a museum and sitting in a taxi. 

In the future, and perhaps now, if I wish to attend things which require standing or moving about a great deal, or take a long flight, or navigating crowds (which places a good deal more stress on it than standing, because I have to move suddenly and without warning) then I will need to use mobility devices.  These may include: a cane, a scooter, or a wheelchair.  I am not wheelchair savy, nor do I own a wheelchair.  I plan to use one the next time I visit a museum, and the museum in question has wheelchairs available, and I have someone I would trust to push me. 

If I attended a convention, I would probably need to have a wheelchair at some point, or, if the airplane and fandom gods were kind, a cane. 

My fandom tastes are wide ranging, and as my favorite fandom is nearly dead (WK), I like multi-fandom cons best.  I don't read much SFF anymore, and while nearly everyone I love attends Wiscon, I was mostly, wistfully, considering whether I might attend a nice, small, friendly con.  Enjoy some fandom squee, see some people I care about, have a good time.  The bigger the con, the longer the hallways, in my experience, and so I was eying several cons which were smaller.  One of the cons I had considered was VVC, since I enjoy watching vids and I like so many of the people in the fandom, and because the talk would likely be about many of the visual things which interest me (the use of colors, for instance, as part of a show).  I am not recognized in vid circles, because I watch vids and don't interact on viddish things very much.  I do not have the equipment or the experience or the software to create vids, and I don't particularly want to.  I'm a watcher, like some people are readers rather than writers.  I thought about talking about vidding in my other blogging life, but put it off since I'm hardly an expert and the comics boys wouldn't care anyway.  So in vid circles, no one knows me, and I don't matter. 

No really.  I don't matter.

I'm come to understand this, deeply and profoundly, and it saddens me. 

So here's what happened.  VVC, Vividcon, posted a preliminary version of their policies.  They'd never had policy documents before, and because of my experience in London, I read them rather more closely than I would have otherwise.  I had heard about the problematic nature of them banning an ASL interpreter, but I had assumed that this was the one main and only problem.  So I read it, not thinking very much, and got a slap in the face.  Again and again and again.

Some of the gems included that if a disabled con-goer chose to attend a vidshow and needed space for a mobility device, the concom would need at least half-a-day's notice and could not be held responsible for not moving the chairs any faster than that.  Half a day's notice for each show, even though the concom would have known that someone who used mobility devices would be attending the con.  Another gem was this: " we're not going to be bitchy about it if your aide brings you to a vidshow or Club Vivid to help you settle in, but we expect that they will not stay to watch vids, participate in panels, eat the food that the con provides, dance at Club Vivid, or otherwise act like a con member". Notice that the concom 'wouldn't be bitchy' if someone needed an aid to help them get settled into their chair before the start of the show, but that said aid was absolutely not allowed to stay and so on.  Wouldn't be bitchy if I needed help getting settled into my seat.  Why yes, actually, I do.  And then sometimes, horror of horrors, I sometimes have to pee, and if my leg is not working, I may need help getting out of my seat.  What do you want me to do--pee my pants?  (And as for relying on other random people?  No.  I do not like to be touched by strangers and anyone who has been randomly pushed down the hall by a 'helpful' person will tell you that the experience is terrifying.)  There was a long list of things the con could not do and then they explained in detail what they would do in case someone brought an aid under false pretenses and were proven (in an unclear manner--by whom? how?  what the hell?) to be fraudulent.  In short, it was an ugly description of everything they couldn't possibly do, what a burden helping was, and that they assumed disabled people might be liars and cheats.  Nice!

In any case.  It was a wretched document with a lot of problems that also included problems in regards to trans folk, those with hearing loss, and those who need warnings for either trauma triggers or migraine/epilepsy triggers. 

Some people, as requested by the concom (who asked for feedback), commented.  I was one of those people.  I expressed some of my concerns and received a pretty (and apparently sincere) apology from elynross, whom I have long held in esteem.  Then kate_nepveu suggested that the concom look at the Wiscon accessibility pages and was told, "We're nowhere on the scale of WisCon, nor do we have all of their resources, but we can definitely take a lesson from the language."  Ouch.

I'm just going to translate that into blunter language for a moment, with my I've been disabled too long not understand that undercurrents reading-glasses: We don't have the resources to do what Wiscon does, but we'll pretty up the language.

I said as much, received a good, strong apology, and went on to explain the problems as I saw them in greater depth, in the hopes that this would help the concom understand a disability through mobility perspective.  That ended rather well and I feel very much that the concom is at least trying.  They fucked up badly and then they did work, after some struggling, to make things better.  Which is something.

However, I'd like to talk a bit about some other things.  One of the repeated cries I heard in the document (the offenses passages are removed, and while I have a screenshot, I have mixed feelings about posting it without permission) and in the comments/replies was this idea that VVC did not have the resources to make the con accessible. 

As some other folks pointed out, the resources VVC needed so that there wouldn't need to be a six-hour wait for mobility-device space in a vidshow room?  Some tape, a piece of paper, and some sharpie markers.  Ouch.

But that is well worth thinking about.  Here's a concom full of brilliant, interesting, well-read, well-intentioned folks, but they still are stuck on this idea that there are not the resources to make a con space accessible--even though there are many other communities, including businesses and other cons, that do it all the time.  Even though all that is needed is tape, a marker, and a piece of paper. 

I'll just pause here briefly, then segue.

So.  I complained about several polices, including one that could be solved in such a way.  What happened next?  A few other concerns were raised, including about the lack of trigger warnings and the trans issues, and then....

People flipped the fuck out. 

I now understand much more clearly my place in fandom in particular and VVC in specifics.  Here's a fun comment:
"I think that people with 'special needs' (that's the UK official term) have an obligation to balance critical feedback with appreciation of all the positive efforts that are being made, and in this discussion I felt that balance was seriously out of whack."
Get that?  If I ask for something, like not being insulted for wanting help to sit down?  I need to praise the concom for all the good, wonderful, positive work that they do.  And yet so far as I can tell from their document that would be....um, oh here, I know.  They allow assistance animals.  Sure, that's legally required by ADA in most places, but by god, they did it!  GO CONCOM GO.

Here's one for the trans folk: "It's impossible to make everyone feel as welcomed as the next person. That's just how life works. It's sad and it sucks, but that's reality and no amount of trigger warning or bathroom labelling is going to change that."

A BNF speaks out!  "There has been public bashing of the con - and it seemed to me to be by people who probably haven't ever attended VVC or even considered VVC. We are a *very* specific subset of fandom, you know - not that many people are even comfortable with our chosen method of expression, much less want to spend a weekend wrapped up and reveling in it. "  (Guess yhlee hasn't been to the con, oh wait, he has!  Guess I didn't intend to someday attend, oh wait!  I did.  Guess laurashapiro doesn't attend!  Oh wait!  And so on.)  But no, folks, this is a *very* specific section of fandom!  Do you understand yet?  *VERY* SPECIAL CLIQUE SPECIFIC SUBSET.  Uh-huh.  Also?  Constructive criticism that was requested?  Now considered bashing!  Just FYI, folks.

Here's a fascinating thing I found: "We are not a con for a tight clique in which everyone knows everyone. Some people do come often and count on seeing friends there, but each year, about a quarter of our members are coming to their first Vividcon ever. "  That's from the much maligned policies.  I guess the concom didn't get sisabet's memo.  Very specific subset! 

I could go on, because there's lot more like it.  Stop all this bashing.  Won't anyone think of the concom!  They work so hard!  I want some acknowledgement of how hard it will be to implement any of this!  We have limited resources!  You can't please everyone!  The needs of the many outway the needs of the one!  (Oh, yes, seriously, on that last one.) 

In short, I now understand things that I did not before. 
  • Asking for simple, reasonable accommodation is an act of bashing. 
  • Every time I ask for simple, reasonable accommodation, I am supposed to praise the person doing the accommodating, no matter what. 
  • I shouldn't expect to be welcomed.
  • Asking for assistance is asking too much. 
  • Saying that a vid does or doesn't contain migraine-triggering flashing lights will destroy art.
  • I'm a chopstick.
And so on.  I've also started to understand disability bingo, but I'll post about that some other time.

Congrats, fandom.  I now know my place! 

I learned all of this because I read a document for a fandom convention that I thought was small and physically and fiscally easy to get to, that was often attended by folks I like, and because I said that their disability policy was such that I would not be able to attend.  Holy wank storm, batman.

Do I hate everyone?  No.  I've learned a lot of other things. Several people known or unknown to me cemented their awesomeness in my eyes for their participation.  I found out more about Wiscon's access policies, and while sff is not my primary interest these days, it is a con I would physically be able to attend a little, which is heartening.  In fact, I don't hate anyone.  I'm angry, but mostly I'm hurt.  Sad.  Disillusioned.

But mostly?

I found out that me and my bum knee are not welcome.  What it takes to make me able to attend a convention is so scary, so threatening, so aweful, that I am not welcome.  

That's...a hard lesson.  But in some ways, at least now I know.  At least I see it in the open.  At least I know where I stand.  And who stands with me, and who against. 

I am editing this with three notes and apologies for not responding to all comments.  Also, LJ keeps being random about the notifications.  Anyway.

1.  Someone commented an anonymous, personal attack on a commenter.  I do not tolerate that, and I have replied to the comment.  It will remain up for 24 hours, so that the person can see my response.  At the moment, I am allowing anonymous commenting, but if it happens again, I'm afraid I'll probably have to go to non-anony for this post.  I'm sorry. 

2.  Please don't send me PMs asking me to stop talking about this.  The concom asked for feedback, this is their timing, not mine. 

3.  On a much, much, MUCH happier note, there are some other excellent posts floating around, with some good concrete suggestions or thoughts on disability and access, and I am so relieved to see them I get teary.  *flaps hands vaguely*  I'm super-low on spoonage right now, but I think that astolat 's great from scratch disability access to VVC post is pretty cool.  She put up floor plans of the hotel, found shuttles that take wheelchairs, and so on.  The whole thing is focused on getting the stuff fixed, and it's really cool.  The original post is here and the second (!! she needed a second!) is here.  She isn't on the concom, it's all unofficial, but it's this great group effort.  Anyone who has concrete ideas can jump in.  It's very solution-focused, not ideas-driven, and I think it may make some folks who are going this year have an easier time of it, tbh. (It's got tons of experiencial hotel stuff, for one thing, that I would need if I was going, but I wouldn't have anyone to ask about per se.)  So, I commend it to your attention! 

Comments

( 147 comments — Leave a comment )
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nekojita
Jul. 1st, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
*pets* I just... don't know what to say. I could go into a long speech about how these people (very obviously) don't grasp anything that is outside of the 'norm' and consider such a thing an attack. It's a mentality that I can't understand, really. I don't see how, when you're running such an event, how taking an extra bit of time to make things wheelchair accessible, or ask people to post warnings in their vids (taking the pressure off of them) would be so unthinkable. Yes, there's a lot of work involved, but when you're planning things, just plan a little more.

Yet I'm sure if it somehow infringed on them, they'd be screaming bloody murder.
vom_marlowe
Jul. 1st, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
I don't get it either. I just don't. :/ It makes me sad, and it makes (IMO) the whole world a sadder place.

(Also, are your LJ comments coming at totally random times and in random ways?)
telophase
Jul. 1st, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
I'm not quite seeing how a con like VVC wouldn't have enough staff on hand to handle things like marking space in panels rooms to be used by those who need it. At the con I staff we practically have to beat volunteers off with a stick, and one of the things we realized we needed to start doing this year was precisely that - tape off seating areas for wheelchairs and people with other mobility aids. So one of the early volunteers was handed tape, paper, and Sharpies and told to do that.

(The venue sucks in other ways for people with disabilities, not the least of which is that the art show has to go in a room that contains two steps up to another level and no ramp. But it's something we're thinking about - purchasing a portable ramp is a possibility, if there's enough space for it to be used, which I'm not sure about - and we set a policy that if anyone came into the art show and couldn't go up the steps, whoever was on art show staff at the time would be happy to go get art and bring it to them to look at. Not the best of solutions, we know.)

Edited at 2010-07-01 10:26 pm (UTC)
vom_marlowe
Jul. 1st, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
The space for wheelchairs. IDEK. It's completely baffling.

Ramps are yay! But if not, I'm actually quite happy to have people fetch me things from unreachable places if I can't go up there myself. (I run across that from time to time elsewhere. Library high shelfs! I'm looking at you!)
rachelmanija
Jul. 1st, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
The level of resistance to fairly basic and easy-to-arrange accomodations is kind of astounding to me, but I guess that's only because the sort of accomodations I need are ones I have tended to arrange for myself - because they're the sort I can arrange for myself. (For instance, I don't have trouble walking (now). I do need a backrest. But I can bring that with me.)

Otherwise, I guess it would be the same old, same old. But... wow.

In particular, I would understand the outrage over vid warnings a lot better if "choose not to warn" was not an option. But it is!
cofax7
Jul. 1st, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Apparently since at present "Choose Not to Warn" is the current status for the entire convention, then clearly that's not actually acceptable to the pro-warning folks.

Which I think quite neatly evades the issue. CNTW only works in a context where most creators do use the warning system. If most creators don't, then CNTW doesn't have any effect, and basically people with triggers either don't go to the con, or risk migraines or panic attacks.
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vom_marlowe
Jul. 1st, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
I know it's bad sometimes, but I've only ever experienced this much resistance since that evil woman at Target made me move my cart half-way across the store while I was on crutches. I just--don't understand people sometimes.
laurashapiro
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
::hugs::

::gratitude::

::support::

::collapses in exhaustion::
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
*hugs and support right back* 93 comments I see and climbing. Holy moke.

I am going to climb under a rock this weekend, and there's plenty of room. I'll share!
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kate_nepveu
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
An excellently-written, though depressing, summary. I hope people eventually listen.
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
Thank you. Me too. It just--it doesn't have to be this hard, and it makes me so damn sad.
staubundsterne
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh this is so, so bad.

we're not going to be bitchy about it if your aide brings you to a vidshow or Club Vivid to help you settle in, but we expect that they will not stay to watch vids, participate in panels, eat the food that the con provides, dance at Club Vivid, or otherwise act like a con member".

This is so, so bad. I may comment on this later, having to ask my brother if he gives me permission to reproduce his comment on this, but wow. I am, quite frankly, stunned. And shellshocked. Privileging the comfort of temporarily able-bodied congoers over basic accessability in this fundamental display of power is just --- wow. What if I want to take notes and can't? What if I would like, you know, communicate and need my interpretor? What if my aide is the one of the only means I have not to be at the complete mercy of complete strangers or aquaintances? I just, yeah, wow.

Thank you for making this post.
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
After I read that part I started to shake. I was so--upset isn't even the word.
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cicer
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
I don't have an 'angry' icon, so Sanzo will have to suffice
we're not going to be bitchy about it if your aide brings you to a vidshow or Club Vivid to help you settle in

Oh, really? You're not going to be a bitch to the PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR? How spectacularly magnanimous of you! You're such saints!

*gags*

Honestly, I would understand the lack of disability-accommodation if it was something that just hadn't occurred to them. Because, hey, that happens! If you don't encounter a problem, it can be hard to realize that other people do. But, if that had been the case, then when their lack of accommodation was brought to their attention, you've think they'd be like, 'Oh! Damn. Our bad. We'll fix that!' Instead, it seems like their reaction is more along the lines of, 'Yeah, we know. We're just not going to do anything to help. Need special accommodations? Well, you're shit out of luck, then!'

And the whole 'we don't have the resources!' thing? Yeah, that's bullshit. Nobody's asking you to build a hovercar to levitate people to their seats! Just mark off an area for people who need extra space. Jesus.
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:46 am (UTC)
Re: I don't have an 'angry' icon, so Sanzo will have to suffice
It was just shocking. I've never in my life read anything that awful in a disabilities policy. I was just--yeah. Ugh.
lady_ganesh
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
What the everlasting fuck.

I like that the hypothetical people with physical disabilities and triggers just need to volunteer that they have these things and then maybe they would be taken seriously. Because I know if I'd been raped the first thing I want to do is announce it to a vidding convention just to get them to treat me with an iota of respect.

I'm so sorry.
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
I have no idea. None.

Ah, the hypothetical people. Gee, I wonder why no one keeps speaking up. People have been so very kind so far you'd think there would be no barrier to outing oneself at all! *froths some more in a rage*
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thuviaptarth
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
May I link to this?
vom_marlowe
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
Yep and thanks for asking.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry to learn that this "discussion" has worn you out. I've read many posts from people with disabilities that have expressed exactly that.

Fandom is doing this thing right now where they want to be helpful! They want to be soooooooo helpful! They're going to be so helpful they'll talk right over anyone who's actually affected by whatever the discussion is because shutting up and listening is more difficult than talking over people.

I'd make my predictions about how this will play out, but since we're just finishing up on watching exactly the same thing happen with h/c bingo, I'm sure anyone reading along can figure it out for themselves.

WisCon can be awesome, but there is a lot of walking to various panels, as they are on several floors, and inevitably if you want to go to two panels back to back, they'll be as far away from each other as possible. Their accessibility-guidelines were designed by people with disabilities, and it shows.
ranalore
Jul. 2nd, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
Slightly tangentially, I am reminded of a vidder on my reading list complaining about the lack of vid discussion a few years back. I love vids, and I love shooting my mouth off about the things I watch/read/hear, but I pointed out to hir that each time I watch a vid, I risk the possibility of a migraine, because warnings for common migraine triggers in vids are not standard. Thus, I don't do as much vid-watching as I'd like to do, which means I talk about vids less than I would. The reply was that this vidder had never thought about that issue, despite being aware of more mainstream discussions about seizure warnings on visual media.

It would appear these issues are still not in the general vidding consciousness, and I think they really should be. Content warnings are one thing; accessibility is something else, something it floors me that anyone would consider optional or unreasonable to expect.
jonquil
Jul. 2nd, 2010 05:36 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, I'm a migraineuse, and I put a list of triggers up here, and I think they were heard; you might want to add yours.

Me, my migraines are bad enough now that I can't watch vids at all --- anything that plays with the visual cortex is likely to be disastrous.
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lady_ganesh
Jul. 2nd, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
The assumption there is that people are just dying to try and get their friend in for free by pretending they're their aide.

Well, why else would you do it? If you really had an aide, you would sit at home at your government-subsidized apartment in shame. Duh.
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kita0610
Jul. 2nd, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
Holy fuck.

I'm appalled.

And.

I don't even know what to say, I *know* some of these people, and I never expected this.

My husband is disabled. I just.

Godammit. Godammit.

Also, I linked to this, hope that's ok.

Edited at 2010-07-02 04:30 am (UTC)
iamzulma
Jul. 3rd, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
hi, you don't know me from a hole in the wall, but what is your husband's disability? mine is deafness. i've had similar experiences as marlowe's, but this is HORRIBLE. people simply don't give a shit about others if it's something that troubles their enjoyment at a con, ANY con. i learned this at a fan con recently.
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( 147 comments — Leave a comment )