We wanted to put up a formal thank you to the RavenCon staff and attendees for making this particular convention so beautifully accessible to fellow attendees with limited mobility.
We found the convention’s utilization of the hotel’s layout to be advantageous to a wheelchair, in that everything was pretty much on one floor. The hotel uses a lowered-floor design (the restaurant, the lobby, the ballroom area) to differentiate different spaces, and these were all easily accessible via very nice long ramps that were never crowded or blocked.
But it doesn’t matter what the physical layout of the space is if the people attending the convention are not also part of the accessibility. It’s really easy to ignore a wheelchair by simply looking over it. This allows the foot-powered person to also ignore the wheel-powered person thereby avoiding any uncomfortable discussions about injury or disability.
We found that the RavenCon attendees totally blew this norm out of the water.
First, we found that the RavenCon attendees were not only aware of the chair, but that they went out of the way to modify the flow of traffic to allow us to get to where we were going. In places where there is a crowd (wal-mart, for an easy example) we get back to the idea of the wheelchair being completely ignored: so much so that shouting doesn’t work and the problem is resolved by running the crowd over with the chair, which is dumb and makes everyone angry. This was absolutely not the case here. People cleared doorways pretty quickly, there was no camping out on the ramps and using the ramps as a meeting place, and there wasn’t much stoppage in the hallways.
Second, we found that the RavenCon attendees did not invoke the “just don’t stare” normal crowd attitude, which renders a person to a non-entity defined by a wheelchair. All weekend, we were approached, engaged in conversations, and asked if we needed anything or could be assisted in some way. In other words, we were allowed to be part of the convention rather than simply an outsider.
Even especially crowded places, like the vendor room, were designed in such a way that it was easy to get around and interact with the vendors. While attending the panels, we found that the audience was aware of the need for aisle access and moved without ever needing to ask for accommodation.
The only problem we ran into over the entire convention weekend was finding the access to the art room. A simple signage (“go through the restaurant”) would solve that problem. But even once in the art show, the layout was such that we could see everything and get around without, you know, knocking stuff over.
YAY! Thank you RavenCon!