Disability no barrier for fans
Story by Aitana Yvette Mallari
Photos by Aitana Yvette Mallari
Along with a new name, Comic Fest also brought a fresh look at accessibility for this year’s event. Organizers reached out to Ability360 for advice. We were able to connect them with an accessibility specialist who helped create a plan to address the access and functional needs of Comic Fest guests. We visited the fest to see how things turned out.
“We worked with an Accessibility Specialist who coordinated an effort with individuals with various types of disabilities to be on-site during the event and provide feedback for items that could be modified immediately,” organizer Jen Palmer said. “Guests also provided overall recommendations for continued efforts toward inclusion. It was a great collaboration.”
When asked about accessibility at Phoenix Comic Fest, majority of the people with disabilities interviewed expressed that this year’s event was more accommodating than previous years. Here’s what a day at Phoenix Comic Fest looked like:
Phoenix had no business being as hot as it was in the morning. Cold water was distributed to those in line for entry. Patrons who were VIP and ADA were led to the front in an express line.
“They helped us find the shorter lines to go through and it’s been very helpful,” said Nola Yergen, who came with her mom, Jean Palmer. The two have been going to science fiction conventions since Yergen was a child.
Once registered and inside, patrons are free to roam around. While some Phoenix Comic Fest vendors know how to accommodate, some may not have as much knowledge on disability. Ann Tobin experienced this when her daughter, Lucy Deselms, was barred from entering a 21-and-uparea.
“Developmentally, she’s five. But, Lucy is 30,” Tobin said. “I had to give this one vendor an ADA lecture…and I had her ID with me.”
The convention takes place on several floors. Lines for the escalators were long and the lines for the elevators were longer.
“It was the only long line that I’ve witnessed,” said Christian McIntee, who went all out to cosplay as Joker.
He and five of his friends waited for the elevators for 10 to 15 minutes.
“They got impatient. I got impatient. Then we’re like, ‘you know what, screw it, we’ll just go up the stairs,'” McIntee said. He switched to crutches while his friend carried his wheelchair.
Once you reach the right floor, there may still be the challenge of navigating through the crowds.
Larissa Amis, says that people aren’t always aware of their surroundings, especially when there’s someone in a wheelchair passing by.
“They’re engrossed in whatever’s going on,” she said. “You kind of have to be rude to just get through a crowd. Just let people know “hey, I’m right here.”
“As difficult as wheelchairs can be at a convention, it’s much better to move around than using a walker,” said Caitlyn DeAmbra, an exhibitor from the Society for Creative Anachronism.
“It is big, so I got around on wheels,” DeAmbra said. “They have them for rent outside–that was fantastic.”
According to DeAmbra, Phoenix Comic Fest was very accommodating and did its best to keep people with disabilities as immersed in the experience as possible.
“Everyone is one,” DeAmbra said. “Everyone’s complimenting each other. I haven’t had a single bad experience. I can’t say enough about how great it’s been.”
Aitana Yvette Mallari
Aitana Yvette Mallari is an online media journalist who runs on caffeine and WiFi. She’s lived in the Middle East, Asia, and both coasts of the US and writes about health, tech, and amazing people doing amazing things. She is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and probably has a deadline to get to.