SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge

Over the last few years, there have been numerous instances of SF/F conventions failing to provide an accessible experience for their members with disabilities. Though accessibility is the right thing to do, and there are legal reasons for providing it in the US thanks to the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, many conventions continue to have no trained accessibility staff, policies, contact information, or procedures for accommodating their members with disabilities. As Congress said in the opening of the ADA, these “forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.”

All members of a convention should be treated with dignity. These are people– friends, fans, and colleagues– who have the same right to an inclusive experience at these events as any of the other paying members, volunteers, or guests. If conventions build this into their planning and budgeting from day one, this can and should happen. Though many conrunners have been working towards this, others have not– and even have resisted making these changes.

We the undersigned are making a pledge. Starting in 2017, to give conventions time to fit this into their planning, the following will be required for us to be participants, panelists, or Guests of Honor at a convention:

  1. The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.
  2. The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)
  3. The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)

(Thanks to Michael Damian Thomas, Lynne M Thomas, and others for crafting the language for this. And here are my own thoughts about why accessibility is important.)

Edited to add: There’s a twitter hashtag for discussions about this. #AccessibleCons

If you want to pledge with us, you can just respond below with “co-sign.”

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318 Responses

  1. Holland Dougherty

    Thank you for posting this. I forwarded this to the rest of the CrossingsCon concom, since we’re still drafting our statement (almost done, pending some info about accessible transport for the tour). It helps that we have disabled people on the concom, so accessibility has always been a priority; getting the venue/tour locations to get on board has been the major issue, really – you’d be surprised how many subway stations are inaccessible! But thank you for insisting on this – here’s hoping academic conventions follow suit!

  2. Ron Oakes

    In 2013, I chaired a convention in a property with a known serious accessibility issue for a big part of our space – specifically a second floor area with only a hard to use, and unpleasant to use, mostly outdoor lift. I had to fight with my programming person to have her not use the two large rooms (two of the largest rooms in the space) for any panels or other major events.

    As we were also running as a filk con, the third large space was dedicated mostly to concerts, so we did have to do some adjustment to our programming (and put operations in a hotel room that I also slept in) to make it work. (As Tom Smith was the guest of honor for the filk convention part, I was not going to put anything he needed to be on up that lift – period.)

    Alas, other conventions that have continued to use the same space have not been so accommodating – preferring to prioritize the convention’s convenience over that of the mobility limited.

    1. Cathy Mullican

      Which got real fun when said lift broke, and the hotel didn’t tell us before the next con there. We scrambled best we could. I don’t know if it’s been fixed yet.

  3. Patrick Nielsen Hayden

    It’s perfectly easy to pretend that accessibility issues affect only a tiny minority. Just don’t do anything to make your event accessible, and you’ll attract no one except the able-bodied.

    But when you put in the work on these issues, you find out how many people out there have been staying home.

  4. W. A. Thomasson

    I am somewhat disturbed by the apparent requirement for formal training. MidAmeriCon 2 will be the sixth consecutive Worldcon where I have worked Access, and I was Accessibility Area Head at Sasquan. I am myself a disabled (legally blind) person. And as treasurer and a board member of Chicago’s annual Disability Pride Parade I have been in contact with people who have a variety of disabilities and require a variety of accommodations. But I have never had formal training. And as I have gained experience over the years, what I have found is that my learning has focused much more on how to work accessibility into the Worldcon setting than on what is required. I honestly don’t think formal training by an outside organization would help with that.

      1. Michael Damian Thomas

        Those are two Worldcons you worked accessibility at where the Chair later apologized for accessibility issues. This year, there was no ramp at the Hugo ceremony.

        This is why training is so important, even if you are a person with disabilities or friends with people with disabilities.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      There’s a reason that the word “formal” isn’t in there. Even if it were, as with any good school, life experience totally counts as training. What is important is that the person in charge of accessibility isn’t just in name only, but that they have the knowledge to do the job.

      1. PocketNaomi

        Does this also apply to housecons? From April 29-May 1, 2016, in Seattle, my family will be running the first incarnation of an informal convention to celebrate filk music in particular and creative endeavor in general. It’s called RainbowCon.

        We have proper, expense-paid GoHs, but essentially no concom; we are doing this ourselves as a household. Our function space is our home. It is far more mobility-accessible than most, and we do have a member with life experience as a disabled adult (which is why the space is accessible; because she lives here). We are more than happy to do our level best to accommodate everyone who wants to join us, whatever their needs, to the best of our resources and ability.

        But we don’t — at least yet — even *have* a website, let alone a policy posted on it. We don’t really have policies. We have a group of five adults and two children who are willing to pay for our GoHs out of our own pockets and throw our home open for a weekend to celebrate music and creativity with as many people as would like to join us. We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone who wants to join us has their needs met, whatever those needs might be. But we don’t have the resources of a hotel-based convention; we’re not even charging for membership if people preregister before April 1. We’re doing this out of pocket, as a labor of love.

        I know we can meet requirement #3 on your list. If you count life experience as training, we can meet #2. We will honestly try to meet requirement #1 by 2017, but I’m not positive it will be that fast.

        1. Irina Greenman

          If it were me specifically, as a disabled person who has been a filk guest at both conventions and housefilks (and this event sounds like a neat combination of both), I would accept an inclusion of a statement that accessibility is being deliberately addressed, and how, in all invitation materials.

  5. josh jasper

    I don’t really show up at cons as a guest, but as a sometimes conrunner, I do promise that I will only volunteer at cons that have an acceptable accessibility policy.

  6. Beth McKenzie

    As someone who is a mere Con-attendee, I would argue that there are a lot more of us nobodies than you panelists and guests and I’d be glad to pledge not to attend a Con without an accessibility policy. In enough numbers, this would certainly make an impact.

  7. Anna O'Connell

    I have been a con-runner off and on now since 1978 and was for several years a member of Electric Legs, which was a SF fan group championing handicapped access at conventions.

    .Accessibility for con-goers has gotten significantly better as the facilities we use have been forced by the ADA to make changes. However, there’s still more to be done, especially by convention planners and runners.

    So I’ll co-sign this pledge as well

  8. SherryH

    Not that it makes much practical difference, as I can’t usually afford to go – but if I did scrape together the capital, I’d hope to enjoy the con as much as any other participant.

    Cosigned.

    And thank you. 🙂

      1. Chris Lona

        Well if it is accessible, then good for you! Most are not and those that are require a bunch of hoops for the visually challenged and often leave out the auditory, physically and cognitively challenged.

  9. Isabel.Schechter

    The San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid pledges to have an accessibility policy, which will appear on our website shortly. We further pledge to carry out this policy and to be responsive to feedback from our members and guests. You can reach us at info@sanjuan2017.org.

    Signed,
    Isabel Schechter and Pablo Vazquez
    San Juan in 2017 Bid Co-Chairs

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