I was Disabled Going in to Dragon Con, and was Surprised by This

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Dragon Con is a flurry of costumes, hundreds of hours of paneling and entertainment, parties, and multiple hotels packed with people. More specifically, Dragon Con spans five hotels, has around 65,000 people, and contains programming on multiple levels of the hotels. You can see why I was a little apprehensive about not being able to walk at Dragon Con this year.

IMG_0667This past summer at Air Force ROTC Field Training I fractured my heel and toe, and am currently on crutches or a knee walker (like a scooter only raised up to have one knee on it). While I have my scooter and my protective boot around my foot, I was worried about constantly getting stuck in crowds, having people bang into my foot, possibly being knocked over, or even just the simple things like navigating a panel room filled with people and trying to find a seat at the end of a row (being unable to use the scooter to walk between the seats).

However, contrary to my concerns, my experience of not being able to walk while at the convention went quite well! While I was bumped into a few times, it definitely was not the number of times I expected, and I even had random people who would help me navigate the crowds, or make sure I was safe using the scooter on the escalators. Convention fans who didn’t even know me were polite, and cared about whether or not I was able to enjoy and navigate the convention. When I first arrived at the convention on Friday, the press room people who checked us in were very helpful, and suggested that I ask an information booth (stationed in multiple places throughout the hotel) where I could get a handicapped sticker so that I would be seated on the end of a row of chairs for panels (and not have to crawl over people). The information booth staff that we went to were extremely helpful, and got me the location of where I could find the nearest Dragon Con disability services station.

Photo courtesy of amommystory.com
Photo courtesy of amommystory.com

Once at the disability services station, I was given a concise briefing on what all the handicapped pass sticker would do for me (sitting at the end of a row), and how best to navigate the convention while not being able to walk. In the end, the most noticeable impact on my experience of Dragon Con compared with previous years when I could walk was not being able to use the stair cases. That did meant that overall I traveled more slowly, which meant I was not able to see quite as many panels as I normally did. However, though I didn’t wind up taking advantage of the handicapped sticker, I imagine for most handicapped people at the convention that any time lost in transit would be made up for by being seated a half hour early to each panel. This means they wouldn’t have to wait in the really long lines as much as some people.

Kudos to Dragon Con for running a convention that, in my experience, was very welcoming and accommodating to someone with a (temporary) disability! Also kudos for the convention crowd being overall very friendly and helpful.

~ Bethany Blanton

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  • Norwegian Blue

    I’m so glad you posted this. One of the great things about DC is that the organizers AND guests tend to accommodate all comers, and it’s quite a diverse group, as you probably discovered. I hope you had great fun. (BTW, I am not an organizer, just a lifelong Atlantan and long time attendee.)

    • The Star Wars Report

      Hello there! (To quote Obi-Wan.) Oh yes, I’ve definitely noticed a tendency for most of the con-goers to be generally quite welcoming, but that had been when I could walk, so I was uncertain about it this year. My fears where unfounded however, and I did have a great time! ~ Bethany