Dear Bi-pedal Members of Dragon Con,
Greetings from one of those of the "wheeled" persuasion. I, like all of you, am starting to get very pumped about the upcoming festivities of all things Geeky and Awesome. As we all prepare with apps, cos-play and altering our sleep (or lack thereof) schedules, I'd like to add some things to consider whilst we all enjoy the merriment.
As we converge into the acreage which is DragonCon, there are many "tricks to the trade" so far as navigating between panels, dealer's rooms, parties and the occasional hunt for food. That said, we are all in the crowd together, in elevators, skywalks, crosswalks and mad dashes. For those of us at chest/waist level, please understand that though the city and hotels all try to be "accessible" (please hear the AIR QUOTES), there is sometimes only ONE route for us to take. Other times obstacles like the decorative step at the food court bar us from tasty treats, and there isn't ALWAYS some handy gang of Klingons to lift us over them. (Though the times it HAS happen were AWESOME!)
So we ALL get frustrated trying to get from here to there, which gets more intense each day. Bi-peds have achy feet and knees, wheelies have sore arms and blistered thumbs. It’s hard not to take it out on ANYTHING or ANYONE that happens to (or is perceived to) slow the process. It is said that those of the geek populace have a firmer grasp on the laws of physics, so here are some applications for us wheelies that might not have been considered by the able bodied.
- Going uphill is triply difficult when we have to stop/start (due to the actions of folks in front of us) and momentum is lost. If you see a floundering wheelie and wish to help, ASK FIRST. It’s not ok to assume and then push us like a piece of furniture. Also grabbing our chairs to push without notice is the top cause of getting a spoke through a finger.
- Likewise, going downhill IS easy, but we assume you do not wish us to run you over. You don't have brake lights and our hands ARE our brakes. In addition, pretending to jump out in front of us, or worse ACTUALLY jumping in front of a downhill wheelchair is not only stupid, but is bound to get someone REALLY hurt.
- It’s fine to wait like everyone else for a turn in the elevators. However, giving up and taking the stairs isn't really an option for us. (Though it is true I've been known to take an escalator or three, much to dismay of security, most wheelies can’t) Endless full cars of folks "going down to go up" etc just screws it up for everyone. If no one is willing give up their place for a wheelie it is NOT ok TO LAUGH AT US while they do it. If you see such a situation and wish to exert a little peer pressure, we would be very appreciative.
- Understand that if you are clogging traffic flow to take a picture, we can't always "just go around". Many ignore the “don’t stop in walk ways to take pictures, so I may ignore the “don’t ruin the shot”.
- This is the South and so folks like to open doors for one another. In the politeness be sure to stand on the outside portion and not in the entry way itself. Also watch that the entire chair has cleared the door before you let go.
- In crowds our eyes can either be on the ground watching out for YOUR collective toes (as you need them much more than we do) OR watching out for pointy fairy wings and other sparkly/furry appendages that litter the path. NOT both! (Trust me, you’d rather we hit your wings/tail/costume piece than your toes because that sh*t hurts!) If we bump into you we do not require that you gasp in horror that you have crippled us NOR do we do it on purpose. Standard politeness applies to us all, and when it's my bad, I apologize. Our mobility devices do not make us saints or idiots (and heavens above NOT INSPIRATIONAL).
- Also remember that while the bi-pedal often have MANY choices of a bathroom stall, we usually only get ONE. It's fine to use them if we are not about, but when we are, we should be allowed to be the next one in there.
Those of us who are more Con savvy do try to travel with our own bi-pedal helpers and know there are perks for them as well. Some of us have extra storage via built in packs or undercarriage shelves. (Ideal for carrying pocket programs, vendor purchases and extra liquor, just sayin') Our "rock star parking" passes can be quite handy when space competition gets fierce. A lot of us know the "secret" elevator route to the Food Court and I always share my cab back to the hotel after a late night partying with Jedis, Star Fleet, and Alternate History aficionados. . All in all, I want to say that we are disabled, but what handicaps us, most often, is the environment. As we watch out for you, please think to look down once in a while for us. Lastly, rolling on carpets (and boy is there A LOT of it) is like you’re trying to walk constantly in two feet of loose sand. One crack in a sidewalk, uneven door jam, taped over wire can leave us a heap on the floor. (Adding in the rum can also be a contributing factor as well) Which reminds me; FRIENDS don't push FRIENDS in their wheelchairs when they are drunk! So say we all!
~Dances With Wheels
Writer’s note: Please understand that these observations are my own, though shared by many of my fellow disabled Dragon Con attendees over the last 26 years. Every one of these examples HAS happened to us on MULTIPLE occasions. I offer them in good spirit and apologize if anyone is offended by the words “gimp” “wheelie” “Bi-ped”, “Geek” or “able-bodied”.