Heather Keith Freeman (jnanacandra) wrote,
Heather Keith Freeman
jnanacandra

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inclusiveness: Wiscon does it right

Okay, it's early yet, but so far I think this is the best con I've ever been to.

The thoughtful attention paid to disability issues is incredible, and creates an environment where, even if my particular need is not being acommodated at a particular moment, I know that I can ask for what I need and be treated with respect. That feeling is fucking rare, let me tell you.

The way social events have been set up, especially on this first day, has made the overwhelmingness of a con where I know almost nobody quite navigable, even enjoyable on a purely social level, which I was not expecting at all. The Gathering, with a dozen different areas from crafts to games to a clothing swap, meant that I could join in an activity on my own terms, being as social as I felt comfortable with, with no pressure, in a completely accepting environment. (Then it got really crowded and I had to leave, but, y'know, still awesome! Plus I scored purple pleather pants at the clothing swap!) And then they had a host of dinner mobs aimed at first-time Wisconners - I trailed along after the first one I found, and had lovely conversations with everyone I was seated near.

The first table I saw in the Gathering encapsulated both things above very nicely - it was an "access crafts" table, where you could decorate a sign to hold up at panels that said "use your mic" on one side and "show your lips" on the other, if you couldn't follow what was being said. You could also decorate a long wand to wave in lieu of standing or clapping if that was not feasible for you.

There's a cultural sense I get at most cons that I can't quite put into words (especially if I don't want to piss off those of my friends who do enjoy cons ;) but I don't do well with it, and that sense isn't present here.

I've attended one panel so far, which was inspiring and instructive and I actually managed to focus the whole way through. There are blue-taped chairs in the front row of the panel rooms reserved for hard-of-hearing folk, and floor spaces similarly taped off for those in wheelchairs. I didn't need to use a blue chair for that panel - there was another front-row seat available - but if it had been crowded, that seat would have made the difference for me in being able to follow it.

There are signs by the elevators asking people to use the stairs for short trips if they can; the phrasing and graphics making it clear that this is for the benefit of those people who do not have the option of taking the stairs. There's going to be live captioning of the GOH speech on Sunday. And this barely touches on the way people with disabilities are truly included here; not an afterthought, not an inconvenience, but really and honestly welcomed.

I would come back to Wiscon just for that feeling of inclusion, even if none of the content interested me. Fortunately, it does interest me greatly :)

Another early night tonight, hopefully to banish this damned cold and generate more spoons for tomorrow.
Tags: disability, wiscon
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