Accessibility: How Nerd Conventions Can Be Accessible!

Hello to all of my beautiful nerds and welcome back! I am back with another post and this time it does deal with blindness and accessibility and my convention world.

How Nerd Conventions Can Can Be Accessible to the Blind

As you guys know and might have read The Blind Perspective: Convention Stories from the Dark, I’ve been an anime or more like a nerd convention goer since 2004 if you count a day at JACON but didn’t really start going until the year after while being with THEE X at the time. I have had many stories from my being an attendee with some sight and when I lost my sight it became a new outlook and perspective in going to these events. As years have gone, I have noticed things about the nerd conventions and that is some accessibility issues. I have posted an idea over on the Holiday Matsuri Facebook Group and decided why not expand it to here since I do write blindness related topics and Accessibility has been a huge topic being thrown around and I felt like why not show what I think should make a convention more accessible to the blind.

Town Criers Yelling Out Different Areas: This year I went to the National Federation of the Blind National Convention and while attending I heard people calling out where different areas are like where Registration was, where the General Sessions were and so on and it did help out because it told us as blind people where to go. I posted this exact idea on the Holiday Matsuri Group which got a lot of good responses because some conventions are held at very big locations like MegaCon at the Orange County Convention Center and Holiday Matsuri at the World Center Marriot. Another example, DragonCon in Atlanta spans over five hotels and knowing those are also huge in their convention center area. Reason for posting this besides getting the idea from the NFB Convention was that last year I had a hard time finding the Main Events room and I asked people and they pointed and said, “Over there!” As a blind person you don’t know what “Over there” is and I will touch on that even more next. Having people call out the areas like “Panels Over here to your right” or “Main events down this way!” It will help out because it not only shows its location but helps with going in the right direction. If it happened last year and heard, “Main Events down this way!” I would know just to head straight and then ask the person calling it to make sure and they said, “Just head straight.” Because there were times where I heard people ask the people for a double check and they answered the question.
Volunteers Being Sighted Guides: Touching more on the “It’s Over There!” Someone did post that they had a similar situation with a staff member where the person was pointing and tried to tell the staff member that they can’t see pointed fingers and didn’t do more about it. This is where the idea of having a sighted guide volunteer comes in. Conventions have asked for a lot of volunteers over the years and they do get tons over time, heck I have volunteered myself at JACON when it was alive and MegaCon twice before doing press. Having extra volunteers on hand can help anyone who may need the sighted guide help in getting to a particular area of the hotel or the convention itself? For instance, Omni Fandom Expo Year 1 I had a volunteer help me to get around since Omni was also at the World Center and it was hard to navigate when my mobility skills were rusty at the time. She helped me out getting to some of the signing tables and even to the bathroom which was great. Yeah it took around twenty minutes as a guesstimate but it did help out in a way. Having the volunteers able to do this can help someone who may be lost or can’t find the room if they couldn’t hear the person yelling or someone on a speaker system, trust me it was hard to hear the speakers in the MegaCon Vendor Room back in the past. What about getting to know about sighted guide if you’re a staff member reading this? Proper sighted guide is where the person offers the elbow or arm and the blind person grabs on not the other way around. A newer technique is also grabbing above the elbow like a cup to make it more comfortable. And another thing is, during volunteer meetings try asking the volunteer meetings if they can be able to guide anyone to certain areas such as bathrooms, panel rooms, even the doors for any ride pickups that a person need help with. In the end, volunteers are there to help and should help even further.
Having Convention Guides As Accessible Material: One thing that makes a convention exciting is the convention guide that tells you about guests, events, and the hours of the vendor room and gaming room but issue is not being able to read it and seeing the pretty pictures. Having an accessible digital version of the convention guide can help! I remembered having the full on Convention Guide for the NFB Convention on my Braille Sense Polaris as one huge Word Document. Did it help? Yes! It did tell me what events are at what time and where to go and the times for the Independence Market too each day. Whether it’s in PDF format or a Word Document, having the convention guide in one of these formats minus the photos can be something very easily accessed even placed onto a device that is portable like a phone with Google Docs for example or like I said above, my Braille Sense Polaris so I can read it in Braille. Which brings me to another point.
Placing Braille Index Cards with Room Names on Cardboard Signs: Yes, another point I found is that on easels placed around most conventions there are signs showing what room it is and/or just the panels being in that room. Since I mentioned the accessible document for Convention Guides, having an index card with the panel room number and the actual room’s name can be easier than just guessing or getting the rooms mixed up. There may be a volunteer at the door or not but after double checking the schedule for a specific event or seeing if you’re at the vendor room by finding the card on the easel can tell that you’re in the right place. Plus index cards aren’t that expensive but getting them made best to look into a Braille printing service or know someone who’s blind that can do it.
Having Music Zones: Someone posted this as a comment on my idea why not music in certain areas play. It would be a nice idea but it can get a little louder and a little bit mixed up because I admit I have that happen sometimes but if the music is more subtle and I walk towards the door and hear “Jingle Bells’ on a small speaker for Registration or a video game song like “Casino Night Zone” for the gaming room for example then I know where I am. Having that subtle speaker next to the door can help with what room you’re about to walk in. Even MegaCon had some subtle background music during the more main panels like the Mass Effect panel and the Flash panel if I remember. Yeah, I noticed with my hearing, it shows that music shouldn’t be so loud to scream over nor too low to hear it has to be just right.

Well, that’s about it for this post. Hoping for anyone that is on staff for a convention reads this and can pass it along because as a nerd I and how big accessibility is becoming it gives more inclusivity. For instance, movie theaters having the audio description option for movies and how Audible is having more audiobooks in their library for people. Heck, back to the accessible document, I helped with making Nemecene being more accessible if you haven’t read the review for the first book. All in all, more places are getting more accessible and now nerd conventions should join in since there are more blind people getting into a lot of these things.

So, what is next for Nerdy Shique Universe? I’m still reading the Alex Verus novels, still on Veiled and hoping to keep on reading. I know the Ipsy October bag will be here and once it arrives I will post about it. So, make sure you follow us on Twitter and stay beautiful while traveling the universe!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.