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[personal profile] catherineldf
Okay, so registration on Friday night was a disaster. It was a disaster that started out as an inconvenience, then ramped up to an accessibility issue. Here's what I gleaned about how that came about: somewhere along the line, it got decided that the con (which gets attendance in the 4000+ range) should have a signed code of conduct from each attendee. Okay. There's a registration database, customized for the con, but for some reason, the form wasn't included in the preregistration options; I can only assume that it was a late addition. I know that I got a copy in an email on the 11th but didn't get around to running off a copy before the con. I had a LOT of company, as it turns out, and it would have made little difference if I had run it off beforehand.

What they decided to do instead was to set up a couple of stations and one printer. Each con goer in line was expected to run off a personalized print out of the code in order to get a printed on the spot badge. No provisions were made for people with obvious mobility issues or small children or panelists or vendors or preregistration vs.pay at the door, or any other logical breakdown that would have helped this process in any way. Periodically, small handfuls of people who had printed the code off were run through faster, but not consistently or often. I ended up in line for over two hours, with no sitting and one cup of water. I think the people further back ended up waiting even longer. One vendor I spoke to the next day told me he was in line for 4 hours, due to various issues which got him returned to the back of the line for sundry reasons, only one of which seemed to have much to do with something he had forgotten to bring. Anybody who had any programming or plans for Friday night and didn't already have a badge by 5PM missed a big chunk of the evening. So, yeah, disaster.

Why was this an accessibility issue? Let's start out with all the folks who couldn't stand in line that long. I stayed because I had a morning panel and I had no idea whether things would improve in the morning, and I thought I needed a badge. At the end of my time in line, I had a swollen knee and a hypoglycemic crash, neither of which were fun. I also had a badge and a signed, personalized code of conduct that neither I or probably anyone else in that line actually read, thereby reducing its effectiveness to nil. But I was also not the elderly man with the cane who one of the line volunteers persuaded to get up from one of the few chairs to stand in line again, despite the fact that he seemed unsteady on his feet (I was too far away to hear what actually got said, in all fairness, but could see the affect). There were folks with walkers and wheelchairs or using canes or crutches (this does not, of course, include less visible disabilities that would have made all this unpleasant, if not impossible), standing in line for well over an hour in many cases. The registration volunteers either couldn't or didn't look for other options. And, based on conversations I had the next day, a lot of people paid for it in physical discomfort. The con was very, very lucky that no one passed out or had a seizure or other issue.

I have no idea how those decisions got made within the Con Com, but I really hope that that they do better next year. A signed code of conduct is all well and go but it's only effective if someone actually reads it and agrees to abide by it. One of the things that I like about CONvergence is the "Costumes are not Consent" campaign which includes posters and flyer throughout the con. Many of these are humorous, but all of them taken together help create some level of awareness around harassment. I assume that was one of the intended points of Arisia's code of conduct. Maybe some day, I'll get the opportunity to read it and find out under less unpleasant circumstances.


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