We at FOGcon take accessibility seriously. We take the approach of universal design: making schedules, communications, and the physical environment usable by as many people as possible. Detailed, up-to-date information will be posted on this web page.
For now, as we move into 2022 with Virtual FOGcon, many of the physical constraints of a hotel convention do not apply. Conversely, we do understand that a Zoom interface brings its own challenges for some people. At present, we do not have any answers to this, other than to hope that we will be able to revive the in-person convention in 2023.
You can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have questions, special needs, or requests.
Hotel-based Convention Considerations
Unfortunately, we can’t make the entire con barrier-free. We are limited by finances, volunteer staffing, and the cussedness of reality: sometimes the accommodation essential to one person (a helper animal, for example) is a barrier to another (those allergic to animals). Let us know, please, if you encounter difficulties or if you can offer suggestions or help.
At a minimum, we expect to offer these accommodations:
- A highly accessible, nonsmoking hotel with a number of handicapped access rooms
- Reserved seats (marked with blue tape) in meeting rooms to help those who need to see or hear
- Dealers’ room aisles wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass
- An effort to reduce perfumes for those with scent sensitivities
- Lists of ingredients wherever possible for those with food allergies
- A wide array of edibles to maximize your chances to find food that is both safe and luscious
- Signs at different heights because not everyone’s eye level is the same
- An electronic version of the con schedule
- Accessible website design
Minimizing Stress and Maximizing Comfort
The weather both inside and out varies a lot. Bring layers to add in chilly program rooms, subtract in hot ones, and ensure you’re comfortable in the wide range of weather both inside and outside the hotel.
If you wish to rent a wheelchair or motorized scooter, we have found a service that will deliver rentals to the hotel’s bell desk and pick it up after the con at no additional charge. Email email@example.com for details. Reserve at least 48 hours in advance; a week is better.
FOGcon provides information in various formats. Our most important publications are the pocket program and the Program Book. In addition to regular print, the FOGcon web site will host PDF and HTML versions. A printed pocket program book is included in the membership packet. If you want a large-print version of either of these, please request by January 10.
For the convenience of speech-readers, we set aside blue stripe seats front and center in every program room. Program participants may be able to use microphones in the larger program rooms. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any other accommodations.
If you feel safer or more comfortable bringing your own food, you’ll be pleased to hear that some rooms at the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel feature a minifridge.
The menu for the Unaward Banquet has been chosen to allow a broad spectrum of delicious foods. You should be able to find gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Sorry, not kosher. We will try to post ingredient lists and avoid cross-contamination, but we cannot guarantee it.
The Consuite is open Friday through Sunday afternoon. (Check for timings.) Every attempt will be made to supply ingredient lists and avoid cross-contamination.
Our “zoned” fragrance policy balances two needs. For some members, fragrances trigger asthma, migraine, or illness. Some members need to use fragrance to manage pain and mood. Please leave scented products at home if you can do so without detriment to your own health. The Dealers’ Room wares may include incense and dusty books. The hotel uses scented cleaning products. Those of us who react strongly to fragrances, dust, and particulates should bring an N95 mask.
Pets are allowed in the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel.
Potential Barriers that Remain
Given our fiscal limitations, our commitment to our current conference venue, and the reality that sometimes one member’s accommodation is another member’s barrier, we can’t make FOGcon perfectly accessible to everyone. We don’t want to make promises we can’t keep. We want you to know about these potential barriers so you can make informed decisions. “No” is not the same message as “we don’t care” or “we don’t believe you” or “we’re comfortable ignoring your needs.” The Concom has and will continue to wrestle with these issues. Contact email@example.com for background on these remaining barriers:
- Most of the programming rooms are illuminated with fluorescent lighting.
- Members bring a lot of reading materials only available in regular print. The “freebie” tables groan with info on events, zines, books, con bids, art shows, political theater, and much more. Party announcements and such decorate the walls.
- FOGcon is not scent-free.
- The toilet facilities are labeled “Men” and “Women,” although humans don’t divide that neatly. We attempt to have at least two non-gendered bathrooms.
- We cannot guarantee microphones in all program rooms.
- We have not yet found volunteer interpreters or captioning, and FOGcon just can’t afford paid ones.
Allies: How Every Member Contributes to an Accessible Con
The most significant barriers can be created by thoughtless behavior and inaccurate assumptions about people with disabilities. Part of FOGcon’s community values is to create a con that is accessible and a community that supports accessibility issues.
We all learn contradictory messages about people with disabilities. Disabled people are the archetypal “other”: the fate-worse-than-death, the sainted and spiritual, the cursed and amoral, the sub-human, the super-human, the sexless and the over-sexed. These conflicting stereotypes support a weird stew of fear and fascination. All members create a universally accessible con by paying attention to our own behavior and attitudes.
Offer help—don’t assume it’s needed. Most of us are taught to “help the handicapped” but not to ask “does this person want or need help?” If you think someone may need assistance, just ask. If they say yes, don’t make assumptions; instead listen to the details of what the person with disabilities wants. If they say “no thanks,” don’t be offended. What might look overly complicated or inefficient can be what that disabled person finds works best.
Don’t assume people with disabilities want or need fixing. Members with disabilities are here for the same reasons non-disabled members are: to think and talk about speculative fiction.
Bad ways to start (or continue) a conversation:
“My nephew cured his fibromyalgia with a yak-milk diet.”
“Don’t they have a wonderful new medicine for that?”
“Why take drugs when you just need a positive mental attitude and yoga?”
Better ways to start (or continue) a conversation:
“Have you read Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads?”
“I see you’ve got an Android. How do you like it?”
“Don’t I know you from LiveJournal?”
Privacy. Please respect others’ physical and emotional boundaries. Do not lean on someone’s wheelchair or move it without permission. Be aware that sudden hugs, tickles, or touches from behind can be seriously triggering to someone with PTSD. Those with scent sensitivities or plant allergies may have severe reactions to having flowers or perfume thrust in their face. Do not ask how someone became disabled or assume their experience is the same as another person with a similar disability. The Access Team have chosen to be information resources about disabilities—ask us.
Respect Blue Zones. Chairs marked with blue are reserved for those who must sit up front in order to lipread or hear. Wheelchair spaces are also marked in blue. Blue zones in hallways and aisles must be kept clear for people entering or leaving. Don’t create traffic jams, please.
Maintain clear paths. FOGcon provides fantastic opportunities to talk, but clogged doorways and hallways make navigation time-consuming for all, and impossible for some of us. Tuck your belongings in front of your feet or under your seat. Remind members gathered in doorways or hallways of the need to share the limited space so all of us can move freely.
Share the air. Smoke and scents travel quickly, and air won’t move if you ask it to. Washing your hands after smoking makes a difference. We ask that you limit your use of scented products if you can do so without negatively affecting your health. For those of us with asthma, migraine, and chemical sensitivities, fewer fragrances, vapors, and particulates make the con a place we can attend. Some of us smoke, and some of us don’t. The hotel is completely non-smoking. FOGcon is not, however, a fragrance-free con.
Spread the word. Universal Design simplifies life by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. The Access Team is delighted to discuss how you can incorporate universal design into your conventions, buildings, instruction, publishing and lives: contact us now via access@Fogcon.org or in person at the con.
Speak up! You don’t need to have a disability to advocate for access. If you see barriers, feel free to suggest how to clear them—whether this means talking respectfully to other members, alerting Safety, or contacting the Access Team or another Concom member.
Many thanks to the WisCon Access Team, who very kindly gave us permission to use and adapt their fine document on accessibility.