Accessibility Information and Services
The Access Services offered by NorthAmeriCon ’17 are informed by universal design and disability rights activism. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities, by making schedules, communications, and the physical environment usable by as many people as possible. We strive to create an event that works for members in all our physical and mental variety. We must balance that goal against limited fiscal resources, the paradox that sometimes one member’s accommodation is another member’s barrier, and a volunteer work force. We always welcome discussion exploring how we can better accommodate our members.
Provide marked off areas for wheelchair and scooter seating. These areas will be interspersed with regular seating.
Ensure that aisles are wide enough for wheelchairs and scooters. We will tape off traffic lanes.
Mark off reserved seating for those who need to lip read or who need to sit close to hear or see. These seats will be interspersed with regular seating so people can sit with their friends.
Mandate microphone usage by panelists and speakers when appropriate.
Provide ramps for all stages.
Provide live Captioning services as our budget allows.
Provide scent-free soap in restrooms.
Ensure that those with mobility impairments will not have to stand in line.
Known Barriers that Remain:
Fluorescent lights in the hotel.
San Juan in 2017 is not a scent-free environment.
Cobblestone Streets in old San Juan, lack of curb cuts, or steep curb cuts
There is a public bus stop at the hotel, and it is a short bus ride to Old San Juan. Most buses are air-conditioned and have wheelchair lifts. The fare is 75 cents.
Once in Old San Juan, a free trolley provides transportation to 400+ restored buildings from the Spanish colonial period, including 12 museums and 4 fortresses. The trolley is handicap-accessible.
Taxi services with accessible taxis:
Rico Sun Tours, 787-722-2080
Juan Carlos Transportation, 787-876-3628
More information forthcoming.
Helpful Attitudes and Behaviors —adapted from WisCon
Offer help — don’t assume it’s needed.
Most of us are taught to “help the handicapped,” but not “does this person want or need help?” If you think someone needs 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.
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.
Don’t assume people with disabilities want or need fixing.
Members with disabilities are here for the same reasons non-disabled members are: SF, fantasy, books, costumes, seeing the world. Talking about an interesting new book, a movie you’re excited about, or a new podcasting tool you discovered, are much better conversation starters than “my nephew cured his fibromyalgia with a yak-milk diet” or “Don’t they have a wonderful new medicine for that?” or “Why take drugs when you just need a positive mental attitude and yoga?”
People are often curious about the details of a visible disability. A member’s medical history and details of how their body functions is private. Please 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.
Service Animal Etiquette
Although interacting with animals is tempting, please don’t pet, distract, or take photos of service animals at NorthAmeriCon ’17. Those of us who rely on service animals need our animals to be able to concentrate on doing their jobs well. We would also like to talk to you about science fiction, fantasy, technology, or other topics, rather than our service animal.
Maintain clear paths.
NorthAmeriCon ’17 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.
Respect Blue Zones.
The blue aisles in program rooms permit members to enter and leave freely: please don’t sit or stand there. The blue squares in program rooms mark wheelchair parking. The blue striped chairs up front are for people who need to be close to hear or see. Use these seats if your body needs them.
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.
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 email@example.com or in person at the con.
Elevators – convenience vs. necessity.
Our programming is all on one floor. However, members still need to access their rooms and elevators can get crowded. If you can use the stairways to move between program floors, please do! If you can only travel down, that still makes an important difference. Some of us absolutely depend on the elevators just to access the con. The reason might not be visible (arthritic knees or limited breathing); or might be obvious (wheelchair or canes) — but the need is still there.
Beneficial Behaviors for Presentations and Panels:
Keep your lips visible for those who speech read.
Use a microphone if one is available (even if you have vocal training)
If using Powerpoint or other presentation software, review these techniques for making accessible presentations
Use high color contrast for text in presentations or handouts. Low contrast may be difficult or impossible for color blind or low vision users to read.
Caption any video/audio content.
Describe any images/charts you are using, for the benefit of blind or low vision members (general descriptions are fine; describe any relevant details).
If you are using paper handouts, electronic versions help people who want enlarged text or who use screen reading software.
Animations or other video content (particularly with rapid flashing/strobing) may be migraine/seizure triggers for some. Let people know if you will be using them