“I’m unique. I’m a geek.” That is our self-acceptance mantra here at Geek Club Books. We embrace our differences and celebrate who we are. Our geekiness and love of pop-culture is what connects us to each other. Many of us enjoy attending conventions where we can immerse ourselves in our favorite fandoms and meet celebrities who portray characters we love in our favorite shows. But most fans don’t see themselves fully represented at these cons.
The Universal FanCon (FanCon) grew out of the idea that the con experience should be inclusive and a celebration of the differences that make us strong.
“We wanted to create a safe space that celebrates fandom differently by including the many different faces and voices that truly represent geek culture. This includes women, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, the autistic community, and people of color,” said Robert Butler, Universal FanCon co-founder and CEO.
The inclusion and accessibility mission of Universal FanCon is why Geek Club Books got involved. Autistic and disability representation and inclusion in pop culture, media, and our communities-at-large is what we advocate for!
From April 27-29, fans will converge at the Convention Center in Baltimore Maryland, for this large-scale, 24-hour, inclusive event featuring special celebrity guests meet-and-greets and panels, Lightsaber Dueling Academy, music concerts, a comedy show hosted by Orlando Jones, 24-hour Arcade and eSport Gaming Tournaments, kids STEM activities, and other programming for cosplay, gaming, comics, anime, movies, TV, music and all things fandom.
Though it’s nice to be around like-minded fans, our autistic friends and loved ones may struggle with the crowds, noise and general chaos of a convention atmosphere.
“The biggest struggle at Cons are the crowds. It’s like High School class changes times a million,” says Becca Lory, a member of our autistic advisory and writing team.
When the Universal FanCon has inclusion for all as their mission, they mean it! They are committed to making the event autism-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities. Here are 20 ways (so far) that they are staying true to their word:
- Professional diversity and sensitivity training for all FanCon staff and volunteers including service animal etiquette, privacy language/terminology/approach, services available, non-apparent disability considerations, and event logistics.
- Panelist and moderator education.
- Disability Access Passes – at a discounted ticket price ($49.99 for weekend access pass) Use the code GEEKCLUB2018 at checkout for an additional 10% off!
- Free Caregiver Disability Access Pass (must be accompanied by a fan with a Disability Access Pass)
- Accessible and gender-neutral bathrooms.
- FanCon access information and dedicated staff readily available (info desk)
- Line policy with laminated number cards for designated areas.
- Physical and logistical layout considerations including single flow and double flow minimum widths, ramps, etc.
- Quiet Room access.
- “No flash photo” stickers to place on individual passes, when requested.
- Communication badges customized for specific needs.
- ASL interpreters (upon panel request up to 14 days in advance).
- Chairs and benches throughout the FanCon for resting.
- Spaces for wheelchair users in the front and various rows in all rooms.
- Designated seating areas for people who need to be near the front for disability-related needs.
- Consideration for materials in Braille (upon request and based on need).
- Priority to have all visual media featured at FanCon to have captions or text transcripts.
- Real-time captioning at selected FanCon events.
- “Help Keep Convention Accessible for All!” messaging and elevator priority so those with disabilities and other special needs can more easily get around the convention.
- Security and personal safety including a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.
Universal FanCon’s inaugural event will be a shining example of what’s possible when we honor and celebrate our differences. May the rest of the world take notice.
The FanCon team is open to ways to make their autistic guests feel more comfortable—we’ve sent them feedback from our autistic advisors, but we also want to hear from you! Let us know your ideas in comments or tweet them to us @GeekClubBooks and we’ll make sure your voice is heard.
Any questions about specific accommodations can be sent to [email protected]
For more information about celebrity guests, programs, panels, events and accommodations, or to purchase tickets, go to www.universalfancon.com. (Use the code GEEKCLUB2018 at check out and you’ll get an additional 10% discount off of the Disability Access Passes.)
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*Image by Jose Martinez on Pexels