Chicon 7 Apologizes for Access Issues

The Chicon 7 committee has answered concerns about access and complaints about its hoax program panel — “Chicon Acknowledges Concerns of Mobility-Impaired Members”

Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), has acknowledged the concerns expressed by a number of convention members over the arrangements made to support scooter users and others with mobility impairments. Chicon 7 apologizes sincerely for any inconvenience caused and is committed to sharing the lessons learned with its successors.

Chicon 7’s support for mobility-impaired members was in line with that used for preceding Worldcons, although inevitably subject to the constraints of the host facility (the Hyatt Regency Chicago) in terms of hotel layout and internal navigation. Chicon 7’s arrangements were coordinated by a disability services team with experience from many previous conventions and included the usual arrangements for reserved scooter areas in key event and program rooms. Elevator management was supported by hotel staff located at key locations.

Feedback received has made us increasingly aware that these arrangements did not work as well as planned. Some scooter users had extended journey times across the site due to challenges finding elevator space, and members could not always obtain access to the program items they wished to see due to rooms filling quickly with more mobile fans during change-overs. In addition, some confusion has been reported with access to the reserved seating area in main Ballroom for the Hugo Awards.

Separately, we have also received complaints over the imaginary “Stagg Field” program track. This tradition of Chicago conventions was trailed in Progress Report 4, and designed to bring a touch of whimsy and local fandom to the program. However, we recognize that the presentation of the track – seamlessly integrated with the real program information – meant that some people did not realize that this was an artificial creation. Among these were mobility-impaired members who suffered discomfort looking for the Stagg Field room, and to them we particularly apologize.

Chicon 7 deeply regrets the impact that these issues caused for some members. While the events cannot now be undone, we hope that members will accept our apology and our commitment to gather and collate feedback and share it with the upcoming Worldcons in San Antonio (2013) and London (2014).

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16 thoughts on “Chicon 7 Apologizes for Access Issues

  1. I was not affected by any of the issues addressed in the apology. Nonetheless, on general principles I will state that it always bugs me when, as in the first paragraph above, an institution apologizes for “any inconvenience,” as if, even in the middle of an apology, it cannot bring its collective self to admit that there definitely *was* inconvenience. What is wrong with saying “for *the* inconvenience”? They could even ramp it up in the present instance to say, “for what we belatedly realize to have been the considerable inconvenience.” To be sure, the rest of the apology makes it clear that the Chicon committee is not trying to duck its responsibility. It’s just unfortunate phrasing in the one paragraph.

  2. Despite the implied defense that lots of people were not inconvenienced they still did well. It’s not a committee that tends to answer criticism publicly so these admissions are almost on the order of “Harpo speaks.”

  3. Given that both my roommate Leigh Strother-Vien and myself had mobility and fatigue issues at the 2008 and 2011 Wordlcons, I am glad we decided not to go to this one, despite the many old friends we were looking forward to seeing. It’s hard to enjoy these events when you’re doing the fannish version of the Bataan Death March. Access will affect our future attendance at big conventions.

  4. @Francis Hamit

    Encountering frustrating, infuriating, even painful access issues at conventions is not a death march, and comparing such experiences to the suffering of those who experienced death marches kind of makes you seem like a jerk.

    Since I assume you’re not a jerk, I’d prefer it if you don’t use that phrase, thanks.

  5. You’re certainly at liberty to feel as you do about the phrase “death march,” however running the term through search engines confirmed my recollection that many writers use it as an intentionally exaggerated analogy for any arduous experience. Not as a direct comparison.

    As used by Hamit it is by no means an unfamiliar phrase in conversations among people who have trudged through convention centers at recent Worldcons, though it doesn’t apply to this year’s more compact facility.

  6. It may or may not. But in equating Hamit’s use of the phrase with the conduct of a jerk you took on a burden of proof by implying your view is so widely held that this analogy is never used by socially adept people. That’s the difference in burden between expressing a view and expressing contempt.

  7. Dear anonymous commenter: Do you really fail to see the contradiction in trying to chastize me about dishonoring your family when you are unwilling to have me know who you are? So, no, I’m not posting that one.

  8. Perhaps the specific reference to “Bataan Death March” should not have been used. Put that through the search engines and see what comes up.

  9. Mike-

    The “anonymous commenter” in question is using the name by which she’s generally known in fandom. Even without the included link back to a blog she runs, that name is significantly less anonymous than “Mike”, a name shared with over 2% of the US population.

    (And yes, I absolutely recognize the hypocrisy of responding to you with a name as anonymous as “Molly”. To be fair, I only share it with half of one percent of the US population.)

  10. @Molly: The comment I declined to post was from someone who gave an email address that is either from an anonymizer service or just fake. If you thought, perhaps, I was addressing Sasha there, I wasn’t.

  11. Mike, if you want to understand why “death march” is inappropriate, read, where the writer asks of us all: “I don’t want the atrocities of war to become equated with mundane things.”

    It doesn’t matter if “Mythical Man Month” guy wrote a book about broken projects with that title. It still doesn’t legitimize using the term that way.

    You and I don’t have to worry about being shot in the back of the head for leaving a WorldCon early, or quitting a bad engineering gig.

  12. Hi Mike,
    it’s not that I mean to keep beating this drum. This will be my last comment on the subject. I do appreciate you posting about access issues at ChiCon and the Committee’s apology, and previously linking to my journal.

    I don’t care what the mainstream thinks or what are “widely held views”: these are not, historically, good measures to use. I personally consider standards of politeness, good conduct, and social aptitude to include not hurting other people. I try to encourage other people do not hurt others with their words, as part of my work as an activist.

    For more about the harm the casual use of this phrase can bring, see this post:

  13. I am amazed how quickly this moved from a discussion about accessibility issues to a debate about the use of an emotive phrase.

    Could that be discussed elsewhere while those of us who were affected by accessibility problems at the Con get our thread back please.

  14. Geez! A little hyperbole goes a long way. I apologize to anyone who was genuinely offended by the “death march” crack, but not to anyone who is manufacturing outrage just so they have something to complain about. The fact is that, At Denver we had such a long way from the front door of the convention center to the actual convention that we were very tired by the time we got there, and there were no scooter for rent. All had been reserved for local fans. Consequently we never went to the ConSuite or the room parties, which were elsewhere and pretty much stuck to the Green Room. In Reno, faced with a like situation and some really rude fans, we just said the Hell with it and went and played poker instead. I was tempted to ask for our money back. Access was the issue. If it hurts when you walk then your enjoyment of the event goes down real fast.

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