Good news:

The 2016 World Fantasy Con has updated its website with a disability and accessibility policy, found here. In other good news, the convention has arranged for ASL interpreters for some events, which is a great step forward and something I applaud.

Bad news:

1. There's no indication of whether or not WFC will be offering the pre-Feb 1st prices for those of us who were waiting to find out if the convention would be accessible before registering. That's a problem for me. As I said in my earlier post, I don't think it's fair that, after several years of accessibility problems, I should have to pay more than other members because I had to wait to find out if the con would be accessible.

2. This sentence:

"We have reserved the ADA ramp for the Sunday Banquet."

That's good, but doesn't mention the panels. Will they be on elevated stages (making it easier for hearing impaired members to lip read), and if so, will access ramps be provided to those stages?

3. The accessibility policy stresses that the hotel is ADA compliant. That's great, but I cannot stress this strongly enough:

ADA compliance does not always mean accessible.

Which was absolutely true when I stayed at the Columbus Hyatt hotel for World Fantasy back in 2010. The hotel was (mostly) ADA compliant, except, oddly, in the mobility accessible rooms, which did not meet ADA standards despite supposedly being mobility accessible. But the rest of the hotel was technically compliant: I could, for instance, get into the hotel bar, which is all that ADA compliance requires.

However, the hotel bar had only one bar, at a height too high for wheelchair users. The bartenders couldn't see me, so I had to ask other people to order drinks for me. Far worse, however: the rest of the bar was mostly equipped with high tables and chairs. Nobody could see me, and I couldn't join in. I was effectively cut out from conversations.

That's leaving out some other fun stuff - the way, for instance, that the floors with suites, where the parties were, had no disabled bathrooms whatsoever, or the inexplicable placing of the handbars in the second floor public bathroom - far from the toilet and largely useless for wheelchair users.

Now, can World Fantasy do anything about this sort of thing? Probably not. And to be fair here, the issues I'm mentioning are not really that unusual in U.S. hotels, and these are minor issues compared to the problems I've encountered with other World Fantasy cons. And apart from the weirdness with the bathroom doors and the shower heads in the mobility accessible rooms, these were all things that could be worked around. But I mention them in the hopes of explaining why the words "ADA compliance" are not always going to be enough - and, I guess, to explain why I'm going on and on about this. Because I haven't just encountered issues at previous World Fantasy cons, I've encountered issues at this hotel.

4. My emails to info at worldfantasy2106.org have still not been answered.

Still, this counts as progress, and I'm very grateful and encouraged to see at least some response to this.

And in the meantime, for proof that I am still writing about other things, my discussion of The Lion King, with bonus snarky comparison to Hamlet, is now up at Tor.com.
Some conventions – the 2014 World Fantasy Convention in DC, for instance – have worked to ensure that disabled members have full access to the convention.

Others have not.

Thanks to far too many examples of the latter, I have decided not to attend conventions that do not offer an accessibility statement on the convention website, and/or a written statement to me guaranteeing disability access, and offering specifics about that disability access.

I will also no longer be attending conventions that do not provide access ramps to stages.

I am, granted, only a very small voice in fandom, but I'm a very small voice that can no longer use my money and time to support conventions that cannot take the time to ensure that I can fully participate in the con.
So.

I spent most of last week up in Saratoga Springs, NY, for the 2015 World Fantasy Convention. As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, it was….interesting.

I was scheduled to be on two panels, one Friday and one Saturday, and one reading on Friday – my very first World Fantasy panels/reading. I rolled up to my 1 PM Friday panel on Epic Fantasy properly caffeinated and chatted briefly with various people as we waited for the doors to open. The doors opened, people poured out, I rolled in and headed towards the stage –

And felt my heart sink.

The panel had a stage for the panelists.

That stage did not have a ramp.

I use a wheelchair.

I had a brief discussion with an Ops person, who had not been advised that I use a wheelchair, and with Stephen Donaldson, the panel moderator. (Brief largely because the panel was already running a bit late.) Transferring and/or lifting me up to the stage seemed unsafe, so we agreed that I would stay on the ground level, beneath the rest of the panelists. A microphone was handed down to me.

Panelists Darrell Schweitzer, David Hartwell, Sarah Avery and Stephen Donaldson all did their best to accommodate me, and include me in the discussion, but I was uncomfortable.

I informed the Ops person that I also had a panel the following day, Saturday, and would need a ramp to the stage. I then cried, shot off a few irritated tweets on the subject, took some deep breaths, and thought about exploring the dealer's room for a bit before going to get ready for my reading, but then decided to go and make sure that someone else other than Program Ops was aware of the ramp situation, to make sure it got fixed, and rolled over to Registration. The woman there sent me back to Program Ops, where three people informed me that they would not be able to have a ramp for the stage on Saturday. I rolled back to Registration, but started crying again before I could get there. Fortunately, I ran into a friend who helped me get back to my room before I had a huge, public breakdown.

The next day, my fellow panelists Meg Turville-Heitz, Shauna Roberts, Kelly Robson, and Rosemary Smith all joined me on the floor beneath the stage.

I am grateful to all of my fellow panelists for doing what they could under the circumstances, but it would have been much easier for me if the stages had had ramps.

Other aspects of this year's World Fantasy were, if not exactly inaccessible, not exactly wheelchair friendly, either. For instance, the hotel lobby was on two levels. Access to hotel rooms was on the upper level; access to Registration, the hotel bar and restaurant was on the lower level. The two levels were connected by stairs, and a very much off to the side access ramp. I could manage the lower part of the access ramp without too many problems, but the upper part was pretty steep and difficult for me. The bathroom at the lower lobby level was technically "accessible" – my petite sized wheelchair could get in – but larger mobility scooters had problems. The bathroom just outside the dealers' room was not accessible, forcing users to either return through a hallway and two lobbies to the bathroom at the lower lobby level, or go through a hallway to the attached City Center – where the bathrooms were often locked up. The con suite was at the far end from all of this, down a very long, carpeted hallway not near elevators, as were the party suites. As a result, I visited each of those exactly once.

But what upset me more than those issues were the responses to my tweets, a good one third of which pretty much expressed, "Again?"

Because, unfortunately, this is not the first disability/accessibility problem I have had with conventions, or the first time a convention has failed to have a ramp that allows me to access the stage. At least in this case it wasn't a Disability in Science Fiction panel that, incredibly enough, lacked a ramp, but against that, in this case, the conrunners were aware I was coming, were aware that I use a wheelchair, had spoken to me prior to the convention and had assured me that the convention would be fully accessible, and put me on panels with stages but no ramp.

To address a few other issues that have been brought up to me:

1. As of this writing, I have not received an apology from World Fantasy, although I did receive some personal apologies (and a shot of whiskey) from con volunteers.

2. Lifting me up to the stage in my wheelchair or having me transfer from the wheelchair to climb a few steps is not a solution. It's unsafe.

3. My understanding is that adding a ramp to the stage would have cost World Fantasy $800. I understand that this is a significant amount of money, but I would also argue that this is the sort of cost that, like badges, ice cream socials, and the like, should be included in the convention's initial budget.

I have also been informed that part of the $800 cost was because this was a last minute request, suggesting that arranging for ramps is best done early on, if only for financial reasons.

4. Many convention rooms do not have space for a stage and a ramp leading up to the stage. Rooms of this size, however, generally don't need a stage. As someone who has been both a panelist and audience member in these smaller rooms, a table is fine.

5. Although I may have been the only wheelchair user on programming (I'm not entirely certain about that), I was not the only disabled member of the convention – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the guest of honor, uses crutches, for instance. I saw other members were using various assistive devices, including canes and mobility scooters. I saw only one other person in a manual wheelchair, and no one in a standard powerchair.

Having said that, World Fantasy does seem to have fewer wheelchair users than other events with similar sized groups held in wheelchair accessible/friendly venues.

6. Apart from that, convention attendees/panelists can find themselves in unexpected need of a wheelchair or other device (for instance, after a back injury or broken bone) and that it might be useful for convention staff to consider this while planning a convention.

7. As a result of all this, I spent yet another con mostly discussing disability issues, instead of books and movies. I don't like this.

8. I am, however, extremely grateful to the number of people at the convention who offered/gave emotional and physical support. This is too many to list, but again, thanks.

9. A few people have said that I handled the situation gracefully.

I only wish I could accept the compliment.

My apologies to everyone who witnessed my many less graceful moments.
Worldcon was this weekend in Spokane, which meant smoke! Sad and Rabid Puppies! And an end to what I fear is just one chapter of the Hugo Award drama. If you missed the announcement, No Award won in the five categories with only Sad/Rabid Puppy nominations. Most of the Puppy nominees also lost in the other categories.

To put this in some perspective, in the 60 years prior to this, No Award won five times. It won five times last evening alone, although maybe "won" is the wrong word.

Some quick thoughts:

1. Once again, apparently the only way to reach the Hugo stage? Stairs. No ramp.

2. On a much happier note, SASQUAN did provide a sign language interpreter throughout the ceremony, something I hope future Hugo Award ceremonies will continue to do. My understanding is that a sign language interpreter was also at the business meetings, so yay.

3. Also, having an actual astronaut announce the winner of the Best Novel Award? And getting a Worldcon badge up to the International Space Station? TOTALLY RULES. Well done, Sasquan. Well done.

4. Speaking of Best Novel Award, I'm pleased to see that a novel originally written in Chinese won an award at a _World_con.

5. And yes, my neighbors really did break out into a noisy, unrelated block party, complete with booming music and some firecrackers, well after midnight while the Hugo Awards were going on. Late night parties on the weekends aren't all that unusual for them, but I like to think, in my head, that they were celebrating the Hugo Awards. Or at least the astronaut part of it. And yes, I did spend a not insignificant part of the pre and actual ceremony chatting on topics including spanking, cider, maple syrup and Arrow. These sorts of conversations just happen.

6. And now onto the Puppies:

During the ceremony, Twitter exploded with (expected) accusations about voting.

Over on Chaoshorizon, Brandon Kemper has run some initial analysis on the voting numbers, determining that of the 5950 people who voted on the Hugo, about 10% were Rabid Puppies, and about another 10% were Sad Puppies, for a 20% Puppy total, more or less, with considerable overlap.

Kemper also estimates that about 2500 voters voted No Award out of principle, and another 1000 voters ended up joining this group anyway, for a total of 3500 voters - or about 59% of the vote. I think Kemper's estimate of the number of voters who voted No Award out of principle is a bit high: the estimate is focused on the voting totals for Best Editor, categories that the Puppies swept, but categories that included some qualified people who might have been nominated/won in previous years, and one person, Mike Resnick, who has been nominated, frequently, in the past. But Best Editors are also relatively opaque categories, which in the past have tended to garner fewer nominations/votes (a typical voter comment is "Yeah, I have no idea what books X person even edited") and I think that opaqueness may have affected the vote here.

That suggests that, despite current claims on Twitter that the voting was completely political and voters didn't even try to read the Sad and Rabid Puppy nominees, a good half - and perhaps more - of the voting members did. That theory is borne out by a win for Guardians of the Galaxy, which was on the Puppy slate. Had Hugo voters voted solely based on politics/sticking it to the Puppies, I think one of the non-Puppy films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Edge of Tomorrow) would have taken it. Edge of Tomorrow even killed Tom Cruise over and over, so it had a lot going for it, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier had Black Widow.

Voters liked Guardians of the Galaxy more, suggesting that Hugo voters did take voting seriously, did not just dismiss the Puppy ballots offhand, and chose things they liked.

6. Wired has an interesting interview with multiple Puppies here. It includes the phrase "faceless minions," used unironically.

Also, it discusses the hopefully-this-year-only Alfie Awards, which went to, among others, Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos - two writers who withdrew their names from consideration after getting nominated.

7. I am a little skeptical of current hopes that if everyone who voted this year nominates next year, we'll have a Puppy free/slate free ballot. Skeptical mostly because the list of recommendations that I see tend to vary wildly (as they should) and rarely if ever agree with me (also as they should). Almost none of the things I nominated made it to either the actual ballot or the alternative, Puppy free ballot (determined from the long list). This includes popular, widely read things - the AVClub, for instance, which I nominated for Best Related Work, and which is one of the 1000 most visited websites in the U.S. and one of the 3000 most visited websites world wide, was not on the long list at all. My guess is that more nominators are just going to result in a wider spread of works, not necessarily in eliminating future slates.

8. Something I did nominate, that made it to the long list but was probably cut out by the Puppy balloting (it didn't earn the needed 5% of the votes, but it might have without the Puppy ballot): When It Ends, He Catches Her, by Eugie Foster, who died tragically young last year. Still highly recommended.

9. And on a completely different note, while many of you were having fun at Worldcon, some of us were having fun at FakeCon. Warning: includes squirrels.
This month, the local Barnes and Noble - a place that, in the winter, I could reach via my electric trike - closed down. According to the employees, this particular Barnes and Noble was doing well - better, they said proudly, than the Barnes and Noble up in Altamonte Springs (which is still open). And presumably less well than the Barnes and Noble down in the Dr. Philips area. The store had originally benefited from being only the second major bookstore in the west Orange area. Once the Borders in Ocoee closed, it was the only major bookstore in the west Orange area, benefiting from the expansion of Winter Garden and Clermont and the quiet wealth of Windermere. The other bookstores are all twenty, thirty minutes away at best from this area - a Books-A-Million up in Leesburg, which is more or less the equivalent of the moon for me, and another one in Altamonte Springs - less moon like, but four buses is a bit much - and the previously mentioned Barnes and Noble. Some customers said they would trek there anyway. Others said they would use Amazon. No one, despite hopeful hints from Barnes and Noble employees, said they would use the Barnes and Noble website.

(This is more about physical bookstores than websites, but I'll say it here anyway: Barnes and Noble, speaking as someone with a Nook who really wants you to succeed, your website is very difficult to search/browse through, both online and through the Nook, and Amazon's recommended feature leaves yours far behind. Kobo is sending me better, more targeted emails and I don't even visit their site. I'd work on this.)

Apparently, the company behind Forever 21 agreed to pay three times the rent that Barnes and Noble is paying. The outdoor mall management loved this idea. Barnes and Noble balked at a rent increase, and here we are.

I'm not sure what, if any, effect this will have on that particular mall, which is an outdoor mall in one section and a line of huge, big block stores like Lowe's and Target in another section. Bitter Barnes and Noble employees claimed that the idea was to bring in more teenagers with the Forever 21. The place does seem rather short of teenagers, but then again, I'm usually there on weekday mornings in winter, not a peak teenager shopping time, so it's entirely possible that in the afternoons, teenagers pop up everywhere, eager to spend. Or not. What seems to be more of a concern, specifically to the employees of the Bath and Body Works, was that Barnes and Noble tended to draw a relatively upscale crowd that was happy to wander over to Bath and Body Works and spend money there. Also, this now means that the Bath and Body Works people either have to cross a large, and, in the summer, painfully hot parking lot, or a six lane street in order to reach Starbucks, which means, they guess, they're stuck with Panera which isn't as good for coffee.

Which brings up another slight issue: that area did have three - count them, three - Starbucks in a very limited location: the one at Barnes and Noble, the one at Target, and the actual Starbucks just across the road. I wondered how sustainable that was.

Then again, this complex is located directly north of a very well to do area, and south of a patchily well to do area - some streets are very well to do indeed, and then there's my street, which isn't, but can afford the occasional stop at Starbucks, and east of a solid, rapidly growing middle class suburb. Who knows.

Anyway, everyone agreed that the Barnes and Noble was an anchor store that brought in customers, and was a place for people to meet, and study, and talk books, and this sucks, and the hospital going up across the street is not a substitute for any of this.

For me, this is personally painful for another reason: with the exception of my first months here, before I got my electric trike of awesomeness, it's the first time since I was 11 or so that I have not been able to get to a bookstore on my own. Granted, reaching one in a Connecticut winter was nearly impossible on a bicycle, but the bookstore was there, and I knew it was there, providing a certain comfort. Afterwards, I could always reach one. Two decent ones easily available my first year of college; three my last three years. Several in South Florida; several in Tokyo (overpriced English language bookstores, but definitely there. You can buy anything in Tokyo if you have the money.) The all too short lived Here Be Dragons bookstore, and this Barnes and Noble.

And now, without a ride, nothing but online bookstores. Which, for all of my severe addiction to the Orange County Library's ebook selection, just isn't the same. You can't feel a book on a website. I don't get the same sense of reassurance. Of home. Of books.

I'm going to be resenting this new Forever 21 for awhile.

Flash

Jan. 28th, 2015 02:02 pm
I haven't talked much about The Flash here - partly because I haven't talked much about anything here, but mostly because there's just not that much to talk about: it's a fluffy popcorn show. Fun, but for the most part forgettable. But last night's episode, while one of the weakest so far, did something fairly interesting.

Cut for major spoilers for the show and last night's episode, and a spoiler for the first episode of this season's Arrow. )

Quick note

Nov. 13th, 2014 10:09 am
Still not up to recapping World Fantasy 2014, but I did want to make one important point:

Apart from two minor issues with my hotel room, both promptly addressed by Hyatt, I did not have any disability issues at this con.

(I did have issues outside the con while attempting to navigate Alexandria and DC, but that's on those two cities, not World Fantasy Con. I also did get sick more than once anyway, but...well, I think that's more or less my status quo now.)

As long time readers know, this is not something typical of World Fantasy, which for the last several years have featured Disability Fail after Disability Fail after Disability Fail. So it's a major relief to find that yes, this convention can get it right, and I want to thank the 2014 World Fantasy Committee for getting it right this time.
Have more or less successfully survived Loncon3. Lots to post about, but that should be done in a more organized fashion, so that will be coming later.

(Also, yes, while that was probably the longest trek from the ExCel area to Greenwich in history, I did finally make it to Greenwich, and, no, Google did not lie: Greenwich DID have a Marks and Spencer with more than tolerable sandwiches which you can eat right in front of the Cutty Sark. I approve of this.)

My original plan was to leave London Monday morning and trek out to Bath, spending the afternoon looking at Bath and then the following day doing one of the little tourist bus trips out to Glastonbury and Wells. That did not happen, but for a very good reason: [personal profile] kate_nepveu and her husband Chad kidnapped me for a lovely high tea near Green Park, complete with all of the Proper little finger sandwiches and scones and little cakes including something that is apparently called Battenberg cake that I loved if Kate, alas, didn't.

I had a few awful moments of thinking that I wouldn't make it - I woke up a bit dizzy, then got better, then got very dizzy again, but after I stayed prone for a couple hours I felt better and by the time Kate and Chad showed up I was slightly light headed but otherwise fine.

Getting there was...entertaining. We started with the DLR (fine). Then the Jubilee line (less fine.)

See, the London Underground will tell you that the Jubilee line at the Green Park station is wheelchair accessible. It is -- but only from ONE of the train cars at ONE location, where the platform has been raised up to be level with the train and then tapers off with slightly steep ramps back to the rest of the platform. The rest of the platform is a solid FOOT down from the train, not something my wheelchair can handle. FORTUNATELY, Chad looked down the car and saw the raised platform and sent me there, allowing me to escape just as the doors were closing.

And then we had to get through the Green Park Tube station, which I can report has not improved in twenty years. So you can see that all of the little cakes were Medically Necessary, as was the delightful conversation.

They also turned out to be medically necessary for another reason: Paddington Station.

Getting to Paddington Station was fine - I rolled into a little cab and we rolled around London and then the cab driver waved down disability access for me. This got a little confusing - I can't actually buy my tickets at a kiosk (like THANKS CHASE BANK) but we got me to the main ticket station. Where the access person took off telling me I was in helpful hands.

Here I encountered the hands down least helpful person yet in the UK, I told him I needed to get to Bath Spa. He sold me a ticket (at, I later found, NOT the cheapest price for the train I was on) but failed to tell me a) what train I could get on (I ended up guessing, correctly, Bristol, but seriously....) what platform the train was on. And then this:

"Where can I request disability assistance?" (National Rail's webpage said I needed it at Paddington and Bath - this is correct.)

"You don't need it for this train."

That was a lie.

My access person had left so a helpful Brit helped me roll my suitcase to the information booth and said he would help me on the train. I still wasn't sure if I could GET on the 7 o'clock train - the electronic board suggested not - so I rolled up to the desk to request information assistance, who chose that moment to tell me that yes, I DID need ramp assistance.

So off I headed to the access area, slightly worried because the train was scheduled to leave in 20 minutes at this point, but telling myself and access that I could just take the next train. Another wheelchair user happened to be requesting access to the same train. We were told that it was on platform one (good) and it was coach C (way way way way down the platform, less good) and the access people were all running around so since time was running out the wheelchair user took me down to Coach C on platform one, followed by the helpful Brit with my bag --

-- it was the wrong train, and the helpful Brit had already taken off.

We had five minutes to reach coach C (way way way way way down) on the other platform, and no access people in sight.

I offered to take the next train. I had underestimated the helpfulness of other Brits; the other wheelchair user was in an electric, so he offered to take my suitcase (it's wheeled) and we rushed. I never ever want to push my manual that quickly, that distance, again. At the station end of the platform we explained the situation and were allowed through Secret Inaccessible doors and then sped down that way. At that point I started having breathing problems. My suitcase went on ahead of me; a porter saw me and started running with me down the platform. The ramp was set up and the train left while we were still getting ourselves into place.

That took awhile because I was still having breathing issues and palpitations. After that, I got my head down and pretty much stayed there until Swindon, which is to say if you are looking for a lovely description of a train ride from London to Bath you need to look elsewhere.

The Bath train station was a lot less exciting, but at that point the only thing I wanted was a bed. Any bed. See why the high tea was so helpful? I had no need for dinner.

I have more to say on Bath (which is lovely) and seagulls and other things, but for now, time for the next train.

London

Aug. 9th, 2014 02:51 am
So, after missing my initial flight, dealing with a flight delay out of Orlando, temporarily losing my wheelchair in Dublin (that was fun), and going through Secret Back Alleyways Through Paddington Station (that actually was entertaining. Like spy stuff.) This is usually the part where I complain about Heathrow, and, trust me, there are several things I could say about Heathrow, none kind, but in comparison I feel that Heathrow's ongoing "Hi! How can we get you to hate this country as quickly as possible" is mild in comparison. Also Heathrow did push me all the way to Heathrow Express, so that was kind.

Unfortunately, the advertised as disabled friendly hotel where I am staying is not quite as disabled friendly as advertised. To get in and out I have to wait for the porters to bring me a little temporary ramp, not kept in the lobby. This also means that they have to realize I'm there, which so far means waiting outside hopefully for another guest to enter the hotel to alert them that I need the ramp. The main hotel restaurant is not at all disabled accessible, and the bathroom - but this should be a cheery post.

It's perhaps not surprising that I have had four separate people come up to me and ask, in excited voices some equivalent of "you are really doing this? Where? How? Does the bathroom actually work for a wheelchair?" All of them know wheelchair users.

My other favorite comment of the past two days: "All the Americans I've met are so friendly which is strange because you always seem to be shooting each other." Yay, USA!

All right. One last visit to the unlit disabled bathroom, and then I am off to See Stuff.
In a little less than a month I head off to the United Kingdom and Ireland for WorldCon and Shamrockon. Since people have asked, I will also be in sorta the general area for Nine Worlds as well - in fact, I realized that I might even run into people at Heathrow arriving for Nine Worlds - and if people want to meet me for dinner that weekend that's awesome, but I wasn't planning on attending. Not because I have anything against Nine Worlds, which actually seems like more my sorta thing than the other two cons, but because at a certain point you hit Con Overload, and three cons in three weeks is absolutely that point for me. And although I initially thought about doing Nine Worlds and WorldCon, well...Shamrockon is in Ireland, where I've never been.

And like others, I will be in London between Nine Worlds and Worldcon. Let the hijinks ensue.

But this isn't about my con schedule, but rather about making reservations.

This isn't my first trip to the UK, or my first time making reservations there (although on one trip I just showed up at the train station and was lucky enough to find a cheap space in a Westminster boarding house sorta thing, which was fun).

But this is my first trip traveling via wheelchair, not to mention my first attempt to navigate Grade I and Grade II buildings - which historically can't be altered - some of which are transportation points, and others of which are hotels.

And, that, as it turns out, makes things interesting well before boarding a plane.

For instance:

1. While in London pre-Worldcon, I won't be using the London Underground much - even post the Olympics, many of the Tube stations are not wheelchair accessible. Fortunately for my budget, the London buses ARE fully accessible, and the bus system has a very helpful website where you can type in where you are starting from and where you want to end up and it will list all the buses for you. As it turned out, the buses pretty much cover everywhere I want to go, which solved that problem. (There's also special tourist buses, even better.) That's great, and meant that one of my main criteria for choosing a hotel was "Near Bus Station."

2. London hotel websites, however, assume that tourists are all going to want to use the Tube - so although they usually announce proudly how close to they are to a Tube station, few of them mention the bus stations. And if you go to the bus system website, it doesn't always tell you how far the hotel is from the bus.

3. Enter Google Street Maps, which have been, bluntly, a livesaver - not just for this reason, either, but you can type in the hotel address and see where the bus station is, on street view, and note any potential problems.

4. Google Street Maps are a godsend in another way: you can click on the little person on street view, look around, and see if the entrance to the hotel is, in fact, wheelchair accessible, since by "wheelchair accessible" the hotel sometimes means "you can use a wheelchair on the ground floor in the public rooms," not necessarily "you can get in."

5. And speaking of hotels in Bath, not London - I was initially cheered to see just how many hotels in Bath popped up when I searched for disabled accommodations in Bath.

Not surprisingly - most Bath hotels are in historic buildings that can only be accessed by two to four stairs - that turned out to be an overly optimistic search. As it turned out, Bath actually only has four hotels I could stay at. One is an absolutely gorgeous luxury hotel that is seriously beyond my budget, but where I am immediately heading to the instant I win the lottery. A second had only one disabled room which was already booked.

Which means that I am staying in a hotel that has been pretty universally described as "overpriced" in all of its internet reviews, who urge visitors to head to other, better value hotels. Having looked at the hotel's website I am already inclined to agree with the internet reviews, but the reviews also say that the hotel has a good sandwich place nearby, which is a plus, so there's that.

The other option, of course, was to stay in cheaper, more modern Bristol - an option I used for most of my clients back when I worked in the travel industry. The issue with Bristol, however, was that its hotels with disabled accommodation were for the most part not near the train station I would be using to take to Bath. By the time I worked out the transportation costs, I realized that I was going to be spending almost as much in transportation as I would be saving in hotel costs, so although Bristol is really not that far away, it seemed easier to stick with Bath after all.

6. Buckingham Palace, which is open during July/August, and is wheelchair accessible.

Wheelchair accessible tickets, however, have to be booked separately - and can't, unlike regular tickets, be booked online. (Apparently there's only one elevator accessible for tourists, so this has to be scheduled. Also you go in via wheelchair accessible golf cart.) Instead, you have to make an international phone call - or alternatively, email, and have them call you, which was working great until Buckingham Palace's computer systems went down. You fail me, Windsors, you fail me.

(Technically I think this is a sorta independent group that "operates" tours of Buckingham Palace while the Windsors are out windsoring, but it's more fun to assume this, like so many other things, is all Prince Charles' fault.)

I may end up at Kensington Palace instead, also wheelchair accessible, which has tickets available at the door.

7. But at least it is wheelchair accessible: it's been mildly crushing to realize even things that sounded like they would be fully wheelchair accessible aren't. The Tower of London is one thing; the Cartoon Museum, though, was a bit of a surprise.

I find myself comparing previous trips, with the "what shall I do today?" the spontaneous wandering, the surety that I could find someplace in London where I could sleep - and reach - without worrying too much. Some of that remains: my London schedule, for instance, is fairly flexible up until Worldcon, though that's partly because some plans are still getting finalized. It's not all disabled issues, either - some of this is just meeting up with various people here and there in London (hilariously, mostly Americans from Florida so far - it says something that it seems easier to meet up with them in London than Winter Garden, but moving on.) But there's still a fundamental change from previous trips, and it has me a bit twitchy.

On the other hand, London! Also, Dublin! Castles! High tea! And getting to see many of you again! Awesomeness.

Tidbits

Mar. 27th, 2014 09:41 pm
Various tidbits that we will pretend make a post!

1. I spent most of last week and weekend at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, which for many people is an academic conference offering important insights about fantasy and the arts (literature, film, television, apparently tarot cards) and for me is a time to have a nice drink by the pool. Various personal issues and getting extremely sick prevented me from enjoying this conference as much as I would have liked, but I did have a chance to do a reading with Eugene Fischer and Dennis Danvers By a complete coincidence, we had all managed to choose stories on a similar theme: horror stories about the process of creating story. And by horror, the excerpt from Eugene's novella strongly suggested that we are all going to die, Dennis' story chatted about a puppy strangler – and by this, I mean, someone who strangles puppies, and my story had a house built from the teeth of small children. All very cheerful for a Saturday morning, though the puppy strangler story had us all collapsing with laughter. I think you have to read it to understand.

Special thanks to Julia Rios and Keffy Kehrli for helping me out during the conference.

2. Alas, attending ICFA meant I missed going to Megacon – and seeing many of you – but it looks like next year the events are on separate weekends. I'll keep my fingers crossed that golf is on a separate week.

3. While I was at ICFA I did get various tidbits of good news, including:

The release of Mythic Delirium 0.4, April-June 2014, available from Weightless Books here, which contains my poem, "The Silver Comb." (If you check, you will also see that it lists my name right under Jane Yolen, which is pretty awesomely cool.)

The news that Upper Rubber Boot Books will be reprinting my short story, "Twittering the Stars," as part of their new upcoming SOLES series.

I'm particularly delighted by this second bit since prior to this, although "Twittering the Stars" was hands down my most widely and best reviewed story (well over 40 positive reviews the last time I checked) it was also only available in an anthology that briefly popped up in bookstores and then mostly vanished, although the ebook is still available, which in turn meant that it was also one of my least read stories. I've been hoping for a chance to have it released into the wild again, so this is pretty awesome.

I'll also just note that Upper Rubber Boot Books offers a lovely selection of poetry books.

4. And while I was at ICFA and recovering from ICFA, Tor.com blogging continued! Two more posts on Mary Poppins, here and here, and also a second post chatting about Once Upon a Time and Oz here where I am VERY DISTURBED about the biological implications.

The Once Upon a Time Oz posts are not going to be a weekly event, primarily because so many parts of the show leave me wanting to throw things at the television or slam my head against something, and this sort of emotional reaction is a) not appreciated by the cats, who, as they have noted, do not deserve to have their hard-earned cat naps disturbed by this sort of thing and b) not really helped by friendly contact from the ABC publicity department (though I appreciate the effort.)

5. But regarding the upcoming Game of Thrones season four: yes, I do plan to snark individual episodes here, but I may be a bit delayed depending upon when exactly the new computer arrives.
So for those wondering why, after three straight years of attending World Fantasy Con, I will not be attending this year, I quote from World Fantasy's Con news updates.:

"These events will be held during the day in the Chartwell room at the very top of the Hilton, which offers stunning panoramic sea views on Brighton. (Unfortunately, this area of the hotel is inaccessible by wheelchair.) The maximum number of people in the group is 20. Places must be pre-booked and will be allocated on a first-come basis. We are making a minimal charge of £5.00 each to cover coffee and biscuits, plus it helps dissuade people from dropping out at the last minute, when somebody else could have had their place."

(Emphasis mine.)

As I have noted to some of you, my original plan for 2013 was to go to World Fantasy Con and then head over to Spain and Germany to catch up with various friends currently living in Europe, most of whom plan to return to the U.S. in 2014/2015. Giving up this trip was a major, major disappointment. At the same time, I did not want to attend three World Fantasy Conventions with accessibility issues in a row.

This is especially aggravating since the 2009 World Fantasy Convention in Columbus was generally fine (minor hiccups but nothing major). So it is absolutely possible for WFC to use a wheelchair accessible hotel, and yes, the United Kingdom has disabled accessible hotels and laws about disability and discrimination.

But WFC chose not to use an accessible venue, and so, I cannot attend.

(Thanks to Amal El-Mohtar and Farah Mendlesohn for bringing this to my attention.)
Just wanted to note that the chair of Lone Star Con has apologized to me over at Rose Lemberg's blog. Since my comment responded to is one of the most minor points, I hope that the Chair also has read my two other comments there as well as the feedback from other users, and that future Worldcon chairs will take a look at well.

Otherwise, I want to thank Lone Star Con for the apology, and hope that future Worldcons will be better.
Just before the Thursday morning Stroll With the Stars I heard a rumor that Programming was having some issues thanks to last minute cancellations and other things, with several panels having empty slots. Eyes rolled over in my direction.

Now, for various reasons, I haven't been on any panels at science fiction/genre conventions before (other types, yes). Partly this is because I still feel like more than a bit of an imposter at cons, but mostly, this is because I have a very unpredictable illness which may mean that I will have to cancel at the last minute – and may not be able to let anyone know that I am cancelling.

However. Thursday morning I was high on sugar and caffeine (thank you overpriced Starbucks) and trying to figure out how to cancel my ongoing guilt/imposter feeling. So after the Stroll With the Stars a very kind person took me to the convention center, where I met up with another very kind person who offered to take me to Programming.

Through no fault of WorldCon, Programming happened to be located in arguably the Most Difficult To Find Place in San Antonio. The volunteer and I went Round and Round and Round, and then, for a change, Round, and then more Round, before finally finding the place. There I met a clearly overworked woman desperately trying to work out con schedules. I gave her my brief bio and what I'm sorta known for (Oz, poetry, short fiction, children's literature.)

I was offered the Disability in Science Fiction panel.

I use a wheelchair.

I was also warned that the Disability in Science Fiction panel did not have a ramp to the stage but since I was now part of the panel she would try to find a solution. I was also put on the How to Publish Your Poetry panel, and then I took the little Water Taxi back to the hotel.

About an hour later, a poetry editor rejected a couple of my poems, kinda solidifying my thought that this whole paneling thing was really not a great idea, unless everyone wanted to learn How to Get Your Poems Rejected. That, I'm really really good at. I was also worried about the Disability in Science Fiction panel, largely because I mostly read biographies and mysteries, not science fiction, and I knew the other panelists knew more of the field than I did. A couple of very nice conrunners/SMOFs from another con assured me that even if I threw up on other con panelists worse things have happened. So, I stayed on.

Saturday morning Rachel Swirsky texted me to say that Nancy Hightower was moderating a Prose by Day/Poet by Night panel at 11 am which now only had two people on it and could I fill in? I said yes and got more coffee. Another very nice person pushed me over to the SFWA meeting which started at 10.

At 10:30 I left the SFWA meeting to make it to my poetry panel. I pulled out my little Helpful Map where my route had been marked out by a Worldcon volunteer. This meant going down carpet (check!) going up an elevator (check!) following my little map and going forward (check!) finding myself at another convention....

Uncheck.

After a short discussion with the People Magazine convention we agreed that I could cut through their convention IF I was escorted. I put my hands up and didn't look at anything (then) and made it to the other side. I decided to visit a bathroom, which went as those things do until I came out and someone accidentally spilled hot coffee over my right hand. Ouch. I headed over more carpet and looked at my watch and my little map and decided to ask for the most efficient route. Luckily at this point Juan Sanmiguel spotted me and took me to the panel, arriving at 10:59. Yes, it had taken me nearly a half hour to get from the SFWA meeting to the panel.

Where the three other panelists (L.E. Modesitt had joined at the last minute) were all up on a stage that did not have a ramp.

So they stayed on the stage and I stayed on the floor with a mike.

Otherwise I think that panel went well although I admit I was kinda sad when Locus came in to take a picture and missed me because they didn't realize I was part of the panel (it was when the others were talking). Oh well. Otherwise, it was a great discussion.

Sunday I headed over to the Disability in Science Fiction panel. There was no ramp to the stage. Instead, tables had been set up and we all sat in front of the stage to accommodate me. This was a relatively large room and people in the back apparently couldn't see me (some people later told me they couldn't figure out why we weren't on the stage until I mentioned that I was in a chair, but even then, they couldn't see that access to the stage was up steps, not a ramp. Also, the panel did not have an ASL interpreter. (I don't think any panels did, but for the Disability panel, that would have been a nice touch, especially since the subject of the Deaf community/writers did come up.)

I'm not going to rehash that panel here except to say that yes, I was upset, and no, honestly, I am not dealing with illness related stuff, including the wheelchair, right now all that well at all (in case it wasn't incredibly obvious.) Working on this. I also suspect that my disappointment about the Alamo (separate post) played a role.

Anyway.

A Florida friend not at the con told me to get away from the con for a bit, so I did, avoiding everyone. And took a nap. Then I came out and crept back over to the convention center for the How to Publish Your Poetry panel. This was me, Jo Walton, Rachel Swirsky and another older gentleman whose name I didn't catch. Jo asked us all to explain why we were on the panel. In answer to this, the gentleman noted that he'd been asked at the last minute to join the panel and be a warm body, and that he had last published poetry in the 1960s. Somewhat later he noted that he had written poetry to pick up girls, and that he had stopped writing poetry when it didn't get him any girls. Rachel Swirsky, who is awesome, instantly responded, "I don't know. I get plenty of girls."

I thought this panel was otherwise ok, although apparently some of my residual anger/emotional reactions were still around; the audience later said they found me intimidating. I don't feel particularly intimidating, so this is a hard word to wrap my mind around. I'm also not sure if I got my main point across, which is that we are currently in what I would call a miraculous, marvelous age for speculative poetry, with poets doing incredible work with traditional forms, experimental forms, fun forms, and just transforming words into beauty, so marvelous I want everyone to be a part of it.

It was an interesting experience overall, but I think I should probably stick to not being on panels for awhile.

Edited to add: To be clear, compared to a couple of past events, this was relatively accessible. The Marriott Rivercenter was mostly ok except for a few hiccups. The real problems happened outside the Marriott Rivercenter hotel, and were generally more associated with San Antonio/typical accessibility things.

Observation

Sep. 1st, 2013 04:50 pm
Ramps are not a recent invention.
A few points of background. One: alas, these days when I use the bathroom I almost invariably get dizzy. Thus the need for handrails - it's not just a question of the wheelchair. Two: the Southwest gate areas at the Orlando International airport have two sets of women's restrooms: one by the food court area and one further down, in the actual gate area. That second set has exactly one - count them, one - disabled stall. Three: on each and every trip I have made through the Orlando airport I have seen multiple people in wheelchairs, mostly but not all elderly. This includes spinal users who cannot walk at all.

So, as you do, I decided to go to the bathroom before my flight. The stall was closed, which, no biggie. I could see a bag and feet moving around so figured, sigh, another parent with problematic toddler. (This happens a lot.) I wasn't in a rush, so waited, resigned, and sighed when I heard a voice say That's my baby. Minutes passed. I checked twitter. I started to get worried about timing (Southwest requires that I board early). Two more minutes and I will say something.

And then I saw it, or rather them: dog paws.

Ok, I thought, still holding to my "this involves a toddler" thought, they must be traveling WITH the dog...

And then I heard it.

I had been under the naive impression that I had become accustomed to the worst that can happen in disabled and women's bathrooms. Apparently I was wrong.

"Hello," I shouted. "Actual wheelchair user here."

"Oh," she said. "I'll be out in a minute."

"I have a flight."

"Oh."

She came out with a non apology. I peered in, swore, called the airport and sputtered the story in two languages. They got someone to push me to the other set of bathrooms and told Southwest I wouldbe late. Luckily the plane was slightly late so that worked.

I got on the plane still fuming. Passengers boarded after me and then I realized that she was sitting in the aisle seat with the dog, only one seat between us. Which was soon filled by another woman.

Dog lady didn't recognize me. But she was willing to complain, at length, about Southwest and dogs and how it cost $75 to bring the dog which is so unfair because she's taking the dog as a carryon anyway which means she has to put her real bag up so she can't even get at it during the flight and worse with the seats in the front her little dog was squished (this part was true. Poor dog who did not deserve any of this and it's awful because Orlando doesn't let you take the dog out of the bag in the terminal so she had to use the disabled restroom but what could she do? She certainly couldn't leave the dog with strangers but it was such a long way to San Diego and she had to do something.

"Or you could use a regular stall and clean it up."


"But that doesn't give her enough room!"

Also, she didn't turn off her cellphone when the captain said turn all cellphones off.

She must have gotten some hint of my fury, since she both rushed to another row once we landed in San Zntonio and asked why it was taking Southwest so long to get my wheelchair up. Then she took out her dog.

I reported her to the pilot who was coming aboard just then. She will be reported to the Orlando Airport.

In other news I am at Worldcon and can report that there's quite a few people here already, and the bar is right across from the Starbucks.
Saturday I decided it was high time to rejoin the human race, so I took my little scooter over to the farmer's market, quite forgetting that we were supposed to head down to my mother's. Whoops!

I have mixed feelings about the whole going by mobility scooter thing. I used to take the trike, but that requires using the cane once I arrive, and the farmer's market is filled with small excited children looking for clowns, camels, and ice cream and not me; I've been knocked down a couple of times. So I thought the scooter would work. And it does, sorta, but I still find using the thing outside of theme parks highly irritating -- not to mention it's kinda terrifying to cross busy streets with it. It's low to the ground, and I know drivers can't always see me in it, and for safety reasons it can only go so fast. I really wish it had a way to go just a little faster when crossing busy streets. Oh well. Not to mention that my feet swell up after a mere hour on that thing. Grr.

But I did do fairly well at the farmer's market, since local oranges, cucumbers and tomatoes were all on sale. The prices may quite possibly mean that I overdid it on cucumbers; I don't like oranges, so I restrained myself there, but cucumbers are awesome, so, no restraint. Local honey was not at all on sale, but it was there so, er, local honey. Also a mango cheddar which, yes, I shouldn't be eating at all, but, mango cheddar. What can I say?

Hopes that the trip would shake cobwebs from my head were alas overly optimistic. I came home feeling completely drained, a feeling that persisted and worsened on Sunday, when my body suddenly decided it had had enough. I wasn't dizzy - a nice change - just completely wiped, so I spent much of the day sleeping, looking outside to not see hummingbirds (they've been coming to our feeders, but never when I'm looking) sleeping, comforting a cat, sleeping again. I still feel drained this morning, if at least a little more capable of finishing sentences.

In mostly unrelated news my brother put up a second set of bird feeders and a birdbath near the dinette window. This has delighted a number of creatures, including the two cardinals who appear to have taken up permanent residence in the yard, some house wrens, one very happy cat (the window has a sill that is about the perfect size, if you are a cat), and, of course, one squirrel. The arrangement was not precisely ideal at first, since the birdbath was located within perfect jumping distance of the feeder for the squirrel, who would see either me or the cat and leap happily over to the birdbath, scattering water everywhere. This has been changed, forcing the squirrel to either leap down to the ground or climb down a pole, burning off some of the calories gained from the sunflower seeds. I've yet to see anything other than the squirrel using the birdbath, but summer is coming. We shall see.
Unbelievably out of it today -- so out of it that although I made coffee and poured it into a mug, I forgot to drink it; no, really -- but I did want to point Little House fans to the news that Mary Ingalls did not go blind from scarlet fever after all.

From a writing point of view, I'm fascinated by the suggestion that Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the New York book editors all agreed that "vague viral or bacterial brain infection that we don't exactly have a name for" would be too confusing, and that it was better for Mary to have the literary illness of scarlet fever instead.

Particularly interesting since in literature (not reality, before people leap up to correct me) both scarlet fever and tuberculosis tended to turn children into inspirational household angels, beloved by all, probably best exemplified by Beth of Little Women. Some of this, of course, doubtless reflected the reality of mourning for lost children and a tendency to idealize their memories; some of this may have been attempts to alleviate the anger and resentment that healthier children may have felt about the need to care for their sicker siblings.

In the case of the Little House books, Mary Ingalls is initially described as a well behaved little girl with three traits that drove her little sister nuts: Mary is bossy, superior and prissy. After Mary's illness and blindness, however, she becomes the angelic center of the household: always helpful, always good, never losing her temper, the sort of person that you would want to sacrifice everything for, which the poverty-strapped Ingalls family did, having their daughter Laura work for pay starting at 13 (in the books; 11 in real life) in part to raise the money to send the talented Mary off to college and perhaps train her for a career despite her blindness.

It's a heartwarming portrait, but I've always wondered how much nostalgia and anger shaped that portrait. This study raises those questions all over again.

Ok. Hopefully I'm alert enough to go get milk and other necessities.
Headthunk.

This morning's bit of news is that the New York Times and CBS News believe that people are using wheelchairs to skip airport lines legally.
Now, neither the New York Times nor CBS nor these alleged cheaters interviewed me, but if they had, I would had had a bit of news for them:

You rarely save time by going through the disabled line in security.

If only.

Since using the wheelchair, I have had to add to my airport arrival time. Sometimes, yes – especially in Orlando, which deals with numerous disabled visitors – it's not too bad. Other times – hi, Indianapolis and, especially, Logan, Boston – it's a freaking nightmare. In Indianapolis it took me twice as long to check in and get through security as it did for the two people who arrived in a taxi two minutes after I did. In part this is because I'd sent my mobility scooter back to Florida by car, and was on the cane, thus using those temporary wheelchairs. When security saw me in a temporary wheelchair, they assumed I would be able to stand and walk without my cane for long enough to get through the X-ray and/or scattershot machines, which, alas, not so much. (No one makes this assumption when I am in my own chair -- the assumption is that I can't get up.)

But mostly, it takes time because it takes time to clear security in a wheelchair. A lot of time. Here's why:

1. Most airports have only a limited number of wheelchair attendants. So, instead of just proceeding on to security and the gate, you have to wait for the attendant. This has varied – Orlando is anywhere from five to fifteen minutes; San Diego was twenty, Boston is "pray very very hard." (Rumor has it that prayer is also critical for wheelchair users in O'Hare.) This is why many wheelchair users try to travel with a companion.

2. Wheelchair attendants often double up, pushing you and someone else. (This is invariably true in Orlando.) This means that even if you are able to stand without a cane for long enough to get through either the X-Ray or the body scanner machines (I can't) whoever is getting pushed with you often can't so you have to wait for the other person.

3. Contrary to the opinion of the Delta person quoted in the article, wheelchair users don't skip lines. Sometimes we go to the Dedicated Wheelchair line (Orlando, San Diego) but smaller airports (Indianapolis) or airports that apparently don't service a number of wheelchair users (also Indianapolis) don't have Dedicated Wheelchair lines and we just wait in line, along with the attendants, with everyone else.

4. Even in cities with Dedicated Wheelchair lines, the Dedicated Wheelchair line is not any shorter, in part because able bodied people and/or families travelling with small children are sent to stand in it, especially if the airport is busy, which in Orlando is "all the time." And yes, this means that if a small child in front of you does not WANT to remove her Disney Princess tiara, you, too, will wait while everybody convinces the small child that even Ariel removed her tiara the instant the TSA arrived. (It's someplace in one of the films, I'm sure.) Even when it's mostly wheelchairs (I've never seen it all wheelchairs, although I assume that's a possibility) there's still a wait, largely because wheelchair users need more time to clear security because:

5. Shoe removal. I can and do remove my own shoes. Most of the time, however, I'm being pushed with someone who can't, so the wheelchair attendant has to remove that person's shoes, and then put that person's shoes back on, and, yes, you have to wait for this. In many cases, "can't" also means "swollen and/or painful feet" or "special shoes that take freaking forever to take off and later put on and lace up."

6. The patdown. Remember I noted that generally speaking you aren't going alone – you're getting pushed with someone else. One or both of these two people will require a patdown. (It's always me but I've definitely been pushed with others requiring a patdown.) This means finding a patdown security guard of the correct gender (hi, wait), and then doing the patdown. Even in the Dedicated Wheelchair line this can take time since the patdown people are often summoned to other lines to do patdowns because of problems with the scanners.

The patdown itself takes a couple minutes – longer than just walking through the X-Ray machine or going through the body scanner. During this period the wheelchair attendant generally gathers all of your stuff, and gathers the other person's stuff, and then, heads to the chairs at the edge of the security area and sits and waits. Incidentally this is also a period where I can't possibly watch my stuff, and I suspect this is when many people get robbed.

Oh, and, again, you're often with someone else. That someone else often has any number of things that slow down the patdown process -- inability to lift arms high enough, oxygen containers, prosthetics, medical documentation requiring review, inability to move legs, and so on.

In one case I watched an issue with someone using a mobility scooter who went through the body scanner without a problem and then had his mobility scooter test positive for something, so they had him sit on a chair without getting his stuff back, which then led to the security people yelling that the stuff had been left there for fifteen minutes, so they took it to lost and found, and...yeah. He looked at me as I was waiting for the patdown and said, "Next time I do the courtesy chair just to get my stuff back." (People using mobility scooters to get through the airport usually don't use attendants, although I have seen airport attendants accompanying passengers in electric wheelchairs, even when those passengers appear to be with family members or friends.)

7. If you are in your own wheelchair, and I usually am, the wheelchair has to be checked for bomb residue, which is another wait. This doesn't apply to the courtesy chairs, but, again, those courtesy chairs are usually travelling with someone else, meaning an additional wait for the bomb residue.

8. Regarding the abandoning of wheelchairs at the other end – I'm sure this does happen, but it's not because wheelchair users are the last to get off the plane. It's because, news flash, you also have to wait for a wheelchair attendant and courtesy wheelchair on the other end even AFTER waiting for everyone else to get off the plane. In my case I'm usually waiting for the wheelchair attendant after I've already waited for my wheelchair to be brought up; in the "this is why I try not to book connecting flights" I would have missed my connecting flight in one case if the connecting flight had not been delayed. This happens because – see point one above – most airports have a limited number of wheelchair attendants. And because sometimes it takes awhile for your wheelchair to be brought up from the cargo department. (In one case they accidentally sent my wheelchair to baggage claim and it had to be brought back.)

Sometimes it's just five minutes; sometimes it's twenty. Sometimes it's a half hour, with you sitting there as the airline attendants call the airport again and again for a courtesy wheelchair, again, AFTER you have already been one of the last, if not the last, people off the plane. And now, think for a moment: how long does it take most people to get to baggage claim? And, a key point: family members and friends can come to baggage claim to help out. So, yes, I'm sure plenty of people, especially morning/afternoon arrivals when the attendants are both getting people to security and over to baggage claim, do decide to just head down to baggage claim on their own so that they can finally do something quickly.

Also, not to really emphasize the issue, but, bathrooms. I encountered one elderly woman who got on the plane with a courtesy wheelchair, left the plane with other passengers once we landed instead of waiting for another courtesy wheelchair, and then ended up waiting at the gate with me for a courtesy wheelchair/attendant to help her to baggage claim. Her very believable excuse for this was that otherwise Southwest was going to have a horrible cleaning job and she really couldn't wait to be helped off the plane, even though she had visible walking problems and had to be in her 90s.

9. Oh, and abandoning the courtesy wheelchair right after clearing security? I've never seen this, but I suspect if it does happen, it happens more because the people might be able to walk the short distance from security to chairs by the gate, but could not stand in line without sitting for that long, either because of dizziness/pain/whatever, and because by this time the people have already spent considerable time in line. Or, they need to get a bathroom.

Edited to add: By the way, here I am talking about people who may well be able to walk short distances with or without the help of a cane, but for various reasons (arthritis, heart issues) cannot walk long distances or stand for long periods. Quite a few people, particularly the elderly, fall into this category.

10. And also, all this said? Can we perhaps consider that quite possibly the real problem is not people faking disabilities*, but that we have lines AT ALL for airport security, a process that by many accounts is not making anyone safer but is forcing people to waste time waiting in line and taking shoes on and off while giving security agents plenty of time and opportunity to steal electronics and sell them on eBay? After all, nobody is accusing anyone of faking a disability to get on Amtrak quickly.

This is a distraction. The real issue is what, if anything, we can do to make airports safer and more efficient for everyone. Including wheelchair users.

* Assuming they are faking – many people with chronic illnesses, including me, can look perfectly fine and healthy one moment, and be very sick the next moment.

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