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World Fantasy Con, 2013

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.)

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
samhenderson
Sep. 22nd, 2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
What the frackin frack?
I am so sorry.
mariness
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
At least I know people weren't lying to me. Not that I had any reason to think they would, other than, AUUGH, I am tired of hearing her bitch about accessibility issues every single year can she shut up already, which is understandable. (I'm tired too, so I can completely understand that reaction!)
fbhjr
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
It amazes me that folks who are supposed to be dedicated to thinking of things outside of the normal are so abysmally bad at doing so in real life.
mariness
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
Well, the counterargument to that is pretty simple: most events these days try to use wheelchair accessible venues, so, in a way, WFC IS thinking outside the normal.
fbhjr
Sep. 22nd, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
I think it should be magically better...
nihilistic_kid
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be outside the kaffeeklatches selling these:



for FOUR pounds. I'll make a fortune!
mariness
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:29 pm (UTC)
But are you ALSO providing overpriced coffee? Chocolate biscuits are only half the equation here!
fbhjr
Sep. 22nd, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
Oooo, biscuits!
ravena_kade
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
That sucks.
mariness
Sep. 23rd, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
Yes.
cardinalximinez
Sep. 22nd, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
Before I realized it was in the UK, my thought was, "Are they actively _soliciting_ an ADA lawsuit?"
mariness
Sep. 23rd, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Interestingly enough, the United Kingdom also has anti-discrimination laws that would seem to apply here. It's not just a U.S. thing.

cardinalximinez
Sep. 23rd, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
Point. It's just not the ADA specifically. :)
fjm
Sep. 23rd, 2013 06:30 am (UTC)
Indeed.

Marie, I don't have an email for you Mine is farah dot sf at gmail dot com.

This is what my lawyer friend has said (he is also a conrunner):

"WFC is, depending on how you look at it, either a service provider or an association for the purposes of EA 2010, and either way it is under a duty not to discriminate unless it can show that in the circumstances it is not reasonable to make adjustments to avoid doing so. Given that the requisite adjustment here would be 'hold the event somewhere accessible' then I doubt that WFC is complying with its legal duty.

The question is what is to be done about this? By and large the EA, like the DDA before it, creates legal liability rather than criminal offences, i.e. someone who suffers discrimination is given a legal cause of action to sue the service provider. I can see a lot of people grumbling about this, but is there anyone with standing to bring a legal claim (i.e. a member of WFC who is disabled and would be discriminated against) who is going to be willing to do so?"
mariness
Sep. 23rd, 2013 06:51 am (UTC)
I have standing, but I'm a U.S. citizen who is not really in a position to start up a lawsuit in the U.K. I'm not sure if there's anyone in the U.K. who has standing and is willing?

Email is mari_ness at hotmail dot com, although I'm about to zonk out for several hours.
secritcrush
Sep. 23rd, 2013 05:32 am (UTC)
It's really too bad - the rest of the hotel seems to be accessible. There doesn't seem to be a need to have these functions in a non-accessible room.

This only confirms my belief that the concom running this year's convention are assholes.
mariness
Sep. 23rd, 2013 06:46 am (UTC)
I read through that link earlier today and back last year when I was debating about going.

Most of the meeting rooms, the front desk and most of the bar are accessible, as are the pool and fitness area. However, the rest of the hotel is either not as accessible (getting into the hotel and the main restaurant) or outright not accessible (additional service areas). Wheelchair users cannot, for instance, use the main front entrance, although there is a side door. That website lists other issues.

mariness
Sep. 23rd, 2013 06:56 am (UTC)
Though I should add that at least there are workarounds for the main entrance and restaurant, and I'm willing to cut an old building a break for those things. Holding these Book Clubs in an inaccessible space when the hotel has accessible rooms....auugh.
secritcrush
Sep. 23rd, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's definitely not perfect but on the England scale really better than many. (As a counter example, I am working on a new wing for the institution which poses the Rosetta stone and one of the architects on the project decided that a wheel-chair accessible washroom could be accessed via the escape stair. This got a brisk use of the old "hell, no" stamp, but sadly, it is not unusual in my experience in how architects in the UK try to game the access requirements of the building code.
lokifan
Sep. 24th, 2013 09:27 am (UTC)
What the actual fuck? This is so unacceptable. I'm sorry.
mariness
Sep. 24th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
According to the organizers on their FAQ page, "The reaction to both The Book Clubs and the Kaffeeklatsches has been overwhelmingly positive," (http://wfc2013.org/faq01.html#faq15) So there's that.

I'm sticking with unacceptable and infuriating. I really did want to go to WFC this year. Grr.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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