Tags: disability

xmas me

World Fantasy Con 2016, Update

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.
xmas me

New accessibility and disability policy

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.
xmas me

World Fantasy Convention 2015 - Disability and Accessibility

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.
xmas me

Hugo Awards and other stuff

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.
xmas me

A place without bookstores

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.
xmas me

Flash

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.

Collapse )
xmas me

Quick note

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.
xmas me

Trains and Bath and seagulls and stuff

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.
xmas me

London

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.
xmas me

Disabled, with reservations

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.