In which I am cranky and grateful about access in Chicago!

(I wrote part of this before BlogHer but forgot to post it!)

Anyone other people with disabilities going to BlogHer, by the way? I have not tried to mobilize to find out, but I’m wondering.

I am going to be able to get around town pretty well with regular taxis. My wheelchair folds up and fits in a car trunk and I think my hotel is close (though I have not actually checked! ) My main concern is that sometimes I just need to lie down somewhere. And I am fine with getting out of the chair and getting on the floor for a nap, which tends to freak people out. “OMG are you okay! Do you need help getting up! Did you fall?”

***

So, at BlogHer, the access was more or less okay.

The conference center at Navy Pier was very spread out, which means it’s exhausting and sometimes time consuming to get around. For example, there was no bathroom on the same floor as most of the panel rooms. The first time I needed the bathroom, it was hard to find one and I went way off in the wrong direction, and then had to take an elevator to it. Plus, you’d have an event on one side of the conference center, and then another event on the other side, separated by a giant crowded hall and two elevators.

I loathe Moscone Center for this reason as well. It is just Too Big and spread out. WisCon, in contrast, is in a hotel that perfectly fits 800-1000 people. The elevator problem is still there, but the exhaustion of moving around a huge space is eliminated!

Buildings in downtown Chicago had worse access, on the whole, than ones in downtown San Francisco. There were more tiny custom-installed lifts, and less ramps.

Lifts suck because they are almost always locked or not working or both. They’re loud, conspicuous, fussy, isolating, and clunky, and often they’re installed in the backass end of nowhere of the building while your friends are all going somewhere else, either because it doesn’t occur to anyone to keep you company or because they’re not allowed in the tiny awful lift.

The main problem, though, is that they’re kept locked and turned off. I flounced around Chicago telling building managers and security guards that it was illegal to keep the lifts turned off and locked. I don’t know if that’s true! But I can’t imagine that it’s not. It sucks, whether it’s illegal or not. I’ll go look it up and edit this entry later.

I ran into the “just two blocks” issue a few times. Someone would tell me somewhere else was just a couple of blocks away. It is always a mistake to believe this! It ***never*** is. Instead I found myself braving traffic and curbs and wheeling uphill 12 blocks over cobblestones, chain link fences, bricks, shark teeth, hot lava, and paths made of swords and darkness. Next time I will have prepared much better, with maps, and more phone numbers of taxis.

The big hotels were halfway okay. I became totally furious in the W Hotel when there was a ramp down from the lobby to the bar, but the ramp ENDED IN STAIRS. What the hell, people! I bitched. And rather than listen to anyone I told the hotel people to go away while I hobbled down the steps. I can totally do steps but it’s somewhat painful and after all day sitting up in the chair, I was not in the mood. It is awkward, and people stare, and I’d rather they stare at me and think “Oh Cool” while seeing me in a confident moment rather than seeing me limp and lean. Not that limping is bad mind you. Just that I was NOT WEARING MY PITY SHIELD that evening.

So then at a super fun fancy-ass dinner with a gazillion bloggers I had to swear my way into a dark pantry closet with some manager with a key while all the other employees and various random people stared and thought “Oh look the crippled chick is going to go and pee…” And was vastly annoyed and told them to leave the damned lift ON… with a light on… and with signs that say lift this way and bathrooms upstairs with a nice blue and white disability access logo.

Screw them!

I won’t even go into the Tale of the Sushi Restaurant and the Security Guards and the Building Lift and Chris Carfi helping me up the stairs! GAH. But I was grateful to the nice busboy who shook his fist at the non-working lift and who repeated my “fuck you!” that I yelled up the stairwell at the totally not-there security guard with the mythical lift key.

At City Centre hotel in contrast, I spoke to a polite manager once… and she was sympathetic. And the next time I came back to the hotel, I found this:

BlogHer

THE KEY in the lift!

That was so exciting, and it has never happened to me that a polite complaint has resulted in a policy change of this kind!

It was heartening beyond the happy convenience of being able to pee, get food and drinks, and talk with people upstairs when I wanted to… at my convenience… without fuss or frustration or delay.

Thanks, nice hotel manager!

BlogHer - nice hotel manager

About a week before the conference I think Elisa asked me if I knew any other bloggers with disabilities who would be there and what the issues might be. She was worried that I would not be able to ride the shuttle buses! I appreciated that concern. But the issues are sort of more complex than that!

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Pissed off cyborg in your face


New!
Originally uploaded by cdent

If this round of wheelchair use keeps for for much longer, then finally everyone in the known universe will have gone through their awkward reactions and I can stop having the most annoying boring conversation ever.

Here is something I wrote for WisCon. If only I could have forced all 1037 people there to read it.

A quick lesson in wheelchair manners:

1) Please ask before touching!
2) That goes for pushing the chair especially.
3) My lap is not your shelf.
4) I’ll ask if I need direct help.
5) “Would you like help” is fine, good manners; “Here let me do that for you” while doing it already — is not. I value my abilities.
6) Walking beside me is nicer than walking behind me; then I can see you.
7) Coming down to my level for conversation is extra polite, thanks! Looming over me especially from behind… not so much.
8) Think of the chair as an extension of my body or personal space, treat it as such.
9) Thanks for unblocking my path so I don’t get trapped, much appreciated. Move your backpack out of the aisle.
10) Really, please don’t move the chair! I wouldn’t pick you up and move you, would I?
11) Please don’t bump it either, it’s annoying and often it hurts me.
12) Let’s talk about science fiction and feminism instead of wheelchairs and disability and pain, once we get past introductory chit chat.
13) No I don’t really want to listen to your process your feelings and fears about disability unless we’re already friends.
14) No I don’t want your medical advice unless I ask for it.
15) If I ran over your toes, my bad, I’m so sorry
16) I’m not here to satisfy the whims of your curiosity. Why do you need to know? Why do you want to know? Could you possibly put off finding out till you know me better?

Clip and save!

Because that was the polite part. Here is the rude angry in your face part:

What ‘s wrong with you? Why are you in the chair? Oh my god WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? Is this temporary? Is this permanent? Did you break your leg? Did you go to the doctor? Did you get an MRI? What exactly is wrong? You sure get around well, how did you learn? When will you be out of the chair? Are you sure? I’m so sorry! Are you in pain? Are you going to die? You sure look comfortable. Wow lucky you, you get to sit down while we’re all standing in line. OMG are you OKAY?

(Answers: Nothing, what the hell is wrong with YOU? So that I can get around. I was born and then grew up, what happened to you? I don’t know. I don’t know. No, but I can tell you really really really want me to have broken my leg. What do you think, do you think I went to a doctor, but that’s not what you’re asking, you’re asking what my prognosis is. Do you want to help diagnose me? I don’t know but I have some possibilities which we could discuss exhaustively OR we could have some other more interesting conversation. I learned last time I was crippled which was around 93-98 with varying degrees of disability, oh that surprises you, check your assumptions at the door; oh by the way you seem to get around really well for someone with their head up their own ass. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry too, for your mama for raising someone so rude and boring, I’d rather be crippled than be a drip like you. Yes I am quite likely in a considerable amount of pain, and you know what, I also was in varying degrees of physical pain when you saw me walking around, why must you bring it up? Yes I’m going to die and so are we all and so are you, especially, about 5 seconds from now. If you want to try being as comfortable as I am I can beat you up right now and stab some daggers into your back. Uh yeah lucky me I have run out of sarcasm to even throw at this one, o falsely jocular person. Yeah, are YOU okay?

Hey you know what, world? Let’s have a conversation about your painful struggle with your own hemorrhoids. Because apparently your head is up your ass. That must be really painful for you and I really admire how you deal with the challenge!

Every time I go out in public in a crowd I get totally fed up. I’m really sick of being the crippled girl. It was a relief last night to scoot over to the couch for a bit and have the pressure off me, the pressure of being looked at and stuck in that box in people’s minds.

You can see their faces as they think “Wow… that could happen to me.”

Pain is annoying and tiring and distracting, and I have very much valued the times it goes away (rare) and that it doesn’t interfere with physical function too much. However, it is not new. It is also not the end of the world.

Limited mobility is annoying and distracting and inconvenient and sometimes isolating or frustrating but you know what… the worst part of it for me so far is the way it makes people act like dumbasses.

I’m off to write a really dumb Mary Sue-ish science fiction story where everyone slathers pity on the people who can’t interface with the cyborg telepathic alien hovercraft symbionts and are doomed to dreary, unassisted, bipedal motion.

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Pink and sparkly

Okay on the one hand, Geek Girl Bingo. Pink, sparkly, cute, colour choice, stereotype city. I am totally down with calling people on their constant application of these ideas to femininity.

On the other hand, I kind of want this. On the substrate of the pink and sparkly Hello Kitty laptop, I would add a million bad attitude stickers, and it would be glorious. I could mod my Hello Kitty with some green tentacles to make a Hello Cthulhu. It’s kind of a problem.

Clearly my mind is not free from colonization.

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