World Fantasy 2016, and choices

First, a bit of background. The World Fantasy Convention is a gathering of writers, artists, editors, other pros and fans that I try to get to every year. It moves from city to city, which means that although it has an overall board running things, it’s run by a different group each year.

One thing, however, stays the same: World Fantasy offers tiered registration prices, depending upon when you register. This year, those who registered up until January 31st, 2016, paid $150.00. Between February 1 and April 14, 2016, the price is $225.00 – an increase of $75. After April 14, 2016, the price jumps again to $275.00. The price at the door is $300. World Fantasy also caps attendance, so those who wait to register may not be able to attend. Membership is non refundable although memberships can be transferred.

I’ve always registered early, partly to take advantage of the price, I’ll admit, but also to ensure I’ll even be able to attend – past World Fantasy cons have sold out early.

I’ve also had major accessibility issues at three out of the last five World Fantasy conventions. I was not even able to attend the fourth WFC, after I was informed – by the hotel – that I would not be able to get to parts of that convention. Including – and I’m not making this up – Registration. The fifth was fine, leading me to hope that yes, WFC was finally committed to having accessible cons.

Unfortunately, the very next year, more problems.

This led to my new policy of only attending conventions with accessibility policies.

As I type, the 2016 World Fantasy Convention does not have an accessibility policy on its website.

Prices went up yesterday.

On Sunday, January 31st, I commented on this on Twitter, and got the usual “Wow that sucks” retweets and so on. I sent yet another email out to WFC.

And on Sunday, the convention spoke to a few people in a locked Facebook group. Screencaps were obtained. Jason Sanford has the screencaps, along with his comments, here.

I went on an epic Twitter rant about this, which was Storified here, along with some other links discussing this.

I don’t want to repeat everything I said on Twitter – it’s exhausting – except to add one more thing: I do appreciate that the World Fantasy Con volunteers are short on time. I appreciate it, because I’ve spent so much time on this stuff that could have been spent on other things.

But I did want to respond to a comment that I did not see until after my Twitter rant, from Morgan Feldstein, not to pick on this person in particular (I don’t think we’ve met) but because the comment encapsulates so many things I’ve heard about accessibility.

Quoting two sentences:

“It’s certainly not a moral wrong for a conference to accept reservation payments before posting harassment and accessibility policies. You are not obliged to make your reservation until they are, but you are not entitled to block other persons who wish to do so from registering prior to the policies being posted.”

Let’s start here.

First, I am not in any way, shape or form attempting to block other people from registering for World Fantasy Con. I am not organizing a boycott. I have not asked other people not to go. I have not asked World Fantasy to close its registration system.

What I HAVE asked for, repeatedly, is some form of public statement from World Fantasy Con about their accessibility policy. And I have done this because of repeatedly running into accessibility concerns at previous World Fantasy Cons.

And because last year, I paid the same price as other members, and didn’t get the same access to the convention. I had to stay on ground level while my fellow panelists got to go up on the stage.

That’s they moral wrong: I’m paying the same, but I’m not getting the same access.

(And a small note, from what I can tell, no one in the original Facebook discussion group was attempting to block anyone from registering either – they just wanted to know if the early bird price would be extended, especially for wheelchair users who were waiting for find out if the event was even accessible before registering.)

Moving on, we have this:

“You chose to sign the pledges and adhere to their terms….. If you choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers, any associated financial burdens are yours to bear and yours alone.”

This statement, of course, is in response to Jason Sanford, but it’s also in response to others who have not registered yet for World Fantasy because of a lack of accessibility and/or harassment policies.

1. First, not everyone talking about this signed the pledges.

I didn’t.

2. I didn’t choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers. I haven’t promised John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal anything at all.

3. I haven’t registered yet for World Fantasy Con because I use a wheelchair and I don’t know if the convention will be accessible. “Held in an ADA facility” isn’t enough; I’ve had accessibility issues in ADA facilities.

Others have reported harassment issues at previous WFCs. Hopefully, this won’t be happening at this year’s WFC (fingers crossed) but I can understand why those who have felt harassed at previous WFCs want to know what this year’s harassment policy will be.

4. Absolutely, the associated financial burdens are mine to bear and mine alone. THAT IS PRECISELY THE PROBLEM. After causing me various accessibility issues over the past five years, World Fantasy Con is now going to charge me at least another $75 because SOMEONE ELSE failed to a) answer my emails or b) put a note up on the webpage stating that the con organizers are and will be addressing accessibility concerns.

5. I don’t think it’s particularly unreasonable to want to make sure you can do an event before paying for it.

6. The words “choose” and “chose” and “choice” are interesting here.

Because I didn’t choose to get sick or need a wheelchair.

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