Daisy Brookes – Ekko Cosplay

Over the years I’ve applied for many an access pass, some have made the con a dream to attend and others have been like slapping a great big sticker on my face that singles me out. On the whole the purpose of access passes, carer tickets or extra help wristbands is to make cons safer and easier to attend for disabled people, so why is it that at the majority of events, this isn’t the case?

There are lots of reasons for the stigma around these passes, and the way the application process for them is handled can not only be disheartening at times, but downright discriminatory. As disabled people, we sometimes suffer singling out and mistreatment on a near day to day basis; it’s frustrating when you want to do something fun and for yourself and you’re hit with hurdle after hurdle.

Whilst I understand that all events need a system and process for best supplying access passes and carer tickets to who they need to go to, I do feel there needs to be better training in empathy and tact when it comes to handling these situations. Being disabled in the current climate is a huge umbrella of conditions that all require different kinds of access and extra help. Having people properly understand this is the first step to making the process less distressing for attendees. I think with recent issues I’ve seen on social media, it’s really important to highlight the difference between Extra Help and free Carer passes. Whilst yes, I fully agree that specific Carer Passes need to be evaluated on a case by case basis, Extra Help could cover a manor of things and shouldn’t be so viciously exclusive. Doctors notes, benefit awards letters and Blue Badges are often amongst the usual list of documents required as proof. I’ve always wondered, why isn’t a CEA card on that list? If it works for the theatre and cinema then why not conventions?

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The requirements from Wales Comic Con to claim an access pass. MCM also have these same requirements.

In this ever changing world of invisible illnesses and varying mental health conditions, we need to broaden our minds when it comes to being aware and accepting. If someone tells you they need extra help, I feel it’s important to accept that. I know there’s a fear that people would try to cheat the system but is it fair that all other people who genuinely need help are then forced to suffer because of this small minority? It’s the same argument that because of the few people who cheat the benefit system, all deserving applicants are put through rigorous, stressful and often dehumanising hell to “prove” they deserve the help they need.

The requirement of “proof” has always been a difficult subject. It breeds judgement, mistreatment and fear as being asked for proof is something we have to go through far too often. From professionals to random strangers on the street, there seems to always be someone questioning the validity of our disability. Like I said, I understand that sometimes it is a requirement, but other times I feel we should be listening to disabled people and their voices rather than talking over them. I’ve seen far too many situations where someone has tried to speak up about an issue they’ve found or need help with only to be trampled on by others asking to prove that they’re “ill enough” to qualify for sympathy and understanding. You shouldn’t have to prove yourself sick enough to be listened to.

Another thing I see brought up in the argument against Carer Passes is, aren’t you just blagging someone in for free? This is a mindset we absolutely have to get rid of. Attending a con as a carer is not the same as attending the con as a guest. Although you are attending the event, it comes with all manor of hurdles that could need attending to. It’s about the safety of the person you’re caring for, and making sure that they are able to attend the event properly. I’m guilty of joking that I’m bringing a friend for free when they agree to be my carer for the day at an event, but every friend who has come with me to be a carer knows that it is hardly that. It takes a lot to help me at a con, especially if I’m having a hard time, and I don’t even have a condition that requires severe care, so for others with more enhanced requirements it’s incredibly important to have someone able to help you at any given moment.

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With my bright orange access pass at LFCC this summer!

Following on from this, it’s the argument about money and discounts. Is it a swindle to get a free ticket? Why do carers get to go free and not parents who take their kids? My response to this tends to be that being disabled makes being alive more expensive. It’s not just little things, near every aspect of life is made more expensive by being disabled. This is why concessions for disabled attendees are so necessary. If you’ve ever tried to apply for any kind of benefit from the government, you’ll know how difficult it is to qualify or get the help you may need and that the current governing party try very hard to stop people from succeeding with their applications. So income is a whole other issue probably not worth getting into that right now. Oh and arguing that parents should go free, it’s already a thing, it’s called a family pass or “kids under 12 go free”

I know this went on a tangent out of the specific “con community” view but it’s something I feel conventions all need to work on. Acceptance is a huge movement for the cosplay community on so many levels, and I hope that we can all continue to work on how we see and accept disabilities in the community.

If you want to read more like this, please check out my last piece for The Cosplay Journal- my review for LFCC this past July! I’ll be reviewing all the conventions I go to from now on in a hope that’ll it’ll bring light to the good and the bad and maybe even spur some change!

Read more of The Access Review: