Conventions, accessibility policies, and codes of conduct…AGAIN

Just when I thought we’d finished talking about World Fantasy Con and their policies (or lack of) around harassment and accessibility…we’re doing it again. Welcome to WFC 2016!

A part of me is boggling that, after all the discussion and WFC’s past record with harassment, they don’t have a code of conduct yet and are in no hurry to make one because “be nice to each other should be enough”. That’s basic shit. Hundreds of people were signing John Scalzi’s code of conduct pledge two and a half years ago.

*headdesk*

Jason Sanford explained the situation with WFC 2016 better than I can.

And Marie Brennan expressed her justified ire at the way this situation has become a safety surcharge for many due to the lack of accessibility policy.

I signed the convention accessibility pledge last year, too. Both of the conventions I am planning to attend already had their codes and policies in place because they’re annual cons, run by the same group each time, so they’re not starting from scratch each time. That makes my decision about buying early bird tickets pretty easy.

As I explained when I signed it, the pledge for me was in large part because I feel that conventions should be accessible to anyone regardless of ability or health status. Every part of the convention. Not “all the convention except these five panels in this room and, oh yeah, the main hall stage – hope you’re not on a panel there or receiving/presenting an award”. No really, that’s happened at WFC, and at far too many other cons.

It’s also because I have times when I have my own accessibility requirements. As the last few weeks have reminded me, I’m not always as mobile as I everyone else. If I bought a ticket today for a convention, I’d want to know that I’ll still be able to access that convention when I go, even if I am using my walking stick and need reserved seating somewhere I can make a fast exit from a room. If I don’t know that, I can’t buy the ticket at a time when it’s more affordable. It’s no good having policies that aren’t announced until two weeks before a convention, when most of the big expenses have become non-refundable.

Conventions that are a moving feast like WFC, Worldcon, and Eastercon need to change. They need to make their accessibility and code of conduct policies a part of their bid material. A key part, one that’s as important as their hotel information and financials.

As members who vote on site selections, we need to start demanding that this material is included in the bid. We need to tell bid teams that we won’t support them if they don’t have those policies in place before site selection happens. It’s the only way to make sure that the policies are taken seriously and are in place long before prices rise.

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