Ables are like Jon Snow, they know nothing.
Media representation of disability is often either non- existent or so bad that we wish it doesn’t exist. There are basically four portrayals of disability most often presented by the media.
We are either superheroes overcoming adversity and inspiring Ables to live their lives to the fullest, or sob stories with our parents trying to raise money for our treatment and finally in fiction we always get to be the villains! Our lives are so horrible that we must hate everything and dream about destroying the world, right? If we aren’t hellbent on killing you all, then we at least want to kill ourselves. Because living with disability simply isn’t bearable, not even when you are a millionaire dating the khaleesi (cough, cough Me Before You).
Trying to learn anything about disability from most of the media today is a little bit like hoping to get the story of The Witcher books from the second season of the Netflix show.
Unlike unicorns disabled geeks are real
Apart from being stereotypical, incorrect, and downright harmful, there is one more thing all these portrayals have in common: they treat our disability as if it was our only personality trait.
Since life with disability in the eyes of Ables is such a tragedy our only focus should be on becoming able-bodied. Only after we’ll achieve this goal should we go out into the world and figure out who we really are.
Here is the thing: I will never be able-bodied, but I don’t really want to be. I don’t need to overcome my disability; society needs to overcome its ableism. And I most certainly don’t need to overcome my disability to know who I am. I am queer, I am a writer, an activist, a reader, and a geek (if all the pop culture references didn’t make it clear enough).
Yes, disabled people can be geeks. We play video games, watch Marvel and DC movies, read comic books, and write fanfiction. Some of us could quote Star Wars and Star Trek in their sleep and others tried to learn Sindarin (without much success, but I tried nonetheless).
Comic-Con at home
Geeks are often introverts, happy to spend time alone with a book, but we also love to talk about the stories we are obsessed with. To dissect our favourite characters or theorize on what will happen next.
Cons are places where we can go and do just that. We cosplay, play games, give in-depth lectures about TV shows and books, make new friends and, what is even better, find new stories to love.
Two years ago, for a lot of disabled geeks going to a con was impossible, but then the pandemic hit and suddenly impossible became quite possible.
Working and studying moved online and cultural events soon followed suit. You could watch theatre performances or attend the concert of Billie Eilish from home and yes you could go to Comic-Con without leaving your room!
It wasn’t just the big events that happened online. Slavcon, a small con that annually takes place in Bratislava, Slovakia was online, too. And it was great!
This proves that you don’t need a big budget or fancy technology to make your event accessible for disabled people.
Why then, did it take an actual apocalypse for it to happen? Because you weren’t thinking about us when you made it accessible, you were only thinking about yourself.
Cons and other events were always accessible because they are usually held in a building with a lift, you say? Usually doesn’t mean always but more importantly accessibility doesn’t end with just a lift or a ramp!
The easiest way to make your event accessible to ALL disabled people is to provide an option of attending online. That way people who can’t leave their home would still be able to come. You should also caption the videos and provide an audio commentary for deaf and blind people.
What was it? It would be too much work? And here I thought that organising events always meant a lot of work. One must rent a space for it, book the speakers, hire someone to take care of sound and lighting and other technical support, provide food and often accommodation for the people attending, make sure that first aid is available, do the marketing, have someone selling tickets, etc. You are willing to do all that but making your event accessible is too hard?
There aren’t enough disabled geeks to make it worth the effort? Disabled people are the biggest minority in the world so I beg to differ. Furthermore, by making your event accessible online you could attract people from other countries or people who wouldn’t be able to come in person because they have small kids at home. More people attending means more tickets sold and more money earned.
Disabled geeks could make cons better for you
Smaller cons like Slavcon are organised by fans for fans. People attending are also the ones giving lectures. I have given lectures about Arthurian retellings, The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, and the portrayal of witches in pop culture and I am disabled. By allowing other disabled people to attend Slavcon in the future, the organisers could find a lot of new lecturers with interesting things to say. And so, making cons accessible would make them better for everyone, including you.