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mreynolds

Special Needs Feedback

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Were you an attendee with special needs, accessibility concerns, or an assistant to such a guest? If so, please comment below about your experiences. I ask that you do not respond unless you were directly affected.

We tried something new this year, and are working on changing it to better serve your needs. However, after reading a few threads, I noticed some people did encounter problems. One that sticks out is being denied access to elevators and escalators. As long as the machinery works, all of our members with special needs should be permitted access. If you were not permitted access, I would like to know as much as possible about the encounter. Which elevator/escalator? When? Who was it? How did the conversation go? Did you have a ribbon?

For those that have had a positive experience, also let me know what worked best for you. For all that have made use of our special needs program, please comment on suggestions that you think would make for a better experience. Remember to keep the suggestions reasonable.

I may not be able to respond to all posts, due to time constraints, but I will try to address as many as I can.

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I spent much of the convention with a friend who can only use stairs/escalators with extreme difficulty; as such they were equipped with a Priority badge to allow access to elevators. While we did not encounter any staff who refused to let us on elevators, there were a few that were out of service - this is of course by no means the fault of Otakon, but a sweep to ensure their functionality and signs to indicate if they are nonfunctioning might be beneficial to everyone.

Our largest problem by far was the confusing door policy on the east/S Charles St. doors on both floors. We intentionally chose a hotel on that side of the Inner Harbor due to the presence of the skywalk, which allowed us to get directly to the convention with minimal hassle. What we found is that at seemingly random times, one or both of the side doors would be blocked off by security for no apparent reason. This caused us to have to double back to our hotel in many cases in order to "try" another door. Furthermore, the 100-level door on S. Charles St. is a designated special needs entrance and was often locked, with security telling us to "go around" to the front entrance. This is impossible because as stated, stairs are not really an option.

I think if the door situation is resolved, the convention will be a much happier place for everyone - outside of these two issues we did not encounter any particular difficulties and greatly enjoyed the con.

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We didn't encounter any problems here (we had a baby stroller).

Elevators do shut down and not much can be done about that. But when the one elevator outside the Dealer's Room exit was down, we (and another family with a girl in a scooter) asked around and were personally escorted by an Otakon staff member through the DR so that we could go out the entrance and not be refused exit by anyone trying to do their job. We were very appreciative of that. Thank you. smile.png

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I would like to thank the special needs staff for their assistance with my impaired hearing. The fact that you guys were willing to accommodate me absolutely made my con! I would also like to thank all the staff who worked in the Hilton on Saturday for their help, patience, and understanding. I wish I could shake your hands!

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This year, when main elevators started breaking down, our Access Control team, plus a few other departments, provided escort to the nearest working elevator. To those who helped with escorting, seriously, I love you guys. For 2013, the escort duty will be more refined, so that we aren't stealing staff from other duties. Additionally, I plan to organize and document fallback methods when elevators and escalators break.

wasurenai: There is a ramp to the front entrance of the Charles Street Lobby, near the men's restroom. Anyone on duty should have told this to you if they were blocking a doorway. Next year, I will have signs placed to make it more apparent. The downside there is that crowding makes it "interesting" to get from the elevator to that ramp. I'll see what I can arrange for the side door next year.

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wasurenai: There is a ramp to the front entrance of the Charles Street Lobby, near the men's restroom. Anyone on duty should have told this to you if they were blocking a doorway. Next year, I will have signs placed to make it more apparent. The downside there is that crowding makes it "interesting" to get from the elevator to that ramp. I'll see what I can arrange for the side door next year.

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@Marajsky I think to qualify for special needs you need to prove that your disability is something that needs an accommodation. I don't think diabetes is one of them. It may cause a disability down the road, but itself is just a condition. I have diabetes and would not even think of applying for special needs.

That said, I think the priority badges need improvement. We ran into no difficulties (my girlfriend had a leg cast) with elevators/escalators. However, we felt the staff was over accommodating. While waiting in line for a panel, a staff noticed the priority badge and asked if she'd like a seat up front. We respectfully declined. I think that badges should be coded based on accommodation? Such as a person whose hard on hearing might need priority seating near a speaker, but may not necessarily need an escalator to get upstairs?

My girllfried would like to add that her priority bage made her feel like she had a VIP pass, and it was nice.

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I had absolutely no issues getting around and both the con and BCC staff were very kind and polite with me as I navigated around. I do wish the dealer's room exit elevator had been marked as out of order because it was confusing.

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Thank you for your reply. There is indeed a ramp to the front of the Charles Street Lobby, however unless I am mistaken there is no ramp into the Lobby itself, as there are stairs heading into the lobby in front of the fountains. The front of the lobby marks the handicapped entrance at the ground floor doors, which are often blocked. The alternatives are the 200-level S Charles St. skywalk doors (also often blocked), or simply walking around the entire convention center to another entrance and using the 200-level elevator into the lobby. As you can imagine, this is a rather silly exercise that can be avoided if the doors on one or both floors of the S Charles St. entrance are left open until the convention is closed for the evening. Please let me know if you have any further questions or suggestions regarding our difficulties.

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I spent much of the convention with a friend who can only use stairs/escalators with extreme difficulty; as such they were equipped with a Priority badge to allow access to elevators. While we did not encounter any staff who refused to let us on elevators, there were a few that were out of service - this is of course by no means the fault of Otakon, but a sweep to ensure their functionality and signs to indicate if they are nonfunctioning might be beneficial to everyone.

Our largest problem by far was the confusing door policy on the east/S Charles St. doors on both floors. We intentionally chose a hotel on that side of the Inner Harbor due to the presence of the skywalk, which allowed us to get directly to the convention with minimal hassle. What we found is that at seemingly random times, one or both of the side doors would be blocked off by security for no apparent reason. This caused us to have to double back to our hotel in many cases in order to "try" another door. Furthermore, the 100-level door on S. Charles St. is a designated special needs entrance and was often locked, with security telling us to "go around" to the front entrance. This is impossible because as stated, stairs are not really an option.

I think if the door situation is resolved, the convention will be a much happier place for everyone - outside of these two issues we did not encounter any particular difficulties and greatly enjoyed the con.

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Suggestion!

Since the ramp in the Charles Street Lobby is so close to the door do you think it would be possible for security to keep it clear or at least make it a special needs only area with a sign and all? I have noticed that people just like to stand and sit around on it despite having no point in being there.

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All:

  • I don't have direct say in the door policies, but I will talk to the powers that be, regarding the Charles Street Lobby east entrance (the entrance along Charles Street).

  • Thanks for the feedback!

egyptianruin:

  • Getting to that ramp from the elevators is near impossible when in a wheelchair or scooter. I know, because I tried.

  • If you do manage to get there, and someone is blocking the way, ask staff for assistance. Nobody should be sitting/waiting on such a ramp.

karari:

  • There were two types of ribbons this year. The first, Priority, provides access to elevators and escalators. The second, Priority+, provides access to the same, plus seating accommodations. Very few people need seating accommodations without elevator/escalator access (around 15), so it would not have made sense to request an order of seating-only ribbons (minimum order 250). I will see if there's a brighter color for the + so staff can differentiate faster from a distance.

justsonya:

  • I will be requesting signs to mark elevators as being out of order, with inserts indicating the nearest working one.

Marajsky:

  • I will work with our security liaison and scheduling team, so that the times for entrances/exits are documented, and adhered to.

  • Can you explain the problems you had with attendees and staff?

  • Regarding the "3rd degree," we have quite a few attendees pretending to be handicapped, so that they can use the resources that are really meant for those that actually need it. We ask for obviousness or some form of documentation, as this allows for instant verification. A placard typically isn't sufficient, as they are given out for almost anything, most of which do not require elevator/escalator accommodations.

  • Diabetes by itself does not require elevator/escalator accommodations. The ribbons are not meant to mark you as handicapped, but to mark you as permitted to use medically needed resources.

Aux10:

  • The problem with that specific ramp is that it dumps out to the opposite corner of the lobby. Those using it will have to fight their way through crowds of photoshoots, gathers, and dance groups.

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Please note: This is a joke and is not meant to be taken seriously! Also please don't do this, It's dangerous!

Those using it will have to fight their way through crowds of photoshoots, gathers, and dance groups.

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I would have had a little too much fun with a plow on the front of the scooter I was using. (Well, fun for me, not so much for those in my path.)

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What is the official rule for documentation? Logistically to get a handicapped placard (at least in Maryland) it has to be signed by a medical professional before submitting to the MVA. Is that adequate? A doctor's note? Where is the line of privacy on this one? I ask because in my case, the disabilities aren't obvious but their impact is signficant. But they're also private and I shouldn't be required to disclose all of them, or prove them, for basic accomodations that are no cost ot Otakon.

I've never had problems before getting the sticker/flag at Otakon, and have never been asked to provide proof. So I guess I'm surprised by this part of the topic. Maybe I just look handicapped and don't realize it? LOL!

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Marajsky:

  • I will work with our security liaison and scheduling team, so that the times for entrances/exits are documented, and adhered to.

  • Can you explain the problems you had with attendees and staff?

  • Regarding the "3rd degree," we have quite a few attendees pretending to be handicapped, so that they can use the resources that are really meant for those that actually need it. We ask for obviousness or some form of documentation, as this allows for instant verification. A placard typically isn't sufficient, as they are given out for almost anything, most of which do not require elevator/escalator accommodations.

  • Diabetes by itself does not require elevator/escalator accommodations. The ribbons are not meant to mark you as handicapped, but to mark you as permitted to use medically needed resources.

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What is the official rule for documentation? Logistically to get a handicapped placard (at least in Maryland) it has to be signed by a medical professional before submitting to the MVA. Is that adequate? A doctor's note? Where is the line of privacy on this one? I ask because in my case, the disabilities aren't obvious but their impact is signficant. But they're also private and I shouldn't be required to disclose all of them, or prove them, for basic accomodations that are no cost ot Otakon.

I've never had problems before getting the sticker/flag at Otakon, and have never been asked to provide proof. So I guess I'm surprised by this part of the topic. Maybe I just look handicapped and don't realize it? LOL!

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Saturday afternoon I believe, there were people taking pictures ON the ramp. They were on the lower portion, in the center of the walkway. They were taking pictures for at least 5 minutes. No one, disabled or not, could use that ramp. I informed a staff member and they said that they'd take care of it. So in the future you may want some staff to occasionally walk through there and check things out.

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Marajsky & justsonya:

A doctor's note can say something to the effect of "patient needs seating accommodations" or "patient needs elevator access." Such a note would not disclose anything private.

A placard will not be sufficient by itself. However, the placard, combined with an explanation of need, should be enough. I should have clarified this bit earlier, to avoid confusion. For that, I apologize.

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Is there anything in writing about this? Because historically, I've flagged the box when pre-registering, and have never been asked for anything at the counter. I also question a bit the request for disclosure of information and the ethics of that. I can understand wanting to filter down to the truly in need, but who has the ability on staff to truly evaluate that? In addition for most people, it's an extremely personal and uncomfortable topic. I didn't have the experience others did this year, but there's something subjective about that process that leaves a lot open to personal opinion. I know I wouldn't be comfortable disclosing my health issues to a complete stranger, just to use an escalator, and I shouldn't have to.

One way or another, however, it should be clearly documented what people need to provide.

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justsonya:

The special needs guide mentions having a doctor/hospital note. There is no requirement listed for the note to have detailed medical information. I will update the guide to specify that the note only needs to disclose need to use resources, not why.

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I work with individuals with special needs. I ran into one of my clients at the convention. The only concerns I saw was he was told to ask staff to run the elevators and his person care staff was unable to use it for him. It was a hassle having to find staff to assist, and when his staff did try to use it for him he was stopped. this ended up making him late for various activities..

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The only concerns I saw was he was told to ask staff to run the elevators and his person care staff was unable to use it for him.

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There is no requirement for staff to accompany anyone on an elevator, unless they are being escorted through restricted passages, out of the convention, or at the request of the member. This is known by all Otakon staff, and told to BCC security and CES throughout the weekend.

dgcosplay:

Can you ask your client for a description of the person in question, along with time and location, and pass that along via the online help desk? I'm kinda confused why something like this hasn't been brought up at the Special Needs desk, nor con feedback panel, nor the numerous email addresses, nor the online help desk before now.

Aux10:

I'm working on internal policies, which will be shared with all departments, so that everyone is on the same field. This is the first year Special Needs existed as an actual project, so there were some bumps along the way. I hope to pave over those bumps over the next few months.

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I was someone with a Priority+ badge this year and while I had no real issues with elevator or escalator use per se, there were a few situations that made my enjoyment of the con less than zero.

1. Friday afternoon, around 4pm or so, a friend (who's also disabled- her leg and ankle are held together with titanium rods, plates, and screws) and I were attempting to make our way out of the building. Our panel had just let out and the closest exit was by registration. Not only were the escalators not working, but the elevator was out of order. I understand that things break down but there should have been a notification or something signifying where the next working elevator was. Can this not be something added to the guidebook next year? As it is I had help my friend down the outside steps while not trying to fall down them myself because I have a bad leg as well.

2. Saturday evening around 7pm or so, I was trying to exit the Charles Street lobby via the "handicap accessible" doors as I was having problems with my asthma and visible difficulty walking, when I was stopped by a one of the BCCC staff. She informed me that I had to use the steps and when I explained to her my reason for the needing the door and the showing her my badge, she told me "Unless you're in a wheel chair, I don't consider you disabled so I can't unlock the door. Go find someone in either a green or white shirt." Since that made absolutely no sense to me and I was feeling faint, I went for the steps; I almost made it to the top when I tripped over someone sitting on the steps and nearly face planted. I twisted my foot and wound up limping on a swollen ankle the rest of the weekend.

My question: were the BCCC staff even informed of what those badges meant? I'm not the only person in my group that had Priority passes that had issues and run ins with the BCCC staff people as they seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help.

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I was escorting my girlfriend who has a genetic disorder with her knee, so she cannot make it up and down stairs. We tried to use the escalator (on our way to pick up the priority badge) that leads up to the registration area, when BCC staff told us we weren't allowed to use the escalator (which was currently running). We then got in the elevator next to it which was being operated by a staffer. Not sure what his name was, but he had long hair and big boots. He didn't say anything, and took us up to the registration floor. We went and got the priority sticker for her badge, and when we got back in the elevator to go down, another staffer had gotten into the elevator he was operating, and told us we weren't allowed to use it.

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Ultimecia09:

I will talk with the gentleman in charge of Guidebook to see if we can do that for next year. I also plan to have detour signs made for when elevators break. The BCC staff, police, and hired security do get told about things that affect access. Whether they pay attention is another story.

RoosterSamurai:

Via private message, send me the best description you can remember of the person who wouldn't allow you to use the elevator. If possible, include the time and date.

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Ultimecia09:

I will talk with the gentleman in charge of Guidebook to see if we can do that for next year. I also plan to have detour signs made for when elevators break. The BCC staff, police, and hired security do get told about things that affect access. Whether they pay attention is another story.

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I had a Priority+ badge and it helped me tremendously.  I have a bad ankle, that was previously dislocated, which is still held together by plates and screws, and being able to have a seat up front where I could have free space for my leg instead of it being jammed up against a chair in front was extremely helpful.  Secondly, I was able to get a chair to sit on while waiting for the Tetsuya Kakihara autograph line, which was also extremely helpful as standing in place for a while starts to get extremely painful for me.  Sitting on the floor is not a much better option for me, as it is pretty difficult for me to be able to get back up if there is nothing around to hold on to.

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Marajsky & justsonya:A doctor's note can say something to the effect of "patient needs seating accommodations" or "patient needs elevator access." Such a note would not disclose anything private.A placard will not be sufficient by itself. However, the placard, combined with an explanation of need, should be enough. I should have clarified this bit earlier, to avoid confusion. For that, I apologize.

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Marajsky & justsonya:A doctor's note can say something to the effect of "patient needs seating accommodations" or "patient needs elevator access." Such a note would not disclose anything private.A placard will not be sufficient by itself. However, the placard, combined with an explanation of need, should be enough. I should have clarified this bit earlier, to avoid confusion. For that, I apologize.

OK I just came from my doctor who wrote a note on a RX script is this OK or does this note have to be typed?

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Marajsky & justsonya:A doctor's note can say something to the effect of "patient needs seating accommodations" or "patient needs elevator access." Such a note would not disclose anything private.A placard will not be sufficient by itself. However, the placard, combined with an explanation of need, should be enough. I should have clarified this bit earlier, to avoid confusion. For that, I apologize.

OK I just came from my doctor who wrote a note on a RX script is this OK or does this note have to be typed?

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Hi first I would like to say over all as someone with a medical issue I'm on the Heart Transplant List when I came in for Pre-Reg Thursday and told staff I was going to Special Needs they were very polite ask me what my medical issue was and if I need to use the elevator I wish I could recall who was there it was around 6pm if that helps while I decline they did make sure I got upstairs and over to the line with no problems, as for getting the badge is was fast and hassel free the gentleman made me feel like I was a person showed him my Permidited Disable Card and Heart Inplant card no question ask, asked if they need to see a list of meds I take he was no that is not needed, he did say make sure you have all that info on you at all times(Which I do). Now my only question is how does one get the + and how does Special Needs decide who get's it because I have trouble going up and down stairs and a couple times when I wanted to go tot he dealers room I was heading over to the elevator and was told I need to stand in line and that I needed the Special Needs+ badge and other time's I was escorted to the elevator and brought right o the front door.

 

Also would like to give out a special shout out to some of the BCC Staff that were working on Sat Afternoon thru early evening I was heading up the stairs and they came over and said Sir if you like you can go out these doors(100) level and if needed we can help you up the stairs to the street that help out allot because at that point my legs were starting to give me troubles.

 

May I make one suggestion for next year is when the folks are handing out our badges that someplace they mark what type of medical issue we have, this is more for in case something happens if you didn't know I was on the Transplant list you wouldn't know my medial issue with a simple thing like heart condition or what every the medical issue is on the back this could mean the difference between life or death for someone if something does happen. I had a small attack on Sat evening and the staffer who escorted me to the third floor food area so I can sit down asked me if I was okay and what type of medical problem I had and asked if she need to have medical ast. come over I explained to her that I just need to sit down and rest she had a gofer stay with me till I felt better once again your staff folks are great and thank you for making my con a better one.

 

Oh one other question to have a compain with me what are the requirerments

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Ehhh was this in regards to Otakon 2012?

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Ugh Trying to convince my dad who has a pinched nerve in his back and thus has rather extensive leg pain and is like me a HEFTY guy to get a special needs badge for himself Trying to explain to him that cons mean LINES and LOTS of walking.

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I didn't have a priority ribbon, but as a staff member with a messed up knee I found the constant breakdown of escalators to be a huge inconvenience. Especially when I needed to use the Sharp St/Otterbein throughway to move fluidly around the center only to have the escalators broken. And I was curious as to why the Sharp St Lobby entrance and the Otterbein were closed so often to everyone, including staff.

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I will have to say not all physical handicaps are evident.  I will have to say that I'm currently recovering from an extended period of gout-related knee joint pain and I managed to act like a relative trooper what with all the stairway access and the like in and around the BCC and Hilton areas.  Due to my gout pain, using the stair severely hampered my speed by a lot.  All this, and I didn't request a special priority ribbon. 

 

Would I have attempted to get one?  Well, no, because I've only limited experience with such acute attacks on gout.  I know they can last for a temporary time period, but it really does depend on the uric level deposits within the joint.  Yes, the nature of such attacks does give intense pain, but I was really on the tail end of my ordeal.  Should I have bothered with "Special Needs" access?  Maybe...but luckily, I'm not dead...yet... :-)

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My girlfriend was Priority+. She received bad info from a staffer (line mistress?) named Allie on Saturday, telling us to come to a certain time and place on Sunday in order to figure out ticketing for Priority+ for the Sunday concert. Unfortunately, the info was incorrect, but Allie, who is now my personal hero, made good on her promises of tickets after having accidentally jerked us around a bit. Allie, kudos to you. You did an excellent job and saved our Otakon.

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As the companion to a priority + friend, I want to give a shout out to the young blonde staffer who was working the other end of the MTA3k line by the 4th floor escalators (Didn't catch her name!) Said friend and I knew it was going to be a popular event and were concerned about being separated, as we had had word from two other priority friends that it had happened to them earlier in the day. This staffer told us it was illegal to separate us, asked us about when it had happened to our friend, and told us to go ahead into the room and come back to her if we had any issues getting in. We were allowed in and I got said friend some water. It may just be a little thing, but I wanted to say thank you to her for taking our concerns seriously and being polite and willing to help.

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1st thing I want to thank ALL STAFFERS we encountered.  My DH and I both had different disabilities this year and from the minute we walked up to door to get our badges on Thurs. night, we were treated like celebs.  There were 3 staffers sitting at the entrance and when we explained we were trying to get to special needs, 1 of them volunteered to escort us there.  He was very polite to us, yet at the same time 'parted the waters' with such skill that we made it there without delay and w/o a scratch.   The people at the booth listened to our explanation that standing for long periods of time was problematic and immediately changed our badges from priority to priority +.  There was never any problem getting in to any event.  Pri folks were asked to wait to the opposite side of the line and seated 1st.  The BCC security people I met were also courteous to me allowing me to use the escalator when I showed them my badge.  I know I would not have enjoyed the con as much as I did were it not for them.

 

That being said, I have an observation and a suggestion.  At no time when I went to use the elevator did I see anyone watching/guarding/making sure that Pri and Companions alone were using the elevator.  I was there all 3 days.  I thought that was odd, but I think it was also a tribute to the honesty of other otaku and perhaps that the escalators were working more often than not.

 

My suggestion is that a few chairs be set outside of each door for those of us with standing issues.  I realize that might not be practical for all areas, and as long as someone can help me up if I have to sit on the floor, which happened a few times, I'm fine.

 

Thanks again.

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I wanted to thank the "Special Needs" staff at Otakon 2013; they make my weekend all it could be! But I do have one complaint; the info about the Sunday concert passes for us with priority + badges was totally f-ed up!! But thanks to Rea (who called me not only once but twice with info on getting the passes) and Allie (who was our proxy for the passes) we got our passes and saw the concert!! I just wanted to thank them for helping not only us but the other “Special Needs” con goers too!

 

Thanks sooo much!!!

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My suggestion is that a few chairs be set outside of each door for those of us with standing issues.  I realize that might not be practical for all areas, and as long as someone can help me up if I have to sit on the floor, which happened a few times, I'm fine.

 

Thanks again.

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I'm glad Rea and Allie were there for you guys.  She wasn't there when I arrived and I was hoping to get tickets for me and my husband.  It actually wouldn't have mattered as the tix were gone by the time I got there.  But still, I was surprised when I was told that Staff was told that Pri did not apply to getting tickets to Ms. Kanno's concert.  Fortunately, I was able to get into the simulcast with no trouble at all; all the people who had been standing in line were seated by the time I got there and there were plenty of seats left.

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Let me preface this by saying I wasn't on the lookout for anything, nor am I special needs, so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt. I just want to say, the interpreter for the deaf deserves a HUGE award.  I saw him at both the Burlesque show and at Voice Actors After Dark.

This man was a champ. He played along with all of the jokes the VAs were doing and ADDED to the show for us who do not require special needs, while helping those who did. Assuming it was Otakon that hired him -- Please, continue to do so.

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Let me preface this by saying I wasn't on the lookout for anything, nor am I special needs, so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt. I just want to say, the interpreter for the deaf deserves a HUGE award.  I saw him at both the Burlesque show and at Voice Actors After Dark.

This man was a champ. He played along with all of the jokes the VAs were doing and ADDED to the show for us who do not require special needs, while helping those who did. Assuming it was Otakon that hired him -- Please, continue to do so.

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Let me preface this by saying I wasn't on the lookout for anything, nor am I special needs, so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt. I just want to say, the interpreter for the deaf deserves a HUGE award.  I saw him at both the Burlesque show and at Voice Actors After Dark.

This man was a champ. He played along with all of the jokes the VAs were doing and ADDED to the show for us who do not require special needs, while helping those who did. Assuming it was Otakon that hired him -- Please, continue to do so.

Yes the interpreter was a hit at the voice actors after dark panel!! I hope they bring him back!!!!

 

 

... The things they made him sign... cannot be unseen... lol  Must admit that the signer they provided for that panel added to the whole experience in total.  He also became part of the panel.  Was really cool.

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