Comic-con, the multi-city comic book and sci-fi convention, is arguably the largest such event in the world. And, the event held in New York City is probably the largest rendition of the event. With over one hundred thousand attendees over its four-day run participation is not for the faint of heart, especially for those of us with limited mobility. However, such challenges have never stopped me.
Yes, for the past couple of decades I’ve used a wheelchair to navigate through my life, the result of a car accident in 1988. But, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve done quite a bit with my life despite my wheels. I’ve traveled. I’ve taken up archery. I’ve written 2 books. And, I’ve visited conventions.
At this point I should mention that I’m somewhat of a geek. By that I mean I’ve been collecting comic books for most of my fifty-one years of life. I’ve got many long boxes full of them. While I can’t tell you who wrote or drew any one particular issue, I can discuss the differences between Marvel and DC super heroes.
As I said, over the years I’ve attended various science fiction conventions, I remember fondly a Dr. Who convention I attended in Philadelphia, but never a Comic-Con. For the last three years I’ve tried to attend, but in each of those years some medical condition or other has stood in my way. Not this year. This year I refused to allow such a thing to get in my way. After all, this year I would be attending with my new nephews.
Now, getting to the convention was a challenge in itself. I don’t drive much these days, and I refuse to drive, or try to park, in New York City. So, I’m relegated to either take public transportation or roll myself to wherever I want to go. Fortunately the Javits Center, where Comic-Con is held, is no more than a few blocks away from Pennsylvania Station. It was a nice day so I decided to roll. I don’t know if many people realize this or not, but New York City is not exactly on flat ground. There are many hills to go up and down. Add that to the fact that, though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires it, there are not curb cuts on every street corner in the city. And, where they do exist, many are in disrepair. The long and short of this is my short roll was fraught with difficulties.
Once I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center I was surrounded by a sea of humans, monsters, and assorted super heroes all waiting to get inside. In fact a ‘lovely’ zombie woman tried to take a bite out of my neck until I explained I was not interested in her flirtatious ways. I expected to have to wade through that sea, but was saved by a kind gentleman who directed me to a relatively calm entrance.
Moving around in a crowded convention hall is difficult enough for able-bodied individuals. But, for someone who is on wheels and, therefore, below eye level, the challenge of not being trampled on while moving from points A to B is daunting to say the least. For some it is too much of a hassle. This is proven by the observation that I could count only five other wheelchair users during the entire time my family and I moved around the convention hall. Fortunately my brother and nephews guarded me from the worst assaults. Even through the highly trafficked vendors lanes we were able to stick together and visit some of the more interesting stalls.
Upon entering the Javits Center, I had secured a ‘medical’ badge, which identified me to the staff and crew as someone who may need additional assistance because of my limited mobility. That came in handy when we decided to visit one of the many panel lectures as all the rooms held a few seats open especially for patrons with those badges. You’ll need to ask for one when you arrive as it is not plainly obvious where, or even if, they can be acquired.
If you do not bring a wheelchair, but feel one may come in handy, The Javits Center does have a limited supply of motorized wheelchairs for rent. You’ll need to contact the Command Center at (212) 216-2196. For those with visual difficulties guide dogs and service animals are permitted, but you may need to show documentation for the need of such a companion.
Yes, my visit to this year’s Comic-Con came with its own set of challenges, but I would not have missed it for the world and I recommend attendance to both able-bodied and disabled fans of comic books and science fiction. You’ll definitely see me there next year; though you may have to point your gaze a bit lower than usual (grin).