This past weekend was the annual PlayStation Experience Conference. For the last couple of years I have been fortunate in that the convention was held at my local convention center in Anaheim, California. I knew I had to go since I am such a fan of gaming and PlayStation. Unfortunately, I am in a wheelchair and activities such as this can be very challenging. I always have the same list of questions. Where do I go? When can I check-in? Will able-bodied people run me over as I attempt to get to my desired location? Will I have a similar experience as an able-bodied person?
Last year, in 2016, the convention was not ADA (America Disability Act) friendly at all and was cast to what I like to call Indie Island; basically, being able to only view the smaller independent games. While I do enjoy Indie games, I like to experience the big triple A titles as well; like Dreams or Star Wars Battlefront 2. Sadly, last year that wasn’t even a possibility as the booths themselves were so busy and small that entering the booth with my wheelchair was either impossible or so tight that I became a fire hazard. In addition, the ultra-plush carpeting that was used everywhere left me unable to push my wheelchair. In the end the overall experience was very upsetting for both me and my husband who had to push me everywhere.
This year though, all of that felt like a distant memory. In addition to having an electric wheelchair, the convention in whole was significantly more ADA friendly. When I logged on to the conventions companion app, the first question I received was “Are you disabled?”. Upon checking yes, it opened many things for me including receiving an email from the convention detailing all the ADA assistance I would be provided during the show. I instantly began to worry less about the experience I was going to be having at this show.
Last year the keynote was the same day as the opening of the convention hall and I had to wait in line in the cold for several hours. Eventually one of the staff members noticed that I had a wheelchair and ushered me to a separate line along with other disabled persons and we entered the keynote separate from the public. Before the keynote started, staff members had to quickly find spots for disabled people to sit and had put my wheelchair in another location. When the keynote was over, I had to wait for a staff member to find my chair and get it to me. This cost me time since the convention floor was opened immediately after the keynote.
This year when I arrived, I went to the ADA concierge instead of the standard badge check-in. I was able to get checked in quickly and get any questions I had about the show answered. Then I was off to the keynote event. The keynote was a day earlier than last year and as an early bird ticket holder I was able to attend. It took a few minutes to find the ADA line as many of the security guards were not aware that this convention was ADA friendly and would be offering a separate line for those with various disabilities. Once I was able to find the line I was greeted by other people who were in similar situations as myself. They brought us into the arena as a group before the main crowd so that we would be able to get adjusted before the big crowd of people descended upon us. And trust me they did. Shortly after being seated and explained who we needed to speak to should we have any problems during the keynote, a sea of people ran through the hall desperately trying to find a seat closest to the stage. The show started and then I realized that in addition to providing a safe location for us to seat they also provided closed captioning and ASL interpreters for those that were hard of hearing. This was great to see.
The remainder of the convention was just like that. We had stickers on our badges reflecting that we were ADA so that we could receive assistance at the various booths. In addition, there were booths located all over the hall that were both Information booths but more importantly ADA concierge’s. As we would approach booths they would either “Fast Pass” us to the entrance of the booth or they would provide us with a way to get in with out having to zig zag through the long lines that would tire me out. In addition, the booths themselves were generally larger allowing more room for people to maneuver through and allowed for wheelchairs to enter. Thanks to the assistance of this convention for the first time ever I was able to play triple A titles while at a convention. That has never happened before and honestly left me very emotional in a good way.
While roaming around the convention I saw several people with different abilities enjoying the convention in a way we had never been able to before. I spoke to several people involved with the ADA program and informed me that this was something that would be rolled out to all gaming related conventions by the end of next year. They said that they had already designed the upcoming E3 with the accommodations in mind and were welcome to ideas on how to make the conventions more ADA friendly in the future. It truly was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see how this program takes off.
My name is Amanda and I have a disability. I have fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I love to go on adventures but my illness' makes that a challenge. I didn't want to spend my life living in bed so I got an electric wheelchair (thanks to my parents) and I am hitting the road. Going to some of my favorite places, exploring new places, and sharing with you how I get around with a disability.
I wanted to give a special thank you to my amazing husband Jon. In addition to being my travel buddy he is also my editor. It's thanks to him that these posts aren't nearly as rambling as they could be.