Dragon Con in Atlanta bills itself as the largest multi-media popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music and film in the universe.
It is held in a number of hotels in downtown Atlanta and the crowds can be massive. Over 50,000 people attended this year, possibly 60,000. They can be intimidating for people who have no special needs or disabilities, but for those with disabilities it can be a massive task to overcome.
Two things make Dragon Con easier for those with disabilities to handle. First, the people who attend the Con are mostly geeks. Yes we are geeks and proud of it. Many of them have been picked on or made to feel different. As a result, the Con crowd accepts everyone and judges no one. No matter what, you are made to feel welcome.
Second, the Dragon Con disability services are great. The staff and volunteers do their best to accommodate everyone. It does not matter what your special need or disability is, there is an attempt to meet your needs. As with any event this size, there will be problems. As with any event this size, there are never enough sign language interpreters to go around. As with any event this size, wheelchairs and walkers often get lost in the crowds and have difficulty getting through. Elevators can also be challenging because of the number of people.
Despite the crowds and the size of the event, everyone I talked to had a great time and had little or no difficulties with getting the accessibility they needed.
I attended with my service dog Maggie and a friend also joined me with her service dog. We were given seats up front in most cases to protect the dogs from being stepped on or tripped over. It also allowed us to enter before the mass of bodies pushed through the doors.
Most of the attendees were respectful to the dogs and although many asked if they could pet them, only a few reached out without permission.
Overall the Con was a favorable experience – we had fun and Maggie handled the very large crowds very well. I am not sure if a crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 non-geeks would have been as much fun or as easy to handle.
My experience has been that geeks (and I am one, albeit and older geek) tend to be accepting and easy to get along with.
Meanwhile, keep squeaking those wheels and have fun.