Those of you who have been following me for a while will remember the post I did on my visit to YALC last year – that post may even be the reason that you’re following me now, as to this day, it is my most viewed post, with new people checking it out all the time. I was so overwhelmed with emails, comments & DMs about the section of my YALC post that discussed accessibility at the event that this year I wanted to converse with the event organisers about accessibility, how they’re improving upon it this year & how it could further be improved.
Before I get into the things that are being done this year to make life a little bit easier for those with accessibility issues I should probably quickly mention the post I put up last year – if you want to read it you can find it here, but for those of you who can’t be bothered to read it or need a quick refresh, here’s a breakdown of the issues I came up against:
- There were no extra assistance wristbands left when I arrived at the event (I was told that LFCC had taken all of YALC’s ones earlier that morning). Issues also arose later in the day when I needed to jump to the front of a signing queue & the member of staff I spoke to didn’t know that the front desk had ran out of them.
- When I was eventually taken to the front of the queue the member of staff that placed me there didn’t inform the people behind me why I had been put to the front; this led to bitchy whispering behind me & me feeling very uncomfortable. I know that not everyone would want staff to tell the people behind them that they’re disabled (if it’s an invisible illness) but it would have been nice if the staff member had asked me if I wanted them to say something for me.
- There wasn’t any suitable seating, & I actually ended up sitting at Zen Cho’s empty signing table after I told staff that I needed to sit down on a proper chair (as opposed to an inflatable one) for a while.
- The final thing that really made my day difficult was the fact that some of the publishers were hosting giveaways that involved people running to their stand, with the first people to get there being given exclusive content such as proof copies of books or other goodies that other people didn’t have access to.
As I said, after I put up my post I was overwhelmed with the response I received & a few other issues were raised by other YALCers, these issues included:
- The disabled toilets being closed off for the use of LFCC celebrity guests on the YALC floor.
- The heat in the venue was an issue for several people who contacted me &, although paper fans were handed out, there was no where near enough. People also were upset that there wasn’t free water being handed out.
- A lot of people contacted me about the seating issues; with one person even telling me that they had to leave early because of it.
- I also had a huge number of people contact me about the running-for-prizes giveaways that were being held & I felt this was the main thing that had really, really upset some of the disabled YALCers.
- A few people also commented on the fact that there weren’t any disabled seating reserved for the panels & that this meant a few people missed panels that they were really looking forward to.
This year I decided that I was going to contact YALC about these issues so I could write an informed post for other people planning to go that have concerns about accessibility. The woman who replied is called Zoe & I would like to thank her for being so helpful! Here is the information I received;
Zoe informed me that the YALC floor actually had the most seating out of the whole of LFCC last year, including the inflatable chairs, benches in the ” book nook “, the stage area seating & the seating within the restaurant. But, she did acknowledge that the inflatable chairs, the most available ones, were not suitable for all YALCers & has assured me that this issue will be passed onto the company that is organising this year’s seating so hopefully more appropriate seating will be available this year.
In regards to the seating for the panels, this was Zoe’s response “we will of course take on board the individual needs for those with hearing or site difficulties but we cannot do a blanket disable access at the front as we want to be fair to all of our attendees. Seating will be on a first come bases but we will do everything that we can to make sure people get the experience they should base upon their needs.” I personally would like to suggest that if you do have sight or hearing difficulties to speak to a member of staff that is running the panel as soon as you can about getting appropriate seating for yourself – in my experience most of the staff are very understanding & kind about these things so please don’t be nervous about asking!
Extra Help Passes
This is one of the things that has been majorly improved upon this year; if you’re going to need an extra help pass there is now a form for you to fill out & send to the organisers before you go to the event – these forms will help to ensure that everyone who needs an extra help pass will receive one & will also make the process of being given one a lot faster & more simple – you can find the form here & you must apply before July 20th. Zoe has also assured me that extra passes will be at the front desk for anyone who doesn’t fill out a form but still needs a wrist band. Additionally, if you’re planning on visiting the other floors in the building there is a webpage specifically about accessibility at LFCC, which you can find here.
It turns out that air conditioning was used throughout the whole of the Olympia building last year, but understandably, with so many people attending LFCC, it is not always possible to benefit from it. For health & safety reasons it’s not possible for the YALC organisers to provide us with electric fans but Zoe will ask, in the publishers planning meeting, which will be held closer to the time of the event, if anyone is planning to hand out paper fans. Personally, I do not go anywhere throughout the warmer months without my own paper fan & I would recommend that you consider getting either a paper fan or handheld electric fan for yourself for the weekend – they honestly make a massive difference.
Although there was one toilet block, which included a disabled toilet, that was closed off from the general public last year, there are in fact more than one set of toilets on the YALC floor – I have been told that this year the toilets will be better sign posted as to help everyone attending the event to locate them more easily. Zoe has also said that they are working with the venue to ensure they are kept at the right standard throughout the weekend.
Last year the YALC organisers did not know that the running-for-prizes giveaways were being hosted by certain publishers & this issue is ” a high priority ” on the list of things to discuss at the upcoming publishers planning meeting. Zoe finished this paragraph by saying ” I think we all agree that getting free stuff is great but we need to make sure it is fair ” – which I know you will all appreciate.
I hope the above has helped, but if you have any issues on the day Zoe has assured me that the Pit Boss, who will be wearing red, will be able to help you with any issues or concerns you have! Zoe’s email finished with this: ” For us as organisers it is sometimes a tricky job to balance between space, costs, logistics, content and the needs of all of our attendees and guests but we are always wanting to improve and learn ” which I personally think was an amazing way to end such a helpful & well-thought out reply to the issues I & others had last year. Zoe has also said that if I have any more questions she will be happy to answer them so if there’s anything you’d like to know about that hasn’t been mentioned here please let me know!
I look forward to seeing some of you at YALC this year!
I’ll be attending on Friday & Saturday 🐺