Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 kicked off yesterday And if you’ve checked out our Celebration podcast episode from last year (or skimmed the transcript), you heard us talk to Austin Whitney, CEO of Ten Fifty Entertainment, who coordinated accessibility at last year’s event, and who’s back this year in London to ensure all guests have the best time possible.
But one important point we touched on in that interview is that on top of simply ensuring disabled fans get the same access and opportunities as everyone else at an event, it’s important to make sure every fan attending feels welcome and included. And a big part of that inclusion falls not on ReedPop or Lucasfilm, but on fellow attendees.
So we thought we’d share some tips on basic disability etiquette that might help you do your part as a fellow attendee, to make sure everyone has the same chance at having an amazing time.
As we also discussed on the podcast, these tips can apply to anyone, whether abled or not. Because even fellow disabled fans might not have insight into other people’s disabilities or experiences. Even in Resilience Squadron we regularly acknowledge our limited knowledge of other conditions.
1. Remember that many conditions are invisible
- Always worthwhile to assume the best
- Remember that most people who get accommodation passes really do need help, and don’t get much advantage over anyone else – only the even access everyone else gets
- Also keep in mind that ambulatory wheelchair users exist. Many people who are able to stand or walk may still have good reasons to use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, such as those with severe fatigue, chronic pain, or postural orthostatic issues (like me) that cause them to feel lightheaded when standing or walking for long periods of time. So never jump to a critical conclusion when you see someone stand up out of a wheelchair. No, they’re not faking, and no it’s not a miracle. They’re just using it as much as they need to, and doing the best they can.
2. Use appropriate terminology
For almost all of these terms there are disabled people who will prefer the alternative terms or simply won’t care. Others will even use terms like “crippled” or “crip,” as a way to take the terms back (see the great Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary Crip Camp as an example). But the ones I’m listing here are the ones that to my knowledge the majority of these disabled communities prefer and that advocates tend to encourage.
- Most prefer to use “disabled person” vs. “person with disabilities” – this identity-first language is
- “Disabled” is not a bad word, and
- Deaf/hard of hearing
- Blind/low vision
- Avoid using “impaired”
- Avoid using “crippled” or “crip”
- Avoid condescending terms like “special,” “special needs,” or “differently abled”
- Don’t refer to someone as “wheelchair bound” – wheelchairs are assistive devices that provide people with mobility who otherwise wouldn’t have it. Many people see them as liberating tools.
- “Retarded” – Just don’t.
3. Be considerate of dietary needs
- If you’re involved at all in providing or ordering food for anyone, be sure to ask about any dietary needs
- Consider avoiding alcohol at any gatherings, in consideration of people who may be recovering from addiction
4. Don’t interact with service animals
- Discussed on podcast
- Service animals are working when in their service capacity
- Interrupting or touching a service animal at work can negatively affect or impair their owner’s experience
- Appreciate them, but it’s best to just ignore them
5. Don’t exploit or belittle disabled fans on social media
6. Be considerate of COVID risks
- Many people still can’t travel or attend for this reason
- Calculated risk for others
- Be conscious of
- Shouldn’t even have to be said, but apparently it does, based on our experiences in modern society – don’t judge or comment on others wearing masks. You have no idea what their immune status or disability might be, and frankly it’s none of your business and it doesn’t affect you even if they are simply doing so out of a sense of safety for themselves and others.
7. Appreciate the effort disabled fans put in to be there
This isn’t something that you can necessarily act on, but a general point to think about. Was your trip to London challenging or tiring? Did you cross the ocean for the first time and are now suffering from jet lag while trying to make your way around the ExCel center.
Everything it took for you to get to Celebration and to enjoy it while you’re there is exponentially harder for many disabled people. They fought to get there. They stretched budgets they might not have had. They get around the best they can at the event. Have some grace and do your best to accommodate others as best you can.
Because there’s more to inclusiveness than just making sure people can get in a place, or experience a panel, or are able to sit down if they can’t stand in a line.
There’s a sense of belonging that helps make an event like Celebration special for everyone.
- Ask if you can help, accept if people don’t want help
- Link in each section?
- [Links to more resources?]