Greg: Welcome to Resilience Squadron. I’m Greg.
Jack: And I’m Jack.
Greg: And it’s Celebration time. Star Wars Celebration is taking place this year on May 26th through 29th in Anaheim, California. And a lot of fans are making their plans now for what they intend to do there and figuring out what to expect. We’re going to be talking specifically about a lot of the accommodations that are expected to be in place for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and any other needs in that kind of large convention, event setting.
You know, it’s been a long time since there’s been a Celebration since this one was postponed from 2020 due to COVID. So, not only is it a big deal for fans, but for many it’s the first time in a long time, or even ever for some people, to be getting together in this large of a gathering and this big of a space. And we want to do what we can to make sure the event is enjoyable by everyone.
Greg: So our goal is to provide as much information as we can at this time. Get some insight from people who have a lot more knowledge about these accommodations. And point you towards additional resources where you can make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information before you go.
Now, uh, Jack, unfortunately you and I won’t be able to make it to this Celebration. But we’ll be following along with everything happening and all the live streams. And, uh, I think we’ll have a Resilience Squadron showing at the next one.
Jack: We’re going to try.
But for this year, we’re lucky to have a couple of guests to help us talk about it and find out more about accommodations at Celebration. In particular, we have the CEO of Ten Fifty Entertainment, the company that’s contracted to handle accommodations for Celebration. And who we’ll be talking to shortly.
Greg: Before that we have a special guest who has attended Celebration in the past, and will definitely be at this one. Her name is Terrie Lee, and she was involved in creating a Facebook group on this topic called Star Wars Celebration, ADA attendees. It’s a great group with a lot of great information and a really valuable resource for learning more about accommodations and discussing it all with other fans who are going.
So welcome Terrie.
Terrie: Hi, how’s everyone doing today? I’m so excited. As we’re recording this we’re less than a month away from the start of of Star Wars Celebration. And I’m getting so excited.
Greg: Yeah. So we’re, we’re also, by the way, not sure when this episode will come out, but, uh, it’s presumably going to be sometime in the month of May. And so we should be right now, at least two to three weeks away from the show. So hopefully this information will be useful to people.
Terrie: And by the time this comes out, I’ve probably packed and unpacked about three or four times.
Greg: Exactly. So I guess, can you tell us a little bit about your experience of Celebration in the past? You went in 2017 and 19?
Terrie: Yes, my very first one, starting off, I am a long time Star Wars fan. I saw it in the theater with my dad when I was seven years old, saw A New Hope. And since then I was hooked, um, pretty much, you know, kind of followed the original trilogy. I saw the prequels, you know, like them and such not, but my husband surprised me in 2017, with tickets to Star Wars Celebration.
I had heard of Celebration, but I wasn’t really aware of it. I’m not really a con person. So I really didn’t attend a lot of them kind of just small ones here and there with friends, but never, you know, never like San Diego Comic-Con or any of the big ones and went down now just before we went, I had to have surgery on my neck and back, and I was still going through rehab.
And if any of the listeners know anything about early days of Celebration. Star Wars fans are known for camping out and sleeping in, you know, lines. And I mean, I can remember with the prequels some people camping out for a week Celebration – right there on top. Well, after having surgery, I was not going to be comfortable sleeping on a cement floor.
And I saw this tiny paragraph on the StarWarsCelebration.com site, talking about accommodations and how they had ADA that was at that time I think it was a sticker. You had an ADA sticker that kind of helped you through where you didn’t have to stand in lines.
Unfortunately did still have to sleep out for a ticket. So we, my husband and I decided I was not gonna put my health at risk and we were going to go back. And so I did not sleep in line, but I did get my ADA badge kind of helped with other lines and with other things, would go through a Celebration.
For anybody that was in Orlando, know that we got to Orlando, I believe the gate, the doors opened at 9, 9:30. We got there at 9:30. The line was around the convention center. And I do mean around the convention center, all the way around. Again, I was having standing issues, the reason, you know, with my back and I had the app open, I had everything that I had written down for the day about ADA entrances, public entrances, when things would open. And I actually went to the back, took us an hour to get to the back of the back entrance. And I walked in and I pulled up everything. I had papers and I showed the security guard. Like, no, this is an entrance that was supposed to open 20 minutes ago.
So he opened the entrance, and all of a sudden, everybody came in behind us. So. I, if you’ve talked to anybody, the ADA experience was not great in Orlando, it was hard. You know, you had to back up, you know, I’ve talked to several people, who’ve gotten in arguments with security guards and things going through and what happened?
Well, with that experience, that’s where I kind of met um, Miriam, who was my, other admin in the ADA group. And we were talking and chatting about, you know, what a mess this was. Well, the next Celebration that came along was Chicago. And Chicago, the big talk initially on the, uh, there’s several Celebration Facebook groups. And there was one Facebook group and everyone was talking about the clear bags. If anyone’s been to a sports arena or a concert, you have to take a clear tote bag backpack. Well, not everybody wants to take in, you know, a clear bag showing their, you know, needles for, you know, insulin shots or…
Terrie: You know, you don’t want that. You don’t want the world showing that. Well, this conversation was coming out in the public group and Mariam and I had become friends. And I talked to her about you know, what do you think about a group that we can talk about this stuff between ourselves, you know. My dad, he had catheters at the time I knew the problems with, so he wouldn’t want to talk about that in open forum. So I thought, you know, we would open it up. And so we created, a group and said, Hey, these are the issues you need at the time. We didn’t know if there were going to be stickers or wristbands, like, you know, come in, we’ll get a group together, we’ll talk amongst ourselves. Power of many. We get a group together. We can go to ReedPop as one big group, say, give us answers.
At the time, you know, individuals were going to ReedPop. One person would get one answer. One person would get another answer. So it wasn’t consistent. So that’s one thing is the group has really done. We have a great relationship with Ten Fifty. You’re gonna talk to Austin soon. Um, he is our partner. We have a great relationship. We worked extremely well with them in Chicago. There were small hiccups here and there, but it’s a great relationship. We have questions, we know exactly who to go to.
Um, we have the group. My hope was that we would get 50 people. As of this recording, we have 650 people in the group. It is amazing.
Jack: That’s awesome.
Terrie: So it shows you that’s the need.
Greg: Yeah, it’s grown a lot since I joined.
Terrie: Oh yeah, we’ve grown. Yeah. We’ve grown like 200 people in the last month or so it’s just amazing. The word’s getting out. And the other thing, not only, you know, with disabilities and everything, but you got to realize, you know, Star Wars has been around for 40, almost 50 years. Our fan base is getting older. And, you know, as you get older, those knees don’t work quite as well. You know, running from one end of the convention hall to the other, you know, we’re just not able to do that.
Jack: Even the actors, not just us, but like the people that worked on the movie.
Greg: Yeah. I always like to say that people who aren’t disabled, just aren’t disabled yet.
Terrie: Yeah. I mean, I still have a little trouble with my back, but right now, whereas in 2017, it was back issues. This Celebration it’s knee issues. So, you know, it keeps going lower.
Greg: I think that’s one thing that people don’t always realize with disabilities. And even like you said, injuries or surgeries. There’s any number of things that can cause you to have some issues that need accommodations. And a lot of them can change over time and come and go. Even people with like chronic illness or even some disabilities can from like day to day or even within the course of a day different experiences and changes. So it’s important to accommodate a lot of different needs and it’s important to, you know, sometimes you need to get accommodation just in case because you don’t know what’s going to happen. If you’re going to need it or not.
Terrie: Exactly. If I have a good day, my knees, I can walk all morning, but right around lunchtime, you’ll see me and I’ll be pulling out my braces and, you know, getting my cane. It’s like, it can really change hourly almost. It’s like, I can wake up, have a great morning, walk down the stairs, be great, go on a walk. And then all of a sudden come back and my knee said, Nope, not anymore. You need some assistance there. So that’s one thing too that, I hope that, you know, attendees know, one of the things that we really try to push, that no not all disabilities are visible. You just don’t know just because you’re not, you know, you’re not in a wheelchair, you don’t have, you know, um, an aide does not mean you’re not going through something.
In Chicago, there was a lady in line with me and her son was on the spectrum and she’s like, you know, he’s fine this morning, doing great. But you know, halfway through the day, we’re going to have to find a quiet room and it’s like, that’s great. It’s like, you know, and that’s one of the things that I love that Ten Fifty and ReedPOP have done. We have quiet rooms now that people can go and just get out of the way and just kind of desensitize. And it’s one of the things that I think Star Wars and LucasFilm has been, you know, one of the leaders with that. They realize that, you know, their population needs some assistance.
Jack: Right. And, um, there’s actually an incident. Uh, we have a con here that’s three times a year. And this last one in April, there was a young man who was in the photo op line. And he was on the spectrum. And I guess, I don’t know what happened, but he had a meltdown or some thing was going on and it ended up being a huge incident. But, as far as I’m aware that convention does not have any type of sensory accommodations.
Terrie: Um, just let everyone know because of, you know, the things that we talk about, we do have where we’re considered a private group, you can’t just join their simple questions saying you will follow the rules because we don’t want bots. So if you don’t answer the questions, you’re not gonna get in the group.
Greg: I mean, I like that it’s a very private, but very accommodating group. It’s very nonjudgmental, non argumentative, you know, it’s supportive.
Greg: And hopefully. Because it’s private, like you said, people can feel pretty comfortable coming in and asking their questions about their own situation. You know, it’s really great for that. At least in terms of their needs, even if they don’t want to talk specifics about their medical situation.
Greg: Well, we really appreciate you joining us for this because the Facebook group is like a really valuable resource and community. And we’ll be providing a link to it in the show notes.
But you can also provide a lot of insight in this next discussion, which is with Austin Whitney, who actually is coordinating disability accommodations at Celebration.
Greg: Welcome to the show, Austin. Austin is the president of Ten Fifty Entertainment, which is providing all the accommodation support for Celebration. As well as a lot of other events.
So Austin, can you tell us more about your background and how you got involved in this work?
Austin: So my name is Austin Whitney. I live in Southern California. I grew up here. I actually grew up in Orange County where Star Wars Celebration’s happening and when I was 18 years old, I was in a car accident that severed my spinal cord at the T11 level you know, paralyzing me from the waist down.
So that was, you know, 15 years ago. And when that happened to me, I mean, I was just, you know, I was just in a dark place. Like, I didn’t know anybody in a wheelchair before that happened to me. I never knew anybody who had like a visually identifiable disability. I just thought like my life was over that I wasn’t, you know, gonna go on with my life. I wasn’t gonna get a job or have a girlfriend, or like, I wasn’t gonna be able to do anything. cool I just thought it was all over. I then remember, you know, getting invited to go to like my first live event after that, which happened to be Coachella music festival, where I just came back from yesterday.
And at first, I didn’t think I was gonna be able to go. I told my friends like, oh, I don’t, I don’t know if that’s for me. I don’t know if I’d be able to see the stage. I don’t know how to get around through the crowds. You know, with my wheelchair, I don’t know even how, like I’d use the restroom there and my friends were just like, Hey Austin, let’s go figure it out together.
Like, you know, we’ve figured out other things, I’m sure we can figure this out. You need to go, you need to go. So I went, you know, I went to this event and it was the first time that I remember like, you know, after the car accident, like smiling and like, just like being like a 19 year old kid at that point, like just like living in the moment, not being consumed by my anxieties or my own anxiousness about my future.
And. I just said, I, I want to keep doing things like this. So, you know, I was very much into music. I said, okay, I want to go to this event this month, the next month I want to go that event, the next month I want to go to another event back then, this was 2008. Now a lot of those events weren’t accessible, but some of them were to a little bit of extent, but having those events to go to helped me get through the most difficult time of my life, a hundred percent.
So now when I’m doing my work and you know, like I’m, I’m out there and someone’s watching a show and, you know, with a disability or a chronic thing saying, you know, this, this changed their life. I know they’re, they’re serious about it because I was there once. So I, I did this type of work in college. was living up in Berkeley and, you know, with a strong, you know, disability rights movement, you know, started there.
So like, it was very much into that and I was working events and, it was, you know, I, I started law school, still in Berkeley. And my first year there, I got invited by some friends who were throwing a music event. They say, Hey, do you think you could help us with accessibility? And I said, yeah, I think I could do that.
You know, I understand about production having worked in the industry for a little bit and you know, my own experience with disability, I understand kind of the laws about it. I think I can help you out with that. It went really well. We had a lot of fun and. You know, I was sitting in class, you know, my second year of law school, a couple of months later, and an event producer called me up because we had the same security director and they said, Hey, do you think you can help us with 10 events that we’re throwing this year?
And including, one of them is like the largest attended music festival in America called EDC, which at the time was doing about 130,000 people a day. I said, yeah, I think I can do that and that’s when I realized like, oh, there might be a job doing this, it sounds like there’s a market need for what could be provided, you know, providing event producers with, basically assistance, figuring out how, how do you plan an event to be accessible or to be accessible for anybody who wants to attend?
You know, at first I thought event producers were mostly going to be coming at it from like, oh, how do we lower our legal liability? How do we manage the risk on it? You know? And that, that’s also just my mind being in law school at the time, but I’ve been pleasantly comforted over the last 10 years now by the fact that most of the time event producers, they want to do the right thing.
They just merely don’t have like the tool sets, uh, toolkits to think like, okay, how is somebody who’s blind going to be able to enjoy this or how somebody who’s deaf or somebody with a cognitive neurological, developmental disability or something in a wheelchair or whatever it might be. And that’s where I kind of come in and bring my, you know, skillsets my experience to the table and kind of do ADA compliance planning and then operations once we’re there.
So that started in 2014. Now we’re yeah, I’ve been doing this for eight years. Over 400 events. It started in the music world cause that’s what I knew. So like I said, I just came back from Coachella. We just, I was ADA compliance director there for both weeks of it, we had 800 people our first week of Coachella with disabilities and we had, I think 1,008 guests with disabilities last weekend, every type of disability possible. And we probably have like the largest ADA program, just cause it’s such a big site and so many different needs. We have nine different stages going. You know, we want to do it as well as possible. I’m headin off, we have our sister show called Stagecoach Music Festival this weekend.
So I came home for one day to just get out of the desert for the first time in like three weeks. I’m like, I gotta go home. So I’m at home today, but I go back to the desert at 6:00 AM tomorrow and go do one more Stagecoach. And then, um, but over the years we moved out of music. I mean, we, most of our work still is in music. We work with about 70% of the nation’s top 100 grossing music festivals in 22 states. So that’s in the rock world, something like Coachella , something in the country world, like Stagecoach or electronic dance, there’s EDC or hip hop, there’s Rolling Loud. Do pop shows, metal shows, whatever type of music you’re into, I probably work a show in, in that genre of music. But then over the years we’ve started doing other things. I started in this world of music festivals, thinking like, oh, I want to help guests with disabilities, help, you know, enjoy music festival experiences. And it was pretty quickly after that they realized like, oh, wow, what I want to do in music festivals, nobody’s doing that in like the greater, like live event setting, which was crazy to me.
I’m like, you know, it’s 20- at the time I’m like, it’s 2015, how is there, like, how are convention event throwers, or sport sporting event, you know, or municipal events? Like how are they not getting advisement on these things that are really important to folks? So I started working with ReedPOP, who throws Star Wars Celebration, maybe in 2016 or 2017.
And I’ve worked with them on a number of their shows, for the last, you know, four or five years. I’ve been the ADA compliance director for New York Comic Con to do their big, Comic-Con events. This’ll be my first year at Star Wars. In the past years, I’d been conflicted out with other prior engagements.
So I, I knew what was going on with them and I helped formulate a lot of the planning, but I wasn’t able to be on site. For me it is the dream come true. I am a big Star Wars fan, and…
Greg: That was… That was one of our next questions – what’s your level of fandom? Oh, okay. Okay. Thank you.
Austin: I’m a, like, I grew up with Star Wars, Star Wars was like, you know, as I was a nerd reading, you know, Expanded Universe stuff as a kid, like that’s, I’m all about it. So to be getting to finally do it, this, this is a dream come true for me, but like the timing lined up and it’s like, okay, great.
Especially in like the post pandemic world, like things are, they’re challenging. There’s a lot of new considerations. So it is one of the more challenging, events that, you know, my company’s working on. So when they get to be like, oh, wow, this is, there’s a lot of different elements going on here. That’s when I really do like being involved.
So, yeah, music and I do, I do some sporting events. I do like the PGA championship the week before Star Wars, so that, and some municipal events and I I’m grateful that I get to help people enjoy these really cool experiences. It’s a, it’s a dream for me, it’s way, way better than practicing law, which was what I thought I was going to be doing with my life.
And, you know, I just like helping people enjoy whatever they’re into, that brings me, joy so, yeah.
Greg: That’s awesome. Yeah. I liked also what you said about, you know, that event organizers, because we never know this for sure about a lot of organizers or business owners or whatever, like what their level of commitment is to addressing issues and how much of it is just checking the box on ADA legal requirements and how much of it is like actually wanting to do the right thing. And it’s cool to hear that a lot of them are really into that.
Austin: Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure. And it’s, you know, I mean like a lot of people take like, you know, like, like throwing like a big event, like this is like, somebody’s multiple people’s life work, you know, what they spend doing and they’re passionate, they’re passionate about it.
Like we love when doors open and to see how excited people are to actually enjoy the thing, you know, that we’ve spent months, years working on like, okay, cool. That’s like the that’s the payoff is when everybody shows up and they’re just, they’re stoked on what you made. Um, nobody wants to design something that in and of itself by design purposes is going to be exclusionary, you know, to anybody for that purpose.
You know, I mean, most of the people I work with, like, they’re pretty caring individuals that like want everybody to enjoy it. We don’t want, you know, an, a design feature to be discriminatory, uh, against someone, you know, we… We want, we want everyone to enjoy it. You know? So that was, that was the realization I had when I started working in this industry.
That was a very much a pleasant surprise.
Jack: Exactly. I mean, I, I attend shows all the time, like wrestling, concerts, cons, everything, and yeah, definitely all the promoters are willing to help and they want to help, like you said, they want to make, make their event accessible to everybody. But sometimes again, if you’re able-bodied, or let’s say, I mean, you’re not, I mean, now I’m in a chair, but I’m not blind. I mean, so they just don’t know exactly what to do. So it’s I mean very, very rarely will you run into somebody that just doesn’t want to help. It’s all just not knowing.
Austin: And I think about my life before I was, you know, in a wheelchair. And it’s like, when I was going out into like public gatherings and stuff, I wasn’t really thinking like, oh, is this accessible?
Austin: You know? And like now, you know, it’s like, obviously that’ll be first thing I notice, but you know, I think about like, you know, like a father of a child in a wheelchair, that person will tell you if their child is there or not like, oh, there’s accessibility features flag right here. You know that somebody who might not have that connection with disability just might not be thinking of every step along the way.
Austin: Cause that’s what you really have to do. You have to look at everything. Cause just like one set of stairs, all of a sudden, every cool design feature in there that was made to be accessible. Okay. Now it’s not accessible. So it’s just a lot of attention to detail on it to make sure, okay, every feature here is going to be usable by, you know, folks again, in those different categories, auditory, visual, neurological, developmental, mobility, dietary disabilities, whatever it might be. And that’s, that’s kind of the service that we’re providing is just really thinking those through, you know, we’ve done two site walks at the Anaheim convention center this year just to go over everything.
I feel pretty good about where we’re at, that people are really gonna enjoy it.
Greg: Great. Yeah, I think it’s as much an awareness issue of just knowing those things, but also having people like yourself and your organization who actually have more of that experience and knowledge to actually come in and, and provide insight.
Part of what we want to do is also like we want to provide this information for the guests of Celebration and the fans, of course, that’s our main goal, but also part of what we want to do through education on these kinds of things is like share information for organizers also, who, you know, that could be people running, any level of cons or events, or even just local local events, or get togethers, you know, like…
Austin: Yeah, totally I mean, that’d be great if somebody watches this and they think of something, they hear something here that’s like, oh, that’s what they do at Star Wars Celebration and then can take it into their own community. You know, and like the thing that does give me, I mean there are challenges and there’s challenges I experience every day doing my job.
The good news for me that at least gives me optimism is I believe the steady pace of history to be more inclusive. I just think about where things were, where I started 15 years where they are today. And while things still have a long way to go, I mean, like I experience this in my life when I’m not, you know, when I’m working or when I’m not working, I’m just trying to engage with society and there’s accessibility challenges. I know how frustrating that is, but you know, it has gotten better. And, you know, I just, I, I believe in my heart that it will keep getting better.
Greg: Yeah. Awesome.
Accessible Festivals and Inclusion
Greg: Uh, I wanted to ask you along those lines about Accessible Festivals. That’s your nonprofit, right? What kind of work do you do through there?
Austin: Yeah. Yeah. So Accessible Festivals started, you know, we, we founded originally, you know, everything was going to be okay, we’re going to found this as a nonprofit. And then pretty soon the stuff that I was doing for the event producers, we started doing more. So like besides doing ADA compliance consulting, I do stuff like everyone – guest services departments, volunteer management. I have locker rentals for companies, just like we have an art… art department. We just provide a lot of services to event producers, you know, working with over a hundred events a year enough that, that didn’t fit within the nonprofit in terms of their mission statement to the IRS. It wasn’t solely anymore about just okay. Just successfully. So we had to found a separate company.
So then we said, okay, We already have our 501c3 status. Let’s keep the nonprofit and set it up with its own executive director, its own board where it can just focus on doing good work. You know, that might not, you know, make revenue, but it just exists solely to promote sort of the initiatives that we want to do to either help the industries that we work with or help encourage, you know, people with disabilities to do, you know, to, to learn about it. You know, some of the programs that we run for our events in the music world, not so much in the convention world um, we, but we should expand to conventions. We like giving away like complimentary admission for people with disabilities who might not be able to afford to attend who might need something to look forward to in their life.
We got two concepts here, we got accessibility and we got inclusion and they’re related, but they’re not always the same, you know, like I can build, you know, an accessible environment, that’s something that’s ADA compliance at an event, which for the record, I think it’s a very, fairly low threshold. Yes. I want to do my clients to get sued, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for, how do we make events that are going to be welcoming to people with disabilities?
How, you know, regardless of what the legal requirements are, because if somebody doesn’t feel welcome, okay, we probably didn’t hit our, our goal with that, you know, so, you know, yeah. Something accessible, great. We’ll make sure it’s physically accessible programmatically accessible, but the question is it really inclusive for everybody.
And that takes a little bit more work and there’s community building in there. And my approach was okay, I can work, you know, on a lot of them through my company, but if I really want to push the inclusion stuff, I also can do additional stuff that might not be able to do just as a company with the nonprofit and through that linkage, that’s kind of how I try and do my work in this world.
Jack: Right. I definitely love the inclusion part because like when Greg and I went to Galaxy’s Edge, like all the accessibility was with everybody else. I’m sure you run into places where they’re like, oh, I gotta go over here. I got to go around the back to the ramp and everything. And it’s kind of annoying because then you get separated from your group . But I love Galaxy’s Edge. Cause like, no, I went with the whole entire crowd the whole time. I never had to go over to the side or to the back or whatever.
Austin: And that’s one thing I love about temporary events. I don’t do much work on built infrastructure because I love the component and something that attracted me to the line of work at the beginning was that like, you know, for example over, you know, over Coachella, like we spent a couple of months building it. We’re gonna end next weekend, tear it down. And then I get a fresh blueprint, like just a blank canvas of like was something. Was there something that wasn’t really accessible then cool, well, let’s redesign it and let’s build it over. I don’t have to deal with all the bureaucratic red tape of, you know, knocking down walls and surfaces and granted, I don’t really run into that too much in the convention space because they all are fairly good at it as opposed to like a 110 year old music venue. Or, you know, like an historic amphitheater, like that’s where we run into those. Fortunately like most convention centers are pretty darn good. And also they’re pretty modular as well. Like the things that are being built temporary, those are all the same thing. As the music festivals, we can design those however we want.
And whether it’s a sponsorship activation or a store or an activity meet and greet, however, wherever we’re building, it’s all temporary. It’s all our ability to make it, you know, it’s the same thing as Galaxy’s Edge. It’s new. Cool. Let’s take that into consideration from day one.
Greg: Yeah, that makes total sense. I also appreciate what you said about inclusion and recognizing how challenging it can be for disabled people to even be able to attend events in the first place, whether it’s the cost or their circumstances. I mean, we’re, we’re certainly conscious of that. I mean, Jack and I specifically can’t attend this Celebration due to our, due to our own circumstances. And we know that applies to a lot of our audience too. Um, so it’s not just, it’s not just the ability to get in the door to an event and get around at an event, but just be able to get there can be a huge financial or physical challenge. And if they are able to get there, you know, it might just take like a monumental effort for them or expense for them.
Austin: And that’s why I feel like on top of everything else I’ve mentioned – why we have such a obligation to excel at our… Like when I’m attached to something to excel at our job, I get that folks are making real sacrifices to be there. You know, whether it’s the sporting event, convention, music, whatever it is, this person, you know, like in, you look at like the larger group, they’re real socioeconomic issues, you know, for people with disabilities to travel and to spend the money, to attend these things.
And they’ve decided that that’s worth it to them? Great.
Austin: Let’s honor that by making sure that they can, to the best of their ability, you know, for a lot of the folks attending Star Wars Celebration, like Star Wars is one of their great loves. Like I, you know, like last week I have lots of people, like this is their favorite band in their whole life and like, yeah, they should be able to enjoy it just like anybody else.
Greg: So, yeah, let’s talk some specifics about Celebration and we can get into some more specific accommodations and information in a moment. But first, can you tell us a little bit more about your approach as an organization coming into an event like this, like what’s gone into your preparation.
Austin: Yeah. So I mentioned to you that I’ve worked with ReedPop for a number of years, for Reed Expo. And we do a lot with them. Um, I mean COVID COVID COVID, uh, you know, like…
Greg: That’s the next question.
Austin: I mean, well, you know, there was like pre COVID and post COVID -those worlds. I mean, I’d been doing this work for a number of years and then, March of 2020, like all of a sudden, like the work that I love, the work that my friends are employed in, colleagues and employees, and like, everything’s just put on hold.
So when we started getting events back, you know, summer of last year, it was a bit nutty, because, number one, there’s so much enthusiasm to go back. People are so excited to start going back to events. That being said, there’s only so much bandwidth and all these industries. So we did, like per month, way more events I’ve ever done in 2021.
You know, every weekend it was multiple, three, four shows every weekend. And we actually worked with ReedPop. I want to say my company, in addition to doing ADA work, we also were providing a lot of the management for the COVID compliance teams for all their shows. So there were maybe like eight shows last year for them, in addition to doing, you know, ADA stuff that we were doing COVID work with them.
And you know, things have changed already since 2021. I say COVID COVID COVID cause like just it’s a ever evolving landscape. Like if we had this conversation three months ago, when Omicron was, you know, just everywhere, like, I don’t know where events are going to be in May, you know? So, we started working, late 2021 on this. I had started working on this really in 2020, just start thinking about it. Like when did I start getting my first blueprints and like start planning it? Yeah, it was, two and a half years ago that I started working on this project.
Greg: And ya’ll did Celebration 2019, right?
Austin: Yeah, I wasn’t onsite, but I knew what was going on with that, but then when we announced Anaheim and I said, okay, cool, I’m going to do that. I’m going to put on my calendar. I started in, like, we start working off of those blueprints and then COVID. Then I kind of knew it was going to when it was going to be. But then like with everything with COVID there was a lot of like, okay, let’s wait, let’s see where things are. Let’s get a little bit closer. Cause a lot of events in my world in 2020, and then some in 2021 is an issue of like pause reannounce pause, reannounce. You know, I had events that did that you know, three or four times. So kinda got, okay, like, let’s get, let’s wait till we’re out, you know, November, December, and then we can kind of get into like the nitty gritty of this.
Cause you just can’t plan out farther than that. So that was late in the year. I think I did my first walk through and maybe, in early February, late January, uh, with me and my team. And we’re still, we’re still doing some COVID work on the show as well. But you know, COVID compliance has changed from 2021 to 2022.
I started kind of working on our operations plan around that time and event production, like little changes, make big changes. I’ll put it that way. So it wasn’t really till April that it was like, okay, cool. I really feel good about what this all looks like from my fans perspective in terms of, you know, when I think about this, the way I’m thinking about how we build these environments is okay. A, What does it look like from you know, the time before an event, like how does the fan have information? How do they get there? How did they arrive? How did they get from there, you know, to get their badges, get their ADA credentials, get to the entrance. Okay. And then how are they engaging, you know, with our activities there, you know, which are going to be our meet and greets, our panels, our stores, are there fan activities? Obviously with the other fans and then on an infrastructure level, you know, going between levels, restrooms, quiet rooms, uh, and then a customer service element of how does somebody get assistance on site once they’re there and they require those things.
So it wasn’t really until April that we’re like, okay, cool. I feel like we’re in a good place. And now we can start putting together like the finished product and be able to put it out there to, you know, to the fans so that, in the month leading up, they can make their preparations, um, and feel comfortable attending.
So it’s taken awhile. Normally it doesn’t work quite like this, but as I started COVID COVID COVID so, so thank you everybody for all your patience with us. I really, really appreciate it. I know you guys are gonna love it onsite. Um, it’s just, it’s been a challenge yet again to this point, but it’s going to be rad.
Greg: Yeah. And it’s probably something we should point out. Uh, at the time of recording this we’re actually exactly one month away from the start of Celebration. And we’ll have to see when this episode comes out and when people are listening to it. But it’s probably going to be two to three weeks out. And it’s quite possible things… things could change. Things are changing. Uh, we think things have changed even as far as policy in the past week or so. So, you know, we hope to provide as much insight and information as we can here. But also be sure to double check everything we talk about as it gets closer to the event. Um, and we’ll definitely have a lot of links in our show notes where you can find some of that current information.
Austin: Yes. Please check our health and safety document, you know, on the Star Wars Celebration site, you know, immediately coming by just to make sure nothing’s different than what I’m saying.
Greg: Yeah. And so I guess currently the COVID guidelines based just on the latest change we’ve seen is that right now they’re requiring either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. Is that right?
Austin: That’s accurate.
Greg: And so y’all are just going to be checking for those things, like checking for proof at the door.
Austin: Yes. That is accurate that everything will be done in advance. Before the event, you know, we accept fully vaccinated, or testing and for testing, it could either be done, um, two days before for a PCR test or one day before for an antigen test, uh, that has to be verified on site.
It’s basically when you go through the whole credentialing process, I don’t think we’ve also announced that part yet. So I’m going to hold off on getting into details of that one in terms of the check-in process.
Greg: And yeah, and again, all this is going to be on the health and safety website for Celebration. Which we’ll link to.
So like how big of a presence is your company going to have there? As far as staff.
Austin: So it’ll be me. Plus I think I have seven staff members. At Celebration this year, it’s a comparable team size to what we had at, uh, Chicago. May actually be one more.
I got this really great team of folks, you know, that help me with these that, you know, it takes a unique type of person to come to work for me. Cause it’s, it’s not only just the dedication, like, like loving this type of work, you know, live event work, which is stressful but it’s super fun, but it also is a component of coming to it, just trying to be like an empathetic human being, uh, wanting to work with people with disabilities in these environments.
Greg: Gotcha. So does that also involve some training or other preparations for the rest of the ReedPop team? And the volunteers who will be on site?
Austin: Absolutely. So I’m actually, I’m engaged with them on a totally different project, which is like a corporate standard operating procedure for accessibility. And, you know, cause I mean they do hundreds of events. I only work with them on, you know, like 10 or 15 of them. So like we separately working on like a larger like, okay, Hey guys, this is what she looked like, you know, for all your events and as a company in corporate, you know, like, you know, you stand by this. Cool. Let’s see what that operation looks like, but onsite, yeah, I mean with like, fan experience with security. I mean, even stuff like parking on like perimeter teams, like they’re all teams that I work with, you know, to like do disability etiquette, you know, this kind of like falls out, like, okay, this is another example. Like this isn’t ADA compliance per se. I mean, there are aspects, you know, like don’t ask somebody about their disability. It’s a legal requirement. But in addition to that, it’s just like, it’s rude, you know, it’s not how you should treat people. But I do work on understanding like person first language, you know, or don’t address the person’s companion, assume competence, with people with disabilities, you know. They’re there like you can assume that they can understand you and make and have their own autonomy to make their own decisions. You don’t need to just talk to the able-bodied individuals, you know, who are with them. You know, don’t touch people with mobility aids.
Jack: Don’t lean on their chairs. Don’t lean on their handlebars.
Austin: Yeah. Yeah. They need the balance. You know, people with hearing disabilities, you don’t need to yell at them. They probably have hearing aids in, like, if they’re hard of hearing that that’s not going to help, you know, they’re deaf, they’re not going to hear you either way. Like there’s aspects of like disability etiquette that I would work on with the team, beyond just like the simple, Hey guys, you know, this is where you can route people for their questions. Here’s a very basic primer on our operation and like simple advice for things like where’s the ADA entrance. Where’s, you know, our ADA accessibility services hub, you know, which places do we have ADA queuing on, you know, quick thing on ADA, parking, anything more complex than that it’s going to be, give us a call. You don’t need to be a disability expert. We have a team that are there for that purpose. Yeah. And you can give us a call. We would love for you to call us so that we can give the right answer to the guests the first time, because there’s nothing worse than somebody getting a wrong piece of information, now they’re circling around the parking garage for 30 minutes and they show up and they’re already upset.
Greg: Right. So you’ll have like a primary access center?
Austin: Yeah. We’re going to have one located when guests check-in over at the Marriott, which is right next door to the entrance. So with the operation itself, you know, we will have ADA parking available in Car Park 1 and Car Park Both of these are large structures that have a lot of ADA parking in them. They’re both accessible, uh, off of Katella Avenue. And there will be ADA signage, directional signage indicating guests, how to get to these spots, you know, once they enter and they both have a ton of spots. You know, everybody will need a ADA parking placard, plates, to park in the spots. And when they enter, uh, if you go through like Car Park 1 guests will then take the elevator down and exit out of Car Park 2 towards Hotel Way on, they’ll take a right off of Hotel Way and follow that road to the Marriott, and to ADA registration. And then from there, they’ll make their way down to exhibit D and join the ADA queuing to the event. For guests parking in Car Park 4, which we recommend, cause it is the best parking option for disabled guests, they’ll use the pedestrian corridor to traverse the parking structure to the queue outside of Exhibit Hall D. These are all the details that took us a little while to figure out.
So, you know, uh drop-off and this is a really important point for our guests. If a guest is getting dropped off by friends or family, uh, or they’re getting dropped off in an Uber or Lyft, they need to get dropped off at the Transit Plaza. We will have clear signage indicating where that is, and please go back to our ADA, information that we’ll be posting. I think you’ll probably have a map there of where this is. So please go back to there to look at it. Cause that’ll be the accessible way. It’s right outside of our ADA entrance.
Jack: Question too. Like here in Pittsburgh, we have something called access which it’s a, um, part of the public transportation and they have vehicles with wheelchair lifts that’ll come to your home and then take you directly to wherever. Do they have anything like that?
Austin: Uh, we do. OCTA is, uh, the provider for Orange County or Orange County Transit Authority, and they also have an ACCESS program and any of those vehicles can also drop off at our transit center, which is right outside of the ADA entrance. And again, we will get all this information, hopefully with a map on the site to show people where to get dropped off.
So then from there, guests will be going to our, you know, we have a hub at the Marriott where they can get their ADA credential. That’s where anybody would go if they have a mobility disability that makes it so they’re not able to stand for long periods of time And they’re going to need help with queuing or help with viewing for our panels.
What we’ll do is, you know, people just can come talk to us, you know, they tell us what’s going on, cool we can issue that. Also at that location though, we can help with other types of accommodations. Like if somebody has a visual disability, like we can offer them like a guided tour to help them make like a mental map of the venue.
If somebody needs to check out an listening device, we can do that there. If somebody needs to charge a piece of medical equipment, we can do that there. Or if we need to, uh, register a service animal, all animals will need to be checked in so that we can, you know, get them a dog credential to enjoy the event.
We can also do that at the gates it’s just easier to stop by the accessibility services kiosk there. So, yeah, we’ll do that there at the Marriott. If somebody doesn’t go to the Marriott and they’re already inside the perimeter of the event, they’ve already gone through security, we’re also going to have one of our fan services booths have a, one of my team members there throughout the duration of the event.
If you check back on the website, we’ll have it listed there. I can’t remember. We have three different fan services. I can’t remember which one we picked. Um, you can stop by any of the fan services and we can, if it’s not something that they can answer, we can send a representative over there. But I know that one of the booths we’ll have somebody there the entire time, at least one of the booths.
Terrie: The one at the Marriott is that one’s going to be open, uh, either Tuesday or Wednesday before, or is it only open during the time of the event?
Austin: It’s going to be open on Wednesday. So not Tuesday, from two till eight. And then, for the event days I’ll open at 6:00 AM.
Terrie: Thank you.
Greg: And that’ll be located in the Marriott.
Austin: That’s accurate. Just like a lot of convention centers. It’s kind of like, they have like their convention center with their entrance and then like a bunch of hotels, like, you know, right across the street or whatnot, right at the entrance. It’s the same thing with our Marriott. I think we also have a Hilton right across the street. But yeah, the Marriott’s right next to like the security check-in and everything. And we’re using that for our, uh, fan registration ADA desk entrance.
So yeah, all of our guests should try and stop by there. You know, before they go in, it’ll just be easier for us, um, and easier for them. Cause you know, we, what we aim to do and you guys probably saw this at Chicago is we love for, you know, our guests with disabilities to come by, chat with us. And you know, based on that, like I can tell somebody’s like, okay, you know, based on your conditioning, here are my recommendations,
And, and not everybody with like a mobility disability is going to have the same experience there. You know, somebody with a power chair or scooter is going to have a different experience than somebody in a manual chair or crutches or a cane, or who might just be walking slowly or have a prosthetic, or even like individuals in wheelchairs might not have the same experience. You know, somebody with like, cerebral palsy, their experience is going to look different than somebody with like quadriplegia or paraplegia. So we’d like the chance to sit down real quick and chat with them about our accessible features at the venue, and then give them our recommendations on things that we think they should be aware of from the get go so they can go enjoy the event, you know, to the best of their ability. That’s our goal with our guests.
Greg: So there’ll be some type of ADA credential of some kind of badge or wristband. Something that’ll identify them. But I guess not everybody is going to necessarily need that.
Austin: Yeah, not necessarily. I mean like, you know, really we’re using those for a couple of different things for our guests who need access to an accessible entrance, you know, to the venue. What I’m really thinking about for our guests with mobility disabilities, I’m thinking about, okay, sight lines for our panels, and then access to our queues for guests that might not be able to wait for long periods of times while standing . They might need seating or might need an expedited queue.
So, you know, that comes up at the entrance. That also comes up in some of our day of lanes. You know, we will have a lottery system for checking in for some of our large panels, that, you know, but we do have some standby lines. So that will be for that, you know, for the stores we have queuing, uh, for the meet and greets, we have queuing. So having that ADA credential would put you in a different queue for those types of things for the entrance, for the day of, you know, waiting for panels as well as for the store, as well as meet and greets.
Greg: Right. And yeah, Jack and Terrie probably have more experience with this than I do, but my understanding is that there’s a separate queue for people with ADA credentials. And they won’t necessarily have to physically wait in line. That right?
Austin: Yes. I mean, we have, cause for a lot of the stuff with the panels, we have a reservation, system for that, that we’ll announce shortly on kind of what that looks like, but then we do have some date of queueing in those areas. And these could be long lines for the general public, so we do have a separate ADA lane that, you know, besides being expedited will also have seating available in those areas to get around the issue of someone not being able to wait, like physically stand in a line for a long period of time. You know, I mean, all those queues are ADA compliant as in somebody with a wheelchair could get through them. But we’re thinking about what does it look like if somebody is physically not able to stand, or I’m starting to go into the world of like neurodiversity and cognitive, neurological developmental disability where somebody, you know, being on account of disability, simply isn’t able to wait in a queue. Those are the type of conditions that would come up. And we do this all on a case by case analysis, kind of looking at what somebody needs based on their disability.
Greg: I’m curious what changes are happening this year, possibly due to COVID. I guess like one big thing is that there won’t be any of those ridiculous long overnight lines. Like people camping out for access to panels and stuff. I’m not sure if this was done in 2019, but I guess this year that’s definitely not happening and there’s going to be a virtual lottery system for access to panels.
Austin: That’s my understanding of the situation.
Austin: I didn’t get to witness, these crazy lines in the past.
Terrie: That’s actually what kind of started me into researching what was going on is those crazy lines that people would camp out. And my first Celebration was 2017 and it was the last one they had camping out and we arrived at two o’clock the day before. Let’s see it started on Thursday. We were there at two o’clock on Wednesday and the hall was already full with people camping out. And it was just, it was, it was pretty crazy. And so a lottery system is not perfect, but it’s so much better than, you know, camping out on cement floor.
Austin: Well, there are a lot of our guests who just can’t do it. You know, cognitive developmental, uh, you know, disability, like just can’t do that. So I understand issues with like, oh, you know, I’m going to go there and I don’t fully know if I’m going to get a reservation. Like I get the frustration, but at the end of the day, at least it’s fair. At least…
Austin: …it was an equal opportunity regardless of their ability.
Greg: Yeah. And on a related note, what’s the policy regarding like portable chairs and ones that you can carry with you. As I understand there are some restrictions around that.
Austin: Yeah. We’re repeating our 2019 policy, on this, you know, I know we’re going to have some seating available in addition in our ADA queues. I was just on a call about that this afternoon. We have restrictions on chairs as well. Not all chairs are acceptable, so I would just like the health policy, I’d refer back to that to get what our restrictions are on it.
Another thing about chairs. I want to highly recommend to guests because there is a lot of walking around, you know, there it’s like a large space to cover, but if you think you’re going to need a mobility aid, you know, if you’re thinking like, oh, I would benefit from bringing a scooter or a wheelchair, I would highly recommend making those preparations in advance.
I don’t believe we have a onsite rental at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Greg: I was wondering about that.
Austin: Yeah, I know that we did at McCormick. And I’ll double check it, check on the website for the most up-to-date information. Um, I know there are lots of vendors in Anaheim, just having lived here, and doing shows in, you know, Southern California for a long time.
Like we have lots of vendors and we’ll put some guidance on there on our, on our website and our FAQ about like, Hey, you know, here’s how to rent a mobility device. But I would really recommend that if somebody is on the border of they’re like, oh, I don’t know if I should or if I shouldn’t, I recommend doing that because every time I work a large event, we always have a number of guests to come to us. And if we don’t have it, you know, it’s like I can’t help you right now, wish I could, you know, and a lot of people who thought like, oh, I thought I could do it, but then I get here and it’s like a lot more walking than just, it’s a huge space. It’s a large convention center. So I wouldn’t want anybody to get too tired and not be able to enjoy themselves when there was something, some preparation that could have been done that would’ve helped them enjoy it more.
Jack: Along those lines. Are you allowed to exit and come back in? I’m saying like, what if you did bring your chair but it’s in the car, you had it just in case like you’re talking about, would you be able to go back and get it?
Austin: I mean.
Jack: Whatever mobility device,
Austin: I don’t know what our full reentry policy is.
If somebody has… say somebody needs to leave an event because of a disability, medical condition… comes up all the time in my world. Somebody who’s diabetic and they left their insulin in the car or something like that, you know, whether there’s a medical need for it, that they need to leave. And then they need to come back. We’re going to allow that, you know, nobody should not be able to join on account of their disability. It goes back to that. Now that being said. I would not recommend people to exit and reenter if they don’t have to. I would bring everything you need to bring the first time. Because to do it, it’s like, okay, we got to work with security on it. Like it’s hoops to go through. I don’t even know what our general attendee GA like what our reentry policy is on it. I just know in my world, if I have somebody who comes to our booth and says, hi, I have a disability, I need to go off site because of it. And I’m going to want to re-enter, like, we’re going to make that happen for them. But that being said, hoops that we have to go through, so I, if we can avoid it, that would be optimal.
Greg: Yeah. And kind of along those lines, what kind of food availability is there, around there? Are there vendors, restaurants, or cafes or things like that in the center? Or near there. And what kind of policies are there as far as bringing your own food, if you need to.
Austin: Yeah, so, you know, I want to be like, we’re conscientious, you know, of dietary disabilities from the get-go. You know, we have like a food court with like concessionaires there and there are plenty of dietary options out there, you know, I know we have vegetarian food, vegan food. I think we have kosher food there. And then like you get into the stuff of like gluten free and allergies.
With that being said, if somebody has, you know a severe allergy, you know, uh, to peanuts or anything else like that, or a gluten intolerance, and they need to bring in outside food… like we’re starting to get into the world of like Celiac’s disease and some of these, like, they just can’t even deal with like cross-contamination on, like the same oven or dishes that might’ve had these things, even if you don’t order it, when we get down to those types of sensitivities, I’m just recommending ultimately you should probably bring your own food. Like, so you’re not reliant on us just because I, these are vendors. Like, I want you to feel comfortable and I don’t want you to feel constrained with your own safety to something that’s being provided, you know, it’d probably be fine, but like you should just be allowed to bring in whatever you want, you know, to eat your lunch or your dinner. Just in those circumstances, notify, when you’re bringing things through, you’re going to stop by security and you’re going to tell them you have outside food because of a dietary disability. Probably ask for the manager in that case, they might bring someone from my team over, cause I’ll have people at the gates to assist with these and those are things that will be provided for approval on, medical exemptions to our security protocols. And, yeah, we do that very, very frequently. We just ask the guests bring in a personal amount of food, uh, for them and don’t bring in alcohol. And besides that all good.
Greg: So, yeah. Uh, and you mentioned earlier about service animals, so I know all service animals need to be registered. Are there any guidelines or requirements as far as service animals and what’s allowed or not?
Austin: It just needs to be a legal service animal. So we don’t allow therapy, animals, comfort animals, emotional support animals, pets, you know, it needs to be a dog or miniature horse that has been individually trained to assist an individual with a disability one or more major life activities, wherever it might be.
And as long as the animal has been trained to provide that, you know, we’ll ask what that task or function is. The owner should understand that, you know, they’re responsible for the animal, that it needs to be on a leash at all times, unless that person’s disability doesn’t allow that. You know, like you talk about like an amputee or something. You know, the dog needs to be housebroken. We’ll have a service animal relief area set up for the animals. You know, should we be properly up-to-date with like rabies vaccination. Those are really the big ones, you know, but yeah, as long as the animal is a legal service animal and is trained to assist the individual on account of their disability then yeah, we’ll let that one in.
Greg: Yeah. And I guess a related thing that’s probably worth mentioning that really applies to attendees of any kind of event or park is that when people have service animals. Like, if you see a service animal being used, that’s marked as such, it’s really not appropriate to go petting them or touching them, or even like interacting with them, like even getting their attention or distracting them from their work.
You know, as a service animal is at work when it’s performing its duties and that person with whatever disability that’s with them is relying on them for some purpose. And you can really affect that person’s experience at that event. I mean, if a person invites you to interact and gives you the go ahead and allows it then sure. And like, like a lot of kids will do that. And most people are understanding about that, but it’s also a good opportunity to teach kids awareness of that, to not just go running up to a service animals, to pet them or something if they haven’t been invited to do that.
Austin: Yeah. And I have a service animal, her name is Ophelia. And, you know, it’s like, I mean, if I bring my dog to an event, I’m going to get asked if she could be petted, like, you know, 50 to a hundred times a day. and it’s like, part of it is like you have to say no, because you don’t want the dog to start expecting this from strangers when she’s supposed to be focused on her job, you know, like, like that’s just like the reality of it.
Cause like I work in crowded areas all the time where everyone wants to pet the dog. Yeah. But we got like, we got things to do, like…
Austin: Just, it comes up a lot. I’m glad you mentioned the etiquette on it.
Greg: Yeah, and it’s definitely an etiquette thing.
More Specifics and Wrapping Up
Austin: We will have queue lines for our guests, at the Celebration store. So that definitely will be a thing. Um, let’s see. We will have lots of ADA signage throughout the event, whether it’s for the queue lines or for parking or for the entrance or accessibility services hub. You know, always have some patience. Uh, we have a lot of temporary staff who’ve never worked this event before and, you know, our outside vendors and we are trying to get the right information. If in doubt, and if you aren’t getting right answer, please ask the staff member to radio in to the ADA team because I can for sure to get you the right answer. Uh, I just need to have some awareness on the issue.
You know, I saw a question in here about companions. We allow one companion for the individual, with the disability. I wish we could offer more, but we do ultimately have finite resources and we need to make sure that like for our viewing, for our panels and stuff, that as much of that space is being utilized by those who truly need it as possible, so, you know, that everyone’s able to enjoy that. That being said, when we start getting into the world of families, and we’re talking about minors, we’ll make an exception for that in that case, so just come by our accessibility services hub. We don’t want unattended minors because of our policy.
We will have two quiet rooms at the venue, on different sides of the venue. So there will be one in room 209B, and one in the Prayer Room in 21C if somebody is feeling just a little over stimulated, or is going through a crisis and just wants to take a little reprieve from the event, you know, it’s pretty hectic in there. So, you know, somebody just needs a break, just needs a calming environment, we’ll have two of those available.
If somebody needs to bring in, a piece of medical equipment. Say they have like, syringes, you know, for they’re a diabetic, or, you know, a mobility device, that might be different than, you know, a cane or wheelchair like, yeah, we can totally go through that. And I would encourage you to shoot us an email. If you shoot us an email, like if you have any questions about what’s allowed and what’s not, it generally speaking, if it’s there because it’s needed for a medical necessity, we’re going to allow it. But it’s also good for us to have some aware of this because we actually make a registry of every single person who has a security exemption, uh, request. They make the list of that so we can hand that off to security. So it just makes things a little bit easier at the gates.
Those, I think are the main ones I see in the FAQ’s that we didn’t touch on already. And then anything, that’s not that we didn’t touch on if it’s not addressed in the website’s ADA language, if it’s not touched on in the FAQ we’re putting together for the Facebook group, you can shoot us an email and, you know, we would love to answer those questions for anything that comes up, I know we answer a lot of questions from guests and I know we have a lot of catch-up to do now that we have our finalized plan. Um, but you know, we’ll be getting to all of our guests with the individual inquiries as they come up.
Greg: Right. One other area I wanted to ask about specifically was – Is there ASL at each panel? Or is it… uh, only on certain panels or by request?
Austin: Yeah, I want to say we have a fairly comprehensive ASL program at the events. We’ve already contracted our vendor, for the panels and I want to say we have ASL for, yeah, pretty much everything going on on the Celebration stage and the Galaxy stage on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And also we have, you know, I kinda mentioned we have assisted listening devices for our guests who are hard of hearing. We’ll be deploying those at those stages.
Greg: Yep. Okay. Well, I think that covers all the major areas we had in mind. I guess the main thing to know is that people can reach out to ya’ll at the email address that we’ll include in the show notes. If they have any specific questions. And check the website. That will also link to if they need like more general information.
Austin: I have a great team of people who help, and that do a lot of our ADA inquiries, that understand A, the operation and B you know, how to work with guests with disabilities, understand the different conditions, understanding the different etiquette points to it. So they’ll be answering questions, from now through the show and yeah, if anybody has anything that wasn’t covered here, we’d love to answer. We want folks to come prepared and feeling like they understand what’s going to happen .As somebody with a disability myself I know the feeling of showing up somewhere, I mean like – I hope this works. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I hope it will. And it’s a frustrating and anxiety filled experience. So we don’t want anybody to feel that way. And I apologize if anyone has felt that way for the last couple of years, as things have moved and plans have changed, but you know, as we get into one month before the show, everybody should be able to be getting all the information they need to make their final preparations for it.
Greg: Oh, that was one other thing I want to mention was that you’ve been working with Terrie to collaborate on an FAQ to flush that out for the Facebook group. And I know that’s going to be a great resource that we’ll point people to, and we don’t know exactly when this will come out again, but there is an upcoming on May the Fourth, a live Q&A event ya’ll have planned, where you’ll be answering questions and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of the same kind of questions, but possibly some more information at that time. And I know if this comes out after that, there’s probably gonna be a recording in there somewhere um, for anyone who joins the Facebook group.
Austin: Absolutely. And for a couple of the questions that came up, that I didn’t have full clarity on, hopefully even more will be revealed. So I look forward to meeting, I look forward to me and the attendees that, uh…
Greg: And as far as you personally , I know on social media, you’ve got. Well, your dog Ophelia has an Instagram account.
Austin: I do. I don’t have a personal Instagram, but my dog has an Instagram.
Greg: I was looking for you and that’s what I found was…
Austin: Yeah. The Festival Dog because I think she has been to more than a hundred music festivals in her life. Cause it’s where we got started. Just posted a picture of her Coachella last week. So that’s something… and I think she will be at Star Wars Celebration. So…
Greg: Awesome. So everyone can come meet Ophelia but please do not interact with Ophelia unless you’re invited to.
Greg: All right. Well, we really appreciate it. This has been awesome. And I’m sure it’s been really useful for our listeners. We really, really appreciate you coming on and talking to us.
Austin: Thanks guys. I appreciate you all. Thank you.
Greg: Okay, awesome. That was a great discussion. I want to thank Austin a lot for joining us. And I hope that was really insightful information for everybody. I want to mention one thing that came up during the discussion that audio listeners might not have picked up on that we were all laughing about was that when Austin started talking about his level of fandom, you know, he showed us his large AT-AT tattoo on his chest that took up much of his chest.
And, uh, I just lost my mind because I’m an AT-AT addict. So that completely proved his f an credentials in my mind. So that was really funny and really cool and also is kind of nice to hear, you know, that we’ve got fans who both have the experience and the knowledge, and also the fandom to, support fellow fans. And, and it’s great to hear that he’s going to get to go this year himself and experience that himself.
Since that recording with Austin, we’ve actually had a little break here and in the past day, coincidentally, they released a lot of, uh, disability information for Celebration. So ReedPop put up what they’re calling their ADA Assistance Program page on their website, which actually has a lot of the information we talked about on the discussion with Austin. And also clarifies a couple of things that he wasn’t quite sure about. We found out Terrie ,right, what they’re going to be using for credentials?
Terrie: Uh, stickers. They will be using stickers. In the past when they had stickers before they put them directly on your badge. And if you’re a collector and you don’t want sticky stuff on your badge, I recommend picking up a badge holder just a clear one, that you can stick your badge in and they’ll put the sticker on that.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. And they do have clarification here that I think you’ve pretty much covered, but basically just to be clear that they’ll give you a companion sticker, one for each disabled attendee. And they will make exceptions to that for families with small children. So you don’t have to worry about that. and it does say that you can switch your companion if you need to, if you have certain people that can attend with you on certain days or others, this says to bring the old companion sticker to the ADA desk, and they will reissue you one.
Terrie: And also I know um in Chicago, a lot of people, if you were not fortunate enough to get a four day pass, if you have a Thursday pass a Friday pass Saturday, pass Sunday pass, please make sure to bring every single pass with you to the desk the first time. So then you won’t have to go back each day.
Greg: That’s another, another great tip. And he provided a lot of detail and I know that they will have maps eventually to, uh, clarify where to go for certain things. They do have the information here on their website that the ADA desk is in the, at Fan Services, which is in the Marquis Ballroom of the Marriott next to the convention center and where a lot of people will be staying. So you should be able to find them there, at the Marquis Ballroom, that’s where you would go whenever you’re able to, I guess most people, I think are going to want to go the day before the afternoon when you, when you arrive, get it taken care of, go get your sticker, your credential get registered.
Terrie: So you can start Wednesday at two o’clock, hours are up, but I believe it’s 2 to 6, and then beginning at 6:00 AM every day during Celebration.
Greg: Yeah. And what also was saying, like go there at least one time they’re going to have at each entrance, my understanding that, like you’re saying, they’ll have, ADA support at each entrance to be able to accommodate you. but, also you need to go probably to that desk first to get signed up, and then they will actually give your name to security. so they’ll know that you can go through whatever accommodation you need. That sound right?
Terrie: Yeah, they’re really good in the past. Um, if you carry a certain bag, if you have a cane that looks slightly like a weapon, or if you have a cane, it looks like a lightsaber. I wish we had real lightsabers, but there’s some things that security may have a question about. And if you go through the ADA, desk ahead of time, they will clear you and security will have your name. You don’t have to go through the whole hassle every single day. But yeah, you’ve got to remember security is there to keep everybody safe, but at the same time you have needs, you may need to bring in, you know, certain machines, security may have a question about them, but if they’ve been okay through ADA, you won’t have a problem getting through.
Greg: Yeah. and then if you have any other questions we highly recommend people join the Facebook group, which is Star Wars Celebration ADA Attendees.
Terrie: What I do is I go in and type Star Wars Celebration ADA. It is the Star Wars Celebration ADA Attendees group.
And you could just search for Star Wars Celebration, ADA in Facebook, and it will come up.
Greg: And we’ll also provide a link to it in the show notes.
Terrie: Thank you.
Greg: Um, but we definitely recommend people go there. If this episode’s come out by May the Fourth, then you can also check out the live stream or find the recording there.
Terrie: We will have the recording.
Jack: What time does that start?
Greg: 4:00 PM PST 7:00 PM EST on May the 4th.
Terrie: May the Fourth. And we will have the recording on the site.
Greg: Yep. And of course I’m sure at that point also Austin will probably even have more information, answer more questions. We also did check and according to the site, the official email, which we’ll also put the notes is firstname.lastname@example.org and that will go to their team.
So Terrie in addition to the Facebook group, you mentioned there’s some other involvement you’re gonna have at Celebration.
Terrie: Yeah, uh, we have been very fortunate, and the 501st Walking Wounded is going to have a table over in the fan area and they’ve invited us to come and talk about our group as well. So you will find volunteers from the group there, throughout the event. We’ll have lots of swag to give, so come by one and get one of our stickers and some of our cards. And we’ll be happy to talk to you about the group. And I also know that, um, they’ll be there, happy to talk about the, uh, Walking Wounded.
Greg: Yeah. And for anyone who doesn’t know, the Walking Wounded Detachment is an official unit of the 501st Legion costuming group but it’s, it’s basically for fans who are disabled, chronically ill, or have other types of impairments who are still out there costuming. And they talk about the modifications they’ll make to their costumes their accommodation needs for troop events they go to, and some of the challenges involved. It’s a really supportive group and they do a lot of really cool work. It’s it’s a cool group. I’m glad to hear that they’re going to be having representation at Celebration this year. That’s also really, really cool.
Terrie: Yeah. And we’re very happy. We’re very honored to be included and you know, little square. Yeah. So we’re happy to talk about that and partner with them. And I really don’t know how long they’ve been with the 501st, but they now have branched out and the Rebel Legion and the Mandalorian Mercs all have branches of the Walking Wounded for the costuming.
Greg: Yeah. Essentially they’ve expanded the group. It was, part of the 501st to begin with, but now I think it was sometime last year or…
Terrie: Yeah. In the last year.
Greg: And Alvin Johnson is the founder of the 501st and he actually created the Walking Wounded Detachment because he himself is disabled and he wanted to be able to create a community for that sub group of fans and costumers and provide support for their particular needs when it comes to costuming.
And that booth, uh, like you said, you’ll be handing out some stuff and that’s going to include one of our listeners’ only opportunities to get actual Resilience Squadron stickers that you made for us which is awesome.
Terrie: I will have some of those. Um, there’s also a podcast meetup, which I will be attending, on Thursday night at the Hilton. So I’ll have some stickers with me there, so we’ll be passing those out to everyone.
Greg: Yeah, you can represent us there a bit, if you don’t mind. Everybody who joins us as a Resilience Squadron member.
We should send a little R2D2 and put a cell phone on it.
Greg: With a little video, screen. Yeah. We should send RE-SQ.
Jack: That’d be cool.
Greg: RE-SQ is our mascot in the logo.
Terrie: Oh yes
Greg: Adopted D-O model droid, but we call him RE-SQ because he’s a rescue droid. His own disabilities and issues.
Jack: Slowly working on a life-sized one.
Terrie: Yeah, you need that. I’d take him. Probably run him into a lot of chairs, but I’d be happy to take him. Not the best droid driver. Sorry.
Greg: Yeah, none of us are, not with one of those.
So Terrie besides the Facebook group is there anywhere else people can contact you?
Terrie: Um, you can contact me yeah through the Facebook group. And if you want to follow me on Instagram, kind of find out, you know what we’re doing, I’m @nerdgirltravels.
Greg: Great. I hope you have a lot of beagle information on there?
Terrie: Yes. You’ve got to love Star Wars and love beagles, to follow me, because it’s pictures of Star Wars and pictures of my beagles. I have two beagles of my own, and then we also rescue beagles. So right now I have four dogs to ask you dogs, and two of my own.
Greg: Nice. That’s funny, Jack’s got his…
Greg: She’s a beagle, right?
Jack: Mixed, but yes.
Greg: Yeah. And, my parents have a beagle.
Jack: And she’s a rescue.
Greg: Nice. All right, well, thanks a lot for joining us. We really appreciate you coming on and joining us for this conversation with Austin and, especially for sharing your own insights.
Terrie: Well, thank you so much for having me and listeners, please. If you’re either gonna stop by the, uh, the Walking Wounded table or find me a podcast meetup, or I’ll be all over Celebration, check for my IG account and I’ll have a sticker for you.
Greg: All right. And thanks to everybody for joining us. We always want to hear from you, if you have any questions about any of this stuff, or about the podcast in general. Or you just want to share your story, we love to hear those. So feel free to reach out to us on social media. You can reach us. At resiliencesquadron on Facebook and Instagram. And we’re @resiliencesquad on Twitter because they don’t allow as many characters.
You can also check us out on our new website, resiliencesquadron.com, where you can find older episodes of the podcast and other content related to disability and chronic illness and the fandom.
We also really appreciate it if you could give us a rating review on iTunes or whatever podcast platform you happen to use. That really helps us out a lot. It gets us exposure and helps people see us and find our message. So, thanks a lot again for joining us.
And if you’re lucky enough to go enjoy Celebration.