It was just recently my favorite time of the year. No, not my birthday, and certainly not Christmas. It was MegaCon Orlando. MegaCon is Orlando’s biggest fan convention and is growing larger every year. This year the convention ran from Thursday, May 24–Sunday, May 27. While in past years my packing list consisted mostly of comic books I want to get signed, this year was a bit more of a challenge.
Traditionally if you Google “comic con packing lists” you get the typical suggestions for water, wallet, and snacks. For me, though, it’s a little more complicated.
Since going to MegaCon last year I have lost quite a bit of stamina and added quite a few diagnoses to my ever-growing list. My thyroid is currently out of balance, and my fibromyalgia is not great. In addition, last year following the Con I was sick for almost two weeks with a upper respiratory infection that I more than likely caught there. This year I decided to take my wheelchair. I purchased a wheelchair bag set and a cup holder to help carry my essentials.
While I might not be cosplaying as Oracle, I am hoping to be just as prepared as she is.
What I Brought:
- Cell phone, charger, and power bank
- Sharpies and pens
- Reusable tote bag
- Comic books and trade issues to be signed by creators
- Gluten-free snacks—I have an intolerance.
- Pedialyte Powder Packs
- Water bottle
- Purell wipes
- Moist towelettes
- Thermometer and probe covers—I am susceptible to temperature changes and hot flashes due to my condition
- Heat and Cooling skin sticks for hot flashes and/or fevers
- Eyeglass cleaner
- Pepto Bismol to-go
- Various prescriptions
- Slap Koozie for cold drinks—the joints in my hands cannot hold cold items for a long period of time without pain
- Hand sanitizer—a lot of hand sanitizer
- Over-the-counter pain medicine
- And most importantly…Dylan to push the chair.
Having spare makeup bags was essential to staying organized. The first day I used my purse and the two wheelchair bags and was overwhelmed. The days got easier as I had fewer books to be signed. My main goal at MegaCon was to see comic creators and get books signed. The wheelchair bags were the best purchase I have ever made. One sat on the back of my chair and the other sat on the side so I had easy access to it. The bags were perfect for things we had purchased and things I wanted easy access to like hand sanitizer, my phone, and my lipstick.
MegaCon was very accessible for the most part. When we went to major lines with difficult weaving turns we were escorted to the VIP section to avoid the difficulty. This also helped massively with my fatigue and allowed us to do more than we could previously. Other lines marked by tape allowed us to easily park the chair and wait without worrying about weaving in and out. In addition, the Con was in a large enough area that there were only a few moments where I felt claustrophobic in the chair.
The only accessibility issues I ran into were during panels and some of the stores. There is no designated handicapped seating at MegaCon panels—which surprised me. I was able to sit at the end of a row with Dylan next to me but I didn’t go to any other panels with the fear that we would have to sit apart.
MegaCon’s employees were also excellent and very helpful. I would also like to give a shout-out to major creators I met who were super kind and more than willing to accommodate in picture while I was in my chair.
However, I would like to point out one man spoke to Dylan when I got up to go to the bathroom about how it must be inconvenient to push someone who “doesn’t even need a chair.” If I hadn’t had this chair I would not have been able to do this convention. Saturday morning (the biggest day of the Con) I was very sick. I threw up, had hot flashes on and off, and had a headache most of the day. I would not have been able to attend the event that day if I didn’t have a chair. Unfortunately days like that Saturday are common for me. Accessibility tools help me live as normal of a life as I can. Furthermore, it is ignorant to assume all people in wheelchairs are paralyzed or otherwise unable to walk. As a disabled and chronically ill woman I have to do a lot of preparation to attend conventions. I hope in the future able-bodied people can see and understand the hoops people like me jump through to try to have a relatively easy four days of fun.
Comic, video game, movie, and nerds in general come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and conditions. Events like MegaCon allow everyone to share the love of their favorite franchises, creators, and characters. Seeing more and more events work to be accessible is amazing. Additionally, people with disabilities spend money just like anyone else. (Shocking, I know!) The more the nerd community focuses on inclusivity for people like me or other marginalized groups the better the industry will be. On an average week I spend about $40 dollars at my local comic book store but I know I do not look like a “normal comic book fan.” The more the nerd community opens and welcomes all types of fans the better we will become and the more money we can make.
Overall though, I loved my time at MegaCon and can’t wait to do it again next year.
In addition to writing and tweeting into the void, Elizabeth Garcia enjoys applying ethical and political theory to modern comics while wearing leggings and drinking wine with her cat on her beat-up couch.