Tee Franklin is the writer of the Bingo Love comic, and a prominent activist voice in comics right now. She's started getting more and more credits as a writer and has become more and more attractive as a guest for shows. But it may need to be more than a one-way relationship.
She wrote about why she wasn't attending the Baltimore Comic-Con this year, despite announced plans to do so. Talking about her other conventions this year, her first as an official comics creator, she turned to her planned appearance at Baltimore.
The reason for this post is because I am just so tired of being forgotten that I'm disabled. Unlike you, I can't forget that I'm disabled. Imagine my level of anger when I open my email, to see where I'm placed for Baltimore Comic Con, only to find out that I'm placed all the way in the back and don't even have a damn end table? The reason? Someone who was doing data entry didn't read the contents of the email which svpecifically stated that I'm disabled, would be using a walking device as I can't walk far.
You might be saying, "just deal with it, at least you have a spot." Do you have any idea what I "deal with" just to start my day? Trust me, it's not fun. I can't just get out of bed in the morning and take a piss like most people. It takes forever for me to get out of bed and hustle to my bathroom so I don't piss myself. I'm not able bodied like majority of the world and it's time that conventions help disabled comic creators and make their time at the cons a bit easier to manage.
I talked to Randy Tischler, on the executive staff of the Baltimore Comic-Con and he told me.
This is an unfortunate situation.On Tee's application, she did not note any special needs or requests in the "Requests" section. Instead, in her cover email, she put a request for an end table, noting she was disabled and would like the extra room as she would likely be using some form of assistance. Our email team simply prints out the applications and turns them over to the floor layout guys, so that layout team never saw the cover email and never knew Tee had any requests (as there was nothing on her form).
To be clear, Tee did put it in her cover email and that was a fair and reasonable place to put her request. Unfortunately, our email team simply didn't notice it. For next year, we've instructed them to include the cover email with the applications so this doesn't happen again.
Once Tee saw her location assignment, she informed us that it was very far and she would have trouble getting there. Our creators' space is in the back of the convention hall and has been for 16 years. The good news is that there are alternative entrances to the convention center and we will work with the center to have a process to enable disabled creators to be able to use those entrances, as that may be easier for them (we've had guests who use scooters and they use and have found the alternative entryway much easier).
Of course, none of our new "fixes" and processes help Tee today. We're sorry about that — we couldn't move her without bumping someone else, so we offered her a refund. We'll obviously make sure we do much better next year and every year thereafter.
We try very hard to be an inclusive show for everyone in the comic community. We just have to do better, and we will next time.
In response, Tee told me,
There's a difference between a "preference" and a medical necessity. You'd think that my necessity would trump anyone's "preference", but that's the problem with some people in an able bodied world – it's not their reality, so they could honestly care less.
Any caring human attending that con would have no problem switching their tables, so that I could be accommodated.
Many shows have stepped up the way they cater for differing levels of abilities for both attendees and guests in recent decades, which has also seen more disabled people attend such shows. But there is a long way for many to go. Attending Nine Worlds in London earlier this year, I was immediately struck by how they focus on differing levels of ability for guests and attendees, creating the kind of show that some people go to because they literally cannot go to any other. It might be worth many shows stealing a few ideas from them – indeed, they'd only be flattered.
But change comes from not only from complaints, making people aware of issues, but also doing it in a way that can't be ignored. That, of late, is clearly one of Tee Franklin's real assets.