On a bright and sunny July morning, I walked with my cane along the side of the Los Angeles Convention Center. With my head held high in my heavy blue wig, I got ready to join thousands of con attendees at Anime Expo (AX). It was my only day at AX, one of the busiest anime conventions, and I was excited. I often cosplay characters that I identify with, and on this day, I chose to be Jinx from Arcane: League of Legends because there was an Arcane/League of Legends community meet-up scheduled at the con. I love to transform into my favorite characters and show that people with disabilities deserve to hold space in the cosplay community.
As I approached the building, I noticed the regular entrance for AX snaked around the building and I knew that there was no way I could stand in that line without fainting. Luckily, clear signs made the accessible entrance easy to find, which was great because I was already experiencing Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) symptoms from putting together all the makeup and accessories I needed for Jinx. However, when I approached the security team, I found myself in a snafu.
“Do you have Premier Access?” A security guard asked me.
“ADA,” I replied, gesturing to my cane, decorated with pink rhinestones I had glued on myself.
“Do you have the blue sticker?”
I showed him my con pass in confusion. Blue sticker? As a disabled cosplayer, it takes more than the average panic of a “con crunch” to make sure I’m prepared for a convention. Nothing I read before the event about ADA access mentioned a blue sticker. “I have a medical condition,” I told him.
The security guard furrowed his brows in confusion. “You need a blue sticker on your pass, otherwise you have to walk back–”
My knees were already buckling. I was dreaming about the air conditioning inside and the Gatorade in my backpack. “I don’t think I can walk back there,” I explained. “I have POTS, I’ll pass out, you’ll have to call an ambulance, and no one will have a good time.”
The security guard glanced at me and then over at his supervisor, clearly not sure what to do. Finally, he relented and let me in. I made my way into the convention center to sit down, get my POTS symptoms under control and met one of my fellow Jinx cosplay friends for shenanigans.
Overall, the brief struggle to get my disability recognized at AX didn’t ruin my con experience: I had a blast making new friends, taking pictures, and was even filmed by Riot Games and appeared on the official League of Legends social media. That being said, my experience highlights the lack of understanding of ADA access for fandom events. Hobby spaces need to be more welcoming, inclusive, and accessible for people with disabilities.
While AX did some things right regarding accessibility — they had clear signage and their ADA accessible entrance was in the full shade versus being in the sun — we still have a long way to go. In the future, event planners must clearly highlight how to request accommodations and include that information in all registration materials. If a sticker or additional passes are needed to enter an event using the ADA accessible entrance, that also must be communicated in the registration process and be readily available on site. Finally, training on ADA accessibility should be given to all staff so participants can feel welcome and enjoy the event.
Individuals with disabilities deserve better than half measures and confusion. We deserve to live our best nerdy lives alongside our nondisabled peers.