What follows below, is a copy of a feedback letter, sent to the owners of PortCon...
I had a complaint that, is not really something you can fix, as it was not a con problem but rather a problem of extremely inconsiderate people. However, I felt I should tell you what happened so that you could be aware of the situation. Unfortunately, I ended up getting injured as a result.
First off I am crippled.
I have hip displacia since childhood and more recently I now also have 3 ruptured discs in my spine. 3 years ago I was injured, resulting in my being paralyzed for 5 months and having to relearn to walk, resulting in the muscles, nerves, and bones of my spine, hip, and knee have permanent damage, resulting in my extremely limited mobility and greet difficulty in walking, bending, sitting down, standing up, etc.
Stairs are nearly impossible hurdle for me and things like stepping up on to sidewalks and curbs, can take a few minutes as I have to stop and kind of pull my leg up with my hands.
The end result is I walk very slow, dragging my right leg, and moving with a rather noticeable limp. Because of poor circulation, I can not sit or stand still for long periods of time and have to get up and walk back and forth, to get the blood moving through my leg again.
Because of this, standing in long lines becomes extremely painful, resulting in I sit on the floor, however I can not sit on hard surfaces without putting pressure on my hip, thus you see me incorporate, very large stuffed animals into my CosPlays (this year, BoomFuzzy was carrying an giant pink donut, while Quaraun was carrying a huge pink unicorn) so that I can sit on the stuffed animal while waiting in line. I would not be able to physically wait in the long lines if I was not adding these giant stuffed animals into my CosPlays.
So, that's a backdrop of my disability, so you understand how it is I came to be injured on Saturday.
As I said, I got injured at the con. Here's what happened: First off, on Thursday when I arrived, the first thing I noticed is that there are 7 handicap parking spaces in the hotel parking lot. However, 6 of the 7 cars in those spots did not have handicap plates of hanging placecards.
I know there are at least 3 wheelchair bound CosPlayer, and several (at least a dozen) on walkers and canes with injuries similar to mine, all of them come every year and do in fact desperately need those parking spaces, but most of which had to park very long distances from the hotel, due to the fact that, so many non-handicapped people were parking in the handicapped spots.
Now, for me, because I need to get up and walk around every hour, I don't mind parking a distance away, because walking to my car that distance, gets my leg circulating again. But others, like Lorraine "mama con"can not move very far distances and need the handicap parking very desperately.
Non-handi capped cars parking in handi capped spots was a very big issue this year. Several times throughout all 4 days, I would see one car pull out and seconds later a different non-handicap car pull into the spot. Over the course of the 4 days, several dozen non-handicapped cars parked in those 7 handicapped spots allowing no option for people who were handi capped and in need of those spots, to park there.
Thus I was wondering, could you possibly add a mention on the website and in the schedule booklet, of the importance of the handicapped parking spaces, for the people who actually are handicapped and really do need to park in those places? And perhaps, also ask the security staff to be on the look out for non-handicapped cars pulling in and ask the people to park elsewhere, as required by state law.
(State law requires non-handicapped cars be towed and impounded - it's a $250 fee to get your car out of impound and a $500 court fine and 3 points removed from your driver's license; - parking in a handicapped spot with a non-marked car is a very serious offence, as it is considered endangering lives, and doing it 3 times, results in jail time. Repeat offenders can have their license suspended, and repeat fins go up and can reach as much as $10,000 if a person is injured as a result of having to park far away, as a result of your car being in a spot they should have been allowed to use. In other words - Maine law sees parking in handicap spots as a very serious criminal offence.
I believe perhaps people are unaware of just how serious an offence the law considers it to be, or how badly a person can become injured as a result of their being inconsiderate and parking in handicap spots.
Moving on... the next thing I noticed is, because of my previously mentioned injury resulting in nerve and muscle damage, one of my problems is bladder issues and the need to use the rest rooms to pee on an abnormal frequency, pretty much every hour, sometimes as many as 3 times an hour.
The hotel, has handi cap stalls in the bathrooms - a very large stall that can hold multiple people, but is that size for wheelchair accessibility. This stall also has much needed hand bars on the walls, for people with walkers or canes (like myself).
Like the handicapped spots in the parking lot, the handicap stall in the bathrooms are very much needed by the handicapped people.
Now me, I can use the none handicap stalls, though it is difficult. But someone with a wheelchair can't.
And there was one woman who did have an accident because stalls were being used to change costumes and it was brought up in the feedback after the con. I was coming out of the rest room, just as she and 2 other girls who were helping her came rushing in, with the poor girl desperatly needing to get into a stall and vomiting all over the rest of the restroom, because she could not do so.
There were several people complaining of this afterwards, saying she either was not eating enough or was not drinking enough water.... I don't know why she was vomitting, all I know is she needed to get into a bathroom stall and it was an issue.
Unfortunately, in spite of the con putting up signs on the doors which very clearly stated "no changing costumes", I ran into the following problem, all 4 days of the event: I would enter the rest room to find, the handicapped stall, contained 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or more girls, giggling, laughing, talking, and changing costumes, in the handicapped stall.
On Saturday, there was a space of time when there were no events I was interested in going to for a bit, so I waiting in the bathroom, waiting to use the handicapped stall, to see how long I would have to wait.
I waited 45 minutes, while 4 girls all in the handicapped stall together, changed their costumes and put on their makeup, in the handicapped stall.
In the ONE and ONLY, single, solitary, handi capped stall available for the more then 2 dozen handicapped event goers.
And so, again, I was wondering, could you possibly add a mention on the website and in the schedule booklet, of the importance of the handicapped bathroom stalls, for the people who actually are handicapped and really do need use them for, you know, peeing and pooping, many of whom have bladder control issues and can not wait 45 minutes for a crowd of girls to come out of the stall?
The handi caped stall is oversize to accommodate wheelchairs and people with oxygen tanks and such, it's not oversize so you can pack a crowd of giggling girls into it for their chat sessions and changing of costumes.
And thirdly, here's how I got hurt, and yes it was reported to the hotel and they did fix the issue, as it was a very bad safety hazard.
The hotel manager was very considerate and very helpful, and was deeply concerned about the issue and was even ready to get an ambulance for me, though I did not need one.
And so you know, if someone gets hurt, law requires they report it to the hotel manager, and the hotel does have first aid available for such situations.
So, here's what happened. All around the hotel are flowers and thus, under the ground is a water hose system to water said flowers. It goes along the outer edge of the sidewalks.
At the registration entrance, under the awning, was one such hose, which someone saw partly exposed, and for whatever reason, decided to pull out of the ground, leaving it in an awkward loop, about 2 or 3 inches above the ground, for a space of about 3 feet. It was not like this on Thursday or Friday, but was like this on Saturday.
The registration entrance sidewalk, under the awning was one of the few places with shade, as such, very large crowds of 40+ people were gathering under the awning, completely blocking off any ability to get from the door of the hotel to the parking lot. Many of them smoking, while standing in front of a sign, clearly marked as "No smoking in this area".
The only way to get passed this huge crowd, was to squeeze between them and the flowers along the side of the building, while also trying to maneuver around the entanglement of hose that had been pulled up out of the ground. As stated above, I have a lame leg.
I can not lift my leg, but rather it drags along beside me as I pull myself along with my other leg and my cane.
Stepping down off the sidewalk is a chore.
Stepping back up onto the sidewalk is a nightmare.
Trying to step over the entanglement of garden hose is a near impossibility.
I tried asking the crowd to let me through, but that many people in that small a space, all talking at once, my voice was lost and unheard by any of them. As stated before, I can not sit or stand motionless for long periods and must walk back and forth to keep circulation in my lame leg. This was one of those times.
I also have a high need for water intake (again due to blood circulation issues) and thus at events like this keep a cooler and case of water in my car (drinking a 16oz bottle of water every hour).
And so I was walking to my car both to circulate my leg and to get a new bottle of water. I was attempting to walk from the hotel to my car, but every inch of sidewalk under the awning was jam packed with people.
The only way to get around them was to step off the sidewalk, attempt to maneuver around the plants and garden hose, then get back up on the sidewalk on the other side of the crowd, which I attempted to do, after they refused to move off the sidewalk. In doing so, I got my lame leg tangled in the exposed garden hose, and fell, slamming my good leg, knee first onto the cement corner-curb edging of the sidewalk.
My knee is badly scrapped and bruised, however, it would have been worse, as in my fall, I also hit my head... thankfully, I was at the time CosPlaying BoomFuzzy the Unicorn, a candy wizard, and as stated above thus carrying and humongous beanbag chair sized pink donut, which I landed on. Had I not been carrying and thus landed on that donut, I would have slammed my face on the sidewalk, very likely breaking my jaw and nose.
Carrying the giant stuffed animal is the only thing that prevented my injury from being very serious and requiring going to the hospital. Had I not been carrying that, I would have been very seriously injured.
Seeing me fall, the crowd that had previously not moved to let me pass, quickly gathered, helped me up and made sure I was okay.
One girl, also on a cane, said the exact same thing had happened to her only a half hour prior.
A boy said he'd been sitting on the rocks across there, most of the day, and had seen dozens of people trip and fall over that hose as a result of trying to maneuver around the crowd that was staying under the awning to avoid the noon sun.
I called my boyfriend (who was not at the con, but lived near by) and he arrived minutes later. He helped me with my bruised leg, and then, went to the hotel front desk and asked to talk to the hotel manager.
The manager came out and offered first aid, but we had already done that, and then wanted to see the location. After being told what happened and seeing the hose, he quickly had the hotel staff block off the sides of the sidewalk under the awning to prevent any one getting hurt on the hose again.
After that, a hotel security (not a con security) was seen every few minutes patrolling the sidewalks and asking people to leave whenever crowds tried to gather on the sidewalks. From noon Saturday till the end of the con on Sunday, he continued to do this and there was no more crowds gathered on the sidewalks blocking traffic after that.
And so, again, I was wondering, could you possibly add a mention on the website and in the schedule booklet, of the importance of not loitering on the sidewalks, as well as not tampering with the hotel property?
This incident could have been avoided, had someone not pulled the hotel's watering system out from under the ground and had the crowd not been blocking the sidewalk.
My good leg is hurt now, resulting in, it'll be several days before I can move around. My left leg is near useless, and it was my right knee that was hurt in the fall.
As it is not a serious injury, it'll be healed in a week, but it posses to cause long term complications as I do need to get up and walk to increase circulation, and now I can't do that for an entire week, which could cause issues.
While a bruised knee is only a minor injury to a non-disabled person, for someone with limited mobility and the resulting circulation issues that come with limited mobility, a small bruise can be life threatening, which most people simply do not realize.
Anyways, that was my complaint. The con itself was great. I loved all the events I attended and made new friends and saw old friends and had a great time.
Like I said my complaint was not an issue of the con itself, and not really something you can prevent as it was an issue of inconsiderate people being inconsiderate. But perhaps, if it was mentioned in the schedule booklet, the importance of handicap parking spots and handicap bathroom stalls to actual handicapped people, as well as the safety issues involved with blocking sidewalks and tampering with hotel property, perhaps it'll help people to be less ignorant of the fact they were being inconsiderate?
I don't believe people were going out of their way to be inconsiderate to disabled people, I think it just didn't cross their minds to think - maybe the large stall in the bathroom is there for a reason, maybe those parking spaces are near the door for a reason.
It is my hope that in writing this, people become more aware of the reasons why the hotel provided those bathroom stalls and parking spaces, and the importance of why the con put up signs saying to not block halls, doors, and sidewalks... it is for the safety of every one, that these things are in place.
I was at another event (Books In Vacationland) at this same hotel, and have discovered that since my injury, falling in the entry way, the hotel has completely rebuilt this section of the entryway, removing the steps, removing the dangerous wiring and pipe system, and replacing the whole thing with a handicapped friendly ramp system.
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