How to Suppress Disabled Fans

how to suppress
With thanks to Joanna Russ. I am keeping the “she” pronouns as in Russ’s text, and also because it refers to the experiences of Mari Ness, Haddayr Copley-Woods, and Lee Martindale (in this I09 essay and interview), but this is applicable to people of all genders, and to all people who need access.


She didn’t ask for access/accommodation.

(But if it’s clear she did the deed. . .)

She asked for access, but she shouldn’t have. (It’s too expensive, too difficult, too fussy, conrunners are too busy.)

She asked for access, but look how she asked. (Too quietly, too loudly, too soon, too late, she was rude, too wishy-washy, too oblique, too pushy, she asked the wrong people, she did not write an essay about it, she wrote essays in all the wrong places, we did not see the links, she sent emails to the wrong people, we lost the emails, conrunners work very hard).

She asked for access, but if she wanted to get it… (she should have volunteered, she should have paid more money, she should have respected the conrunners).

She asked for access, but she isn’t really a participant like the other participants, and it wasn’t really asking.

She asked for access, but she does not really need it. (She’s not that disabled, it can’t be that bad, she’s just whining, she’s only doing this to get attention, her friends will help her, somebody else will help, she will sit on the ground with other panelists elevated, other panelists will sit on the ground with her)

She asked for it, but she’s an anomaly. (It’s too much bother, it’s too much to spend on just one person, she will not need it again, no other people need it.)

She asked for it BUT. . .


Comments are moderated. Depending on how heated this gets, I may close comments. Thanks for understanding.



  1. Brenna says:

    May I post this as a link and with text and proper attribution on my Tumblr?

  2. […] two posts by Rose Lemberg on the experiences of disabled fans, and the dismissal of their concerns and […]

  3. THANK YOU FOR THIS. In the past few days I’ve been involved in a discussion on the “Fans for Accessible Conventions” facebook group. People without disabilities have been making excuses for Lunacon and praising Lunacon for being honest that they aren’t going to provide disability access and their venue isn’t in an accessible location, shuttles aren’t accessible, a nearby train station isn’t accessible, stages will be provided for panel discussions without wheelchair ramps and on and on.

    Worse still, Lunacon has declared it’s used this venue for 21 out of the past 23 years and intends to continue using this venue regardless of accessibility issues.

    I don’t intend to attend this convention and, even if I’d considered it if this hadn’t happened, I won’t ever attend now. In fact, the discussion from people not impacted by lack of access has made me second-guess my wish to attend World Con and World Fantasy Con because the ableist attitudes are horrendous.

    It all began late last year when a non-disabled author posted about how wonderful it is that the SFF community provides disability access. When I told her about my experiences at a specific SFF convention and about others’ experiences that I’d read online, she said I’d misunderstood. Now she’s declared that she’ll boycott a convention if they don’t have a disability access policy — but she’s praised Lunacon for openly declaring their lack of disability access BECAUSE AT LEAST THEY’RE HONEST.


    Your short post covers every form of disability discrimination I’ve ever experienced. I lost my job in the South Australian Public Service; they claimed I didn’t have a disability (that was diagnosed when I was 6 months old), that I didn’t declare my disability (although there were forms, emails, manager’s notes etc), that I didn’t ask for disability access (although there were records and the managers refused disability access outright in email) etc.

    I followed through. The Equal Opportunity Commission in South Australia found that the South Australian Public Service’s refusals of disability access were my fault because I “didn’t ask ENOUGH TIMES”.

    Eventually I moved interstate and was accepted into a university to study in the hopes that I could start a new career. RMIT refused disability access starting in 2012 in email. RMIT staff gave non-disabled students photocopied class notes and learning exercises but refused to provide large print photocopies for me (I’m vision impaired). By March 2013 (about a month after I started studying for the degree) the manager of the disability liaison unit told me “I will prevent disability access because YOU ASKED TOO MANY TIMES”. He provided the appeal committee a 120-page document attempting to justify his refusal to comply with legislation. They were so impressed with his argument that they offered me “disability access OR an appeal”.

    These are only two examples of disability discrimination and lack of access in my life.

    In the job that I lost, I was employed as a counselor and advocate for minorities. I have a Master of Social Science. I have SO MUCH experience of discrimination and barriers to living that I’m really passionate about this subject.

    It doesn’t matter to me that I can board an inaccessible bus, I can walk up the stairs, I can step up onto a raised platform so *I* could go to Lunacon if I wanted. What matters is that people with disabilities in this so-called “Fans for accessible conventions” are being told that it’s great that this convention is being honest that they don’t have ANY INTENTION of removing barriers to disabled participation now or in the future because they want to stay at the Hilton. Because the non-disabled participants like the Hilton, they’re all apologists for the status quo.

    I stopped attending a certain local convention after attending for 3 consecutive years and, apart from a few quiet chats with a small group of people, hating the rest of the experience. I don’t want barriers preventing others from participating or, worse still, barriers so insurmountable or costly that others cannot attend at all.

    Your post rocks. In very few words, you’ve outlined the games people play in diminishing and discounting people with disabilities and their requests for equity. Thank you.

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R.B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards.

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