Friday, June 1, 2012

Some Tips for Convention-Going as a Deaf Person

This past month I was finally able to attend Phoenix Comicon after wanting to for several years. It was a brand new experience for me and although it was a little overwhelming at times, I really enjoyed it! I saw a lot of awesome people, bought some cool art, and overall had a very geeky time.

If you are not familiar with "comicons" (comic conventions), or similar conventions, essentially they serve as places for people with geeky interests (not just comics) to gather. Quite a few people dress up, celebrities make appearances and you can sit in on panels on various subjects. There is also an exhibit hall where you can spend every last dollar bill in your wallet on awesome stuff. (No regrets!)

I thought I would write a few suggestions for anyone who is deaf/Hard of Hearing and interested in attending a convention like this. Something new, with so many people, can be overwhelming. I will also share some of my pictures from the con so you can see how much fun it was!

Phoenix Comicon - Dalek

Sit up front
Unfortunately I didn't follow this advice in any of the panels I went to. I was a little nervous about being right up front. But, this was the biggest thing I would have done differently. The microphones were not always positioned correctly at various panels and some people didn't bother with them at all, unfortunately. Sitting up front would have improved my ability to hear immensely.

Phoenix Comicon - Video Games Panel
Not conducive to being able to hear.

Don't be afraid to ask people to speak up
This goes for panels, people at booths, and pretty much anyone at a convention. Everyone I met was immensely friendly and the place can be loud - so even people with typical hearing will need to speak loudly to make sure they are heard. Don't worry about asking people to repeat themselves or speak up. Chances are someone else in the audience or your group was about to ask the same thing.

Phoenix Comicon - Lego Guy

Utilize different settings on your hearing aids/devices
My hearing aids have a setting set up by my audiologist which decreases the amplification of sound to my left and right but keeps the correct amplification ahead and behind. This was a lifesaver my first day of the convention. The next couple of days I was more familiar with what to expect so I didn't need it. But this setting gave me just enough relief from the loud sounds of the crowd to be able to focus.

Check what special settings you may have on your hearing device and see if any can help you.

Familiarize yourself with the map and setting
You don't need hearing to navigate a building but I feel much better with a general idea of where to go. The Phoenix Comicon has a smartphone app which had maps of the buildings. They also have a handy programming booklet which includes maps, too. I found them very helpful.

Phoenix Comicon - Jack in the Void

Find a quiet spot you can relax in if you need it
I needed this especially a couple of times. It's good to have a spot to relax and recharge. Take a break from hearing. Even in a large building full of people, there is always a quiet spot to be found, even if it's the bathroom. Take advantage of it so you don't get overly stressed.

Go with friends

Friends/family members can always help you out if you need help communicating with someone or advocating for something. Plus I think the con is more fun with more people!

Phoenix Comicon - Us
Ask ahead of time about accessibility accommodations
The Phoenix Comicon seemed very accommodating and willing to help according to a couple of panelists I heard from over the course of the convention. If the information about accessibility accommodations (wheelchair ramps, captioned films, Braille signs, etc) is not available on the con's website, email them ahead of time. You may remind some very busy people of something they didn't mean to forget.

Request captions/subtitles

I didn't watch any films at this convention so I can't relate if subtitles were available. It may be a hassle to ask and then try to figure out how to turn them on, but if you need them, don't worry about it.

Phoenix Comicon - With the TARDIS

Don't be afraid to just sit and people-watch
I did this a few times with my husband during the convention. We would just find an empty space of wall and watch people for awhile. It helps your ears acclimate, and helps you get used to everything. You can spot when a crowd has left a booth so you can speak to the booth owner quietly. And you may be able to see when something interesting is about to happen that you wouldn't hear normally.

Phoenix Comicon - Young Sith Lord
There were a few things I felt the con could have improved on. Some were specific to certain booths (announcing a raffle without enough amplification), others could have been improved upon by the convention runners themselves (no text accompaniment to audio announcements, no way for those with visual difficulties to see what room certain panels were in). All in all I had a great time. Don't be worried if you are concerned about going to the con and not being able to hear. You'll have fun anyway!


  1. Great advice. Looks like you had a lot of fun!

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