Now, here’s a post I could, and probably should, have done a while ago. Here is your comprehensive accessibility review of MCM London Comic Con from the girl that’s been 3 years on the bounce (October ones only may I add, not sure if anything is different for the May event)
(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)
In terms of my own ticket buying, I just buy a general entry ticket for a specific day. Or IF I’m attending with others, we’ll all have general entry tickets (yes, I’ve gone to conventions alone, specifically on my 21st birthday, it was FAAAAAABULOUS, and I mean that utterly seriously). MCM’s accessibility policies do include an option to apply for a carer ticket and/or a timed entry, but, for me specifically, I feel like timed entry isn’t worth it as the event will be busy regardless of when I enter. Also, in terms of a carer ticket, I attend in my electric wheelchair so don’t need a lot of help or ‘care’ of any specific kind, plus if I am attending with someone, chances are they’re a fellow convention nerd and would have their own ticket regardless. There is also the option (for everyone, regardless of if you have a disability or not) for priority entry tickets to get into the event an hour (or is it two?) earlier. However, this again doesn’t really suit me as I feel like it would only be of use if I got there at 9am or whenever priority entry opens, and with a 2-hour trek to get from my flat in Uxbridge to the ExCel, that would mean getting up and out the house at 7am and quite frankly, no thanks!
In terms of travel from my Uxbridge flat to the ExCel, there are various routes I could take. The usual route is the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park (with a ramp at both stations), the Jubilee line from there to Canning Town and then the DLR from Canning Town to Custom House station. However, as the Jubilee line decided to break exactly when we needed it, this year’s route was a little different. We (my mum and I) took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Liverpool Street, then a TFL rail train from Liverpool Street to Stratford. Little side note here, we were told at Uxbridge that there was step free access on the Central line from Liverpool Street to Stratford yet got to Liverpool Street to find out that was false information, so THAT was great. We then completed the last part of the journey by taking the DLR from Stratford to Prince Regent station as Custom House station was closed (which I swear it has been for 2 out of the 3 MCM Comic Con’s I’ve attended?!) Getting off at Prince Regent also meant walking pretty much allllll the way through the ExCel to get to the Comic Con bit which, while it’s a problem for everyone and not just disabled patrons, was an additional annoyance.
In terms of the general accessibility experience, I found it all a bit hit and miss. When we joined the queue for ticket scanning to enter the venue, we were immediately found and skipped round the queue to get our tickets scanned without having to ask, which I saw as a nice perk and something I wasn’t expecting (so I wouldn’t have been particularly upset if I DID have to queue). The staff also pulled another wheelchair user and their party from the long main ticket queue in order to skip them round the queue in the same way they did with me, so I was aware this wasn’t just a one off perk for me
I’ve also been skipped ahead to the front of a photo shoot queue in previous years (not this year as I didn’t have any photos taken). However, I was only made aware that I could skip ahead of the queue when I enquired whether I was in the right queue for my second photo shoot of the day and the steward asked why I was all the way at the back, so, if the policy is to have those with disabilities at the front of photo shoot queues, it would be better to have this information more widely published before the event, as more information ahead of time makes the entire day easier for everyone!
My major issue with Comic Con is how busy it is. However, I know that’s just how it is at conventions, so rather than complaining, I’m going to give you some tips to negate the busyness. First pro tip would be that if you are overwhelmed and need some space, there’s usually a pocket of space to sit down towards the back of the autograph queuing section (sit right up against the wall if you can to avoid getting mistakenly in the queue) depending on how deep the queues are. My second point is that, since the busyness makes navigating with/in a mobility aid extra difficult, I’d stay extra vigilant as people are likely to be absorbed in looking at all the merch on the various stalls and stuff.
My other MAJOR tip is, if you can help it, DO NOT go on the Saturday, just don’t do it, it’ll be beyond busy and, from my knowledge, way too stressful trying to navigate to properly enjoy the event. I made the rookie mistake of going on a Saturday for my first EVER Comic Con and that was A. REGRET, there’s just always people everywhere and navigating around is an absolute mission.
My other issue with the ExCel as a venue is their accessible toilet, more specifically their location because, to my knowledge, the accessible toilets are either in the basement area/lower ground floor or the top floor compared to the standard toilets which are on the same level as the rest of Comic Con. This means that if, like me, you need an accessible toilet, you must traipse all the way down or all the way up away from the event to go, which about doubles the length of time spent away from the event! Having said that, if you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of a break, that extended traipse to the bathroom could provide a good break from all the busyness, so it’s a double-edged sword of sorts.
The one thing I do like about the layout of the ExCel at Comic Con is that many of the sections of the event are on one level. That is to say, the stalls, autograph and photo shoot sections are all on the same level (without having to go up or down in a lift) as the venue entrance, albeit in different sections of the venue. The only exception to this is that, as far as I know from the whole one panel/talk I’ve attended, the panels/talks are held on the top floor conference room like section of the venue.
As you can probably tell from the way I’ve switched between praising and moaning about the ExCel, my overall conclusion about Comic Con accessibility is hit and miss. Some accessibility features and things that happened that I wasn’t expecting and consider above the usual, but still some work to do to improve accessibility.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)