Calgary, Edmonton Expos less accessible after policy change, say fans with mobility concerns

Some visitors to the Calgary and Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expos are disappointed with what they say are "unfair" changes to the fan conventions' accessibility policies.

Fan Expo HQ says policy complies with all necessary regulations

Cosplayer Laura Taylor incorporates her wheelchair into her Princess Peach costume. She says Fan Expo HQ's policy change makes it harder for her to attend the Calgary and Edmonton fan conventions. (Submitted by Laura Taylor)

Some visitors to the Calgary and Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expos are disappointed with what they say are "unfair" changes to the fan conventions' accessibility policies.

The changes came after the expos joined the North American pop culture exhibition group Fan Expo HQ. 

Fan Expo HQ confirmed that attendees in Calgary and Edmonton with mobility issues used to be allowed to use VIP lines without paying for VIP tickets — which could save hours of waiting for photos and autographs with celebrity guests.

Now, if guests with disabilities want to use the VIP lines, they'll have to pay for VIP passes, which are sold out for the Calgary event. 

'It really upsets me'

Laura Taylor — who has a brain tumour that causes seizures and uses a wheelchair — started a petition against the policy.

"It really upsets me," Taylor said. "I'm wheelchair bound. I'm stuck in my house most of the time and I truly do live for these expos."

Taylor is a member of a group called Alberta Cosplayers with Disabilities. She said she has limited hours each day she's awake and mobile, so waiting a few hours drastically changes her experience of the event.

She said her group has been trying to contact the organization for clarity on the policy for months, and weren't informed of the policy change until after VIP passes — which cost hundreds of dollars more than regular passes — had sold out. 

"I want to prove that disabled people can do all of these things but unfortunately we still do need some help … it's really sad."

Laura Taylor and her caregiver Andrew Hook pose for a photo with Ghostbusters actor Ernie Hudson at Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo. Taylor said changes to the Expo's accessibility policy make it harder for people with mobility concerns to attend the event. (Submitted by Laura Taylor)

Taylor said because of the change, she won't be attending Calgary Expo this year. She still might attend Edmonton's, but she's worried the extra cost of a VIP pass might put it out of reach.

In a written statement, Fan Expo said its updated accessibility policy complies with all necessary regulations and ensures people with disabilities have the same opportunity to access all goods and services in the same place and in a similar way to all guests.

"Fan Expo HQ works hard to make all our shows an equal and accessible fan experience for everyone," the organization said.

The response does not sit well with some Calgarians, like Jayne Barnard who has used a wheelchair for 10 years and judges one of the expo's events. 

"I think if your attitude to the people who buy passes to your event is that we're doing the bare minimum we're required to do, I don't need to support that," Barnard said.

Calgary Expo starts Thursday evening.

With files from Jennifer Lee