Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2018 (WSC) was a successful weekend for those looking to celebrate The Walking Dead fandom. With panels, merch, and celebrity meet-and-greets, there was a bit of everything there for your average fan. I enjoyed seeing so many fans come together, and as my first specialized fandom convention, it was heartening to see the passions of strangers come alive to make the event an enjoyable one. But to be honest, my favorite part of the con was seeing how family-friendly and accessible WSC was for everyone.
As a mother of three, I was floored to see the amount of kid-friendly activities available. Along with the photo sections set up for the little Walkers to snap a picture to show their friends, there was also trick-or-treating. Kids had the options to walk with their parents from booth to booth, where several of the vendors and creators had bowls of candy and small treats set up for a pre-Halloween treat. While the cosplayers working the floors and photo booths were definitely TWD material, WSC also made sure they were plenty friendly. I never saw one crowd the fans or younger kids for a laugh, as many horror events are like to do. As someone used to larger cons where there’s barely breathing room, the amount of respect given to individual space was amazing.
Additionally, the aisles at WSC were wide allowing plenty of space to walk around, push strollers with smaller children, and, most importantly, navigate wheelchairs. For people with disabilities, cons can be tricky, and nigh on impossible, to maneuver. Having the ability to steer your chair, scooter, or other mobility aid is vital for many disabled folks to be able to efficiently and independently work crowded spaces. WSC had plenty of room, and even the celebrity waiting lines were large enough for the wheelchairs to fit comfortably, and have bags attached to their side for convenient storage.
The only downside to the accessibility of the wheelchairs, which is a huge one for fans, was the accessibility platform for the WSC con floor panels. Off to the side in the middle of the large space, there wasn’t a very clear line of view and it was hard to see and hear when I stood there. To be fair, that was a problem consistent with the general admission seating for the panels as well, but being closer to the front would have made it much more enjoyable for people in wheelchairs.
As a mother of a child with disabilities, I was also really happy to see the WSC area designated for quiet time; specifically breastfeeding and for those with sensory sensitivities that may need a moment to take a break from an overwhelming amount of con. My son is autistic, and also has ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. He loves attending big events like this, especially where there’s cosplaying, but it can be a lot for him. He misses out on a lot of events because of that. WSC took the time to make sure there was a designated safe space is amazingly thoughtful and something I’d love to see implemented at the larger cons we attend.
I do wish it was separate from the area for breastfeeding because auditory sensitivities can be aggravated by crying infants. I’d also, again, like to point out the WSC con floor panels aren’t well set up for those with auditory sensitivities or sensitivity to bright lights. The stage lights were blinding, and I ended up watching the screens provided on the side more than the stage, and the noise from the con floor and the multiple surrounding speakers was overwhelming to me. I know that for my son, and others who share similar sensitivities, it would have been a meltdown waiting to happen.
Overall, WSC gets a giant A for effort on their accessibility and family-friendly checksheet! There was a large amount of respect displayed for both younger children and people with disabilities, taking great care to include them in the activities of the con so they, too, could celebrate the fandom that brought us all together. There are a few changes I feel would make it a better, more inclusive, experience but with time these changes are likely to adapt and grow with the con.
4 out of 5 Barbedwire Bats