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August 12 - August 14, 2016
Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Home  //  Vitals  //  Vitals: Special Needs Guide
Vitals: Special Needs Guide
 [The Basics]  [Preparing for the Convention]  [At the Convention]  

The Basics

What is this document?

The Otakon Special Needs Guide is not a policy, but rather, a guideline to help our members obtain accommodations as efficiently as possible.

What is "Special Needs"?

Special Needs is a department that assists convention attendees who may need a little extra help, to make the experience more accessible. When attendees need and request it, we can provide them with elevator access, priority seating, and in very limited instances, an escort through or around crowded areas. We can also provide large print editions of the programming schedule. We do not provide medical equipment, including wheelchairs, nor do we provide assistance in using such equipment. You will need to provide this on your own.

Where is Special Needs?

We have a desk in the main registration area, near the elevator.

What are the hours of operation for Special Needs?

Special Needs will have someone on duty for all hours the convention center doors are open to the public, including Thursday's online registration pickup period. However, someone may not be present at the desk during lulls. If this is the case, please see the next question for information on reaching us.

How do I get a hold of Special Needs?

During the year, you can reach us by using the email us option through our online contact system. Please select "Special Needs" as the topic to ensure your question is sent to the right department.

New for 2013: If you expect you will need an accommodation other than lining, seating assistance or elevator access, please contact us using the 'email us' link above. When contacting us, please indicate your accommodation request.

Please keep in mind that we may not be able to respond to all messages. If you have an urgent concern, please come to the Special Needs desk at Registration. If you are unable to travel to this desk, please ask a member of staff to page Special Needs. Special Needs will dispatch someone to assist, if they are available, but it may take some time to arrive at your location.

Preparing for the convention

Should I request assistance from Special Needs?

You should ask for assistance if you have a medical or accessibility need, or such assistance would prevent damage to an existing injury. For example, if you have a broken leg, or are pregnant and in your third trimester, you should ask us for assistance. On the other hand, if you have a large costume, or are tired from walking all day, we apologize, but our department cannot assist you.

What qualifies me for Special Needs assistance?

As stated above, any medical or accessibility need will cover you. Some examples:

  • a condition that limits movement;
  • something that alters your ability to navigate stairs;
  • something that limits your travel distance;
  • a condition that causes pain while standing or walking for an extended period;
  • heart or lung related issues;
  • recent surgery; or
  • blindness.
The list is not complete, and only serves as a handful of examples. If you are unsure if you qualify, please contact us before the convention, so that we may investigate, and if necessary, provide alternative advice for you. For clarity, below are some examples that would not qualify for our assistance:
  • broken arm;
  • bulky costumes;
  • "I don't feel good."
Regardless if you are eligible for Special Needs services during Otakon, if you begin to feel unwell during the convention, please take a break, and if needed, ask a friend for assistance. If you experience a medical emergency during the convention, please call 911 immediately.

Do I need a doctor's note?

If it is not easily apparent that you are in need of assistance, we will ask for some kind of explanation of your needs. Medical documentation, while not required, allows us to quickly offer accommodations specific to you. Some examples of acceptable forms of documentation are

  • a doctor's note on script paper;
  • prescribed medication for condition in original container, with a label containing your name;
  • a note from a hospital or clinic on letterhead or script paper;
  • handicap parking identifier; or
  • a Maryland MTA reduced fare identification card, or your state or country's equivalent.
The following are a few things we would not accept as documentation:
  • over the counter medication;
  • a note written by yourself or, when applicable, a guardian; or
  • a doctor's note dated more than two months prior to Otakon.
If you choose to provide documentation, a note from a doctor, clinic, hospital, or therapist only needs to indicate that you may need accommodations. We do not need detailed medical information.

At the convention

Picking up your badge

First things first, check into your hotel, if needed, and relax for a little bit. When picking up your badge, go directly to the door, bypassing the line. Indicate to the Otakon staff member (not security) you are proceeding to Special Needs. The staff will show you how to get there, or call for assistance if it is needed.

Already have your badge?

Unless your badge has been specially modified by Special Needs, you may be stopped while attempting to use elevators. As it becomes a bit bothersome explaining the same thing repeatedly, it's advised you travel to the Special Needs desk, so we may modify your badge. If you are unable to navigate to Special Needs, please ask any member of staff to page Special Needs. We will dispatch someone to your location to escort you to the Special Needs desk. During peak times, it may take a long time for someone to come to your location, due to limited staff available to respond.

At the desk

If there is a wait at the desk, please use the provided seating if it is needed. If seating is not available, consult with the nearest member of staff with reflective tape on their arms.

Special Needs will ask you to explain your situation, and provide documentation, if you feel it is necessary. We will look at your documentation, or medication, and immediately return it to you. You will be responsible for its safe keeping or disposal.

While it is understandably frustrating, if your needs are not readily apparent, and you cannot explain which accommodation(s) you may need, we may turn you away.

After you complete your request for accommodation, we will modify your badge, indicating to all staff that you are allowed to use the elevator and/or have priority access to seating.

Waiting in line

If you find yourself in a long line for an event that provides seating, please speak with the member of staff at the start or end of the line. They will provide whatever assistance they can to ensure you receive a safe seating area.

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