SALT LAKE CITY — Though she hasn’t been using her cane long, Grace Priest wasn’t worried about coming to Salt Lake Comic Con.
She had heard positive reviews from her cousin, who requires a wheelchair, and saw the camaraderie in a Facebook group for fans with disabilities.
The 18-year-old Springville woman dressed up as her favorite Disney princess and agreed to attend the comic and pop culture event, delighted to find convenient ADA parking, lines that allow her to sit when she needs and wide walkways where other attendees gave her floral cane a polite berth.
It’s also a place where she can briefly forget the autoimmune disease that causes her joints to ache and freeze up and her energy to fade.
“I’m going to sleep really well tonight because I’m going to be exhausted, but I’ll come back tomorrow and be ready,” said Priest, lighting up as she described her plans for the day. “I’ve only been sick for a little over a year, and before I was sick, I was really athletic. Here I don’t have to think about it.”
Salt Lake Comic Con is the place to be accepted, and not just for being a geek.
During its five years, the event has become a secure place for fans of all ages, sizes, genders, abilities, orientations and alignments between Marvel and DC.
As the convention has grown, organizers have strived to hear fans’ needs. Sign language interpreting and handicap accessible seating are offered for every celebrity panel. LGBT slots are included in the event’s popular sci-fi speed dating sessions. Quiet rooms are available for nursing mothers. And no one questions the number of adults wandering around in costume.
When comic con was first getting off the ground, Bryan Brandenburg, one of the event’s co-founders, would help select winners for free tickets awarded through the event’s online contests. When he did, he recalls he would search for fans of various ethnicities, with unique needs, financial obstacles, single-parent households or individuals who identified themselves as LGBT.
“I would give them tickets, first of all, to help them feel like a winner, and second of all, because I believed that we would be successful if this became a place that encompassed everybody,” Brandenburg said.
Now, that openness and civility is especially apparent in the convention’s active social media communities, where emphasis is…