Handicapped Services - Site Vision Assessment

By Sharon Pierce

Like Kimmi Allbee, I visited Reno in March 2011 for a convention planning meeting, and took the opportunity to look around the convention space. I am vision impaired and see things differently that other folks might miss.

I heartily agree with Kimmi's number one piece of advice. Try to always travel with a buddy! It also depends on your level of vision or what might bother you the most. So here are my observations ...

For this meeting I stayed in the Peppermill Tower of the Peppermill Hotel. The check in desk is not directly in the line of sight from the front door where the airport shuttle left us off, but a little way off to the left. If you follow the tile flooring you will get to the general vicinity. The front desk staff, the Bell Desk staff and the Concierge are all good at helping you get to where you need to be. The rooms in the Peppermill Tower have large room numbers and the signage to point you down the right hall are at eye level and of decent size. I saw no Braille signage. The hotel is currently refurbishing some floors Renovation will use, so this may change.

The restaurants in the Peppermill are mostly on the first floor. While there are no steps or ramps to fall down, you will be visually assaulted by lights. The restaurants on the first floor are generally on the outside of the casino area but right next to it. The ceiling is a black reflective surface that distorts the abundant neon lighting over each restaurant. But don't let me scare you away from the restaurants! The food is delicious and well worth getting there. I went by myself and got turned around and 'lost' because there are very few direction signs to get you from the excellent restaurants back to the normal lighting areas. The casino uses neon light bars about guide dog height to determine which section you are in. They use red, green, yellow, purple, and blue and most employees will call them the (color) box. There are three restaurants on the second floor of the Tuscany Tower that are very easy to find and also delicious. My best advice for the restaurants? Have someone go with you and lead the way!

The Atlantis has restaurants on both the first and second floors. The lighting is not as harsh for the ‘glare impaired’. I stayed here in 2009 and had very little problems finding my way by myself. Again, love the food; especially Toucan Charlie's Buffet and Grill!

The trek between the Peppermill and the Atlantis is not a bad walk. There are curb cuts at most of the streets, but they are not all framed or indicated by color coding, so be careful when stepping into the street as some of them are at a good slant. Again, I suggest you have a guide – canine or human. The trek is pleasant in cool weather, but it will be hotter in August than I have experienced either time I was in Reno. There is a lot of sun, so have your dark glasses and hat ready for the walk. The walk took me about 25 minutes when I did it by myself because I slowed down to avoid obstacles like poles and a bench. The Atlantis side of the street has less crumbly sidewalks.

The function space in the Peppermill is easy to move around in with a dog or a cane. The Tuscany Tower where all the Main Events will occur is not sign friendly. There are no numbers on the Tuscany Ballrooms when they are broken into meeting rooms. Instead, they use brightly lit video displays outside the rooms to list the events occurring inside. These displays do not have Large Print. You may need someone to read them for you.

The Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC) is quite large (although not as large as those used for some recent Worldcons). So is the signage I saw. Bathrooms are well noted, but if you are also in a scooter, please check out Kimmi Allbee’s assessment. The preferred means of entrance to the RSCC for me is the sky bridge between the Atlantis and the convention center. It is very easy to find at the top of the escalator from the first to second floor. The walkway is air-conditioned and plenty wide enough for multiple fans to pass you and your dog. The convention center is compact and rooms are logically laid out.

I have attended conventions since 1986 and find this location to be one of the better ones. My best advice to those who are light sensitive is to stay out of the casino areas as much as possible or take your human map reader with you so you can close your eyes to navigate. I hope to see you all in Reno in August for a fun time!