Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Guide to LARP accessibility - Part 1

This guide is lengthy and will be split into a few parts. Part one starts at the very beginning of organising your game.

Most LARPs are run by people in their spare time. They aren't professional LARP companies or even professional event organisers. Hopefully they are doing their best to make a game that people can attend and enjoy.

My personal view is that not every game suits every player. There are so many different genres and play styles there are going to be some that don't suit you. As a game organiser it's ok to recognise this and not try and make a game of all things to suit all people. However, you should make sure that you aren't exclude people based on things they can't change such as disability, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Having a good equality policy in place is important and should go some way to making your event accessible to people due to race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Being accessible to people with disabilities (including temporary disabilities, chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities) can take a little more than a policy statement.

I also know, as an event organiser and as somebody with a disability, that sometimes budget, venue availability and other factors may limit what accommodations I can make. This doesn't mean I can't try. Even if the ideal solution isn't available to me, we can still aim for ideal and make what accommodations we can given our circumstances.

In general terms:
  • Include disability in your equality statement. Let people know that ableist language and prejudice will not be tolerated.
  • Recognise that the perfect set piece in your imagination may not be possible if it isn't accessible to your players.
  • Remember that accessibility is about more than wheelchair ramps and can vary person to person.
  • Keep things confidential or on a need to know basis. Your crew may need to know that a player is unstable on their feet but they don't need to know why. Limit private health information to key organisers, the first aiders and (where necessary) caterers.
  • Ask your players questions and listen to their answers. They know best what will help them enjoy the event and what accommodations they need. Encourage them to contact you, ask them questions and work with players to make an event accessible.
  • Accommodations are not about making the game easier for disabled players. It's about making it no more difficult than for other players.
    Some accommodations can be open to all players – scheduled meal times for example. However, giving a mobility impaired player a head start doesn't work if all players have the same head start.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

LARPing whilst chronic

Please excuse the inevitable typos, I am also blogging whilst chronic and only two days post event so not at my best

Some advice based on my experiences.

I have moderate to severe CFS/ME (with Lyme disease complications) this means I’m not well enough to work but I am usually not bed bound either. If I rest enough I can look “normal”. My experiences may differ from yours but general advice can still be helpful.

Prepare for the event as far ahead as you can and do little bits of prep at a time. This goes double if you are making costume. Don’t leave it for a rush at the last minute as this will use up valuable spoons. Get your travel bag/box out early and throw in pieces of kit as you find them - this avoids the last minute “WHERE IS THE THING I SAW THE THING TWO WEEKS AGO WHERE IS IT NOW” panic.
Try and clear the day before the event to be a rest day as much as possible, only give yourself low energy tasks to do. If you are in work and can manage your workload to be light then do it, or consider using annual leave/flexi/TOIL to take off that extra day or half day if you can. Store up every spoon you can.
Likewise make sure you have the day after the event off or cleared. Don’t plan on doing anything the day after an event. Reintroduce activity very carefully and slowly and give yourself permission to rest. I find writing “rest and recover” on my to do list helpful as it feels like I am actively engaging in recovery instead of just being lazy.
Your recovery may take longer than others and that’s ok.
<100 2-3="" 5="" 6="" accordingly.="" activity="" adjust="" advice="" all="" am="" and="" are="" at="" been="" booking="" can="" close="" event="" events="" fest="" follow="" for="" from.="" from="" have="" i="" if="" include="" least="" many="" me="" normal="" not="" or="" p="" people="" physically="" prepped="" recover="" remember="" return="" sensible="" take="" that="" this="" to="" together.="" tough="" weekend="" weeks="" well="" will="">Take naps at the event. It doesn’t make you boring, it doesn’t make you less of a LARPer. It keeps you safe and stops you getting seriously ill. If you take naps, it means that you are more capable of good roleplay when you are up and about.
I prefer IC sleeping arrangements when available or creating or finding an IC sleeping spot. Sleeping IC means I feel that I am still part of the game if I take a nap or lie down for a bit. I can still keep one ear on what’s going on (as I usually only dose not fall flat asleep) so can make decisions to get up and join in if I want. It also means I can lie down and rest and people can still interact with me if they want.
I find this especially useful at larger games as going OC to nap can mean walking a fair distance which is extra tiring and can make getting IC again trickier. I also find that IC arrangements are easier to collapse in to in full kit which is easier than having to remove kit to try and get into an OC tent or bed. YMMV - I know other people who prefer OC sleeping far away from the action as they are less likely to be disturbed and will get a deeper sleep, especially at night. Figure out what benefits you require and what keeps you happiest mentally whilst still giving you the rest you need.

Tell people you are ill and what you will be doing and why. It doesn’t have to be everybody but a few people you trust especially if you are in their IC group or will be playing close to them. Letting them know means that they will respect your decision not to go running around outside after plot. It can also mean that they know when IC medics need to be called and when you just need to be left alone to sit quietly for a bit. Things I tell them include:

  • I may look dazed and confused, or be sat looking very tired or in pain. If it is IC I will give you the IC description and act accordingly, if it is the CFS/ME I’ll refer to “the old wound” and I just need to be left to rest.
  • I will happily take on your important sitting in one spot tasks.
  • I may need to take a nap or lie down - I’ll let you know so you don’t think I’ve been kidnapped IC and so you know where to find me.
  • I have meds on me, this is what they look like. I appreciate being asked if I have medicated if I am looking particularly out of it.
Talk to the refs/organisers and let them know your limitations. They can probably make some things a little more accessible to you, for example - maybe they have plot that is key to your character and want to send an NPC to you. Instead of setting up the meeting half mile walk into the woods, they may instruct the NPC to go to you directly, or make the meeting happen just outside. Refs are generally lovely people who want to facilitate you enjoying the game.

Make sure you eat properly. Everybody should do this, but hunger and low blood sugar can really screw up people with CFS/ME. If you can, talk to the caterers and ask when meal times will be. Ask if there is any snack food available for between meal times. Carry your own snacks with you: protein and carbs are good. My choice is generally nuts, dried fruit, roast spiced chick peas and so on. Other people really like jerky or biltong. We are using up a lot of energy during a game, even if we aren’t running around. LARPs tend to keep us in a state of readiness or cycling through fight or flight responses. Snacking is important.
Similarly stay hydrated. Water, juice, hot drinks are all good - try and keep on top of them throughout the day. This is a good time to make use of those people you talked to about being ill. Ask if they could get you a drink so you don’t use up too much energy on basic self care and can reserve that energy for hitting monsters.
Take your meds. I can’t emphasise this strongly enough. Make sure you have your meds with you at all times and take them. Don’t be all stoic. You will likely have a lot of adrenaline and other hormones active during a game and that can mask pain responses, but as soon as that adrenaline wears off you’ll feel it. Take your meds. During games I try and take my painkillers (nefopam co-codamol and ibuprofen) regularly at their low dose and then if I still hurt I can take up to the higher dose. It really helps. Make sure to take any other meds (i.e. gabapentin or pregabalin) with you to the event, know where they are and don’t forget to take them. Wearing a watch can be helpful to check times, and whilst an alarm may not be strictly IC it can help you a lot and most people are understanding.

Stay warm. A lot of the events I go to are in the autumn and at scout camps with dubious heating. If it’s cold you use energy to stay warm - precious energy that could be going in to running from monsters. Cold also causes muscle contractions and shivering which can cause a lot of pain. Make sure your costume has a few layers that you can add or remove to regulate your body temp. Thermal under layers are great for staying warm without covering up pretty kit. I am a massive fan of stick on heat pads like Cura-heat and remembering to apply them to tight back muscles saves me as they soothe the muscles and keep me warm. Consider little chemical handwarmers and hot water bottles. Make sure your bed has sufficient blankets and covers and you have something cosy to sleep in. Don’t sleep in the socks you’ve been wearing, switch to a fresh pair or bed socks for night time.

It’s OK to have to change plans mid game. OK it kind of sucks at the time, but it is OK, I promise. Those people you told, tell them. They understand and don’t mind. You aren’t screwing any one over if you have to stop what you where doing. At Falling Down, I am a scavenger, that means going out in to the woods to look for resources. I did it twice and it hurt me a lot, I was getting more and more fatigued. I had to call it off and confine my activities to indoors. We worked it out as a group, prioritised what resources we needed and made it work anyway. I was given more things to do inside so I wasn’t bored. If I had been stubborn and gone out anyway, I would have broken even harder than I did and not been able to have some of the amazing roleplay moments I had, including some which improved game for other people. Traipsing through the woods for a scrap of metal isn’t worth loosing out on good game.

If you use a mobility aid like a stick, use it in game. If you can get a suitable IC looking one all the better. You don’t need a reason for your character to have one if you don’t want, but coming up with a reason can be fun. Most people don’t ask though. If you use a wheelchair or scooter, use that too. Talk to the organisers about accessibility and what you require or what your limitations are. Again you can make it part of the character if you want or you can ignore it. Other players will follow your lead.

I think that’s everything. I hope it helps people with CFS/ME find LARP easier.