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.

Begin at the Beginning

There is no point striving for an accessible event if your players or crew can't find the information they want and need to begin with. There are issues ranging from dyslexia, to fatigue induced cognitive impairment, to visual impairments that can make accessing event information difficult. Keeping your website or page simple and clear means you can reach more players.
  • Is the information for your event well presented and available in more than one format? People may need special software to read a web-page properly.
  • Wiki-type sites can be easy to build but difficult for the user to navigate – pay attention to your menus and aim for having all pages accessible from a static menu (with sub menus) or home page.
  • Use a clear font for the bulk of your text and be sure to separate things with headings and clear paragraphs.
  • Use bullet points to make key information clear and digestible.
  • Put summaries of what each section or page contains at the top of the page.
  • If you want to include “flavour text” then make sure it is visually distinct and does not include information not found elsewhere. People should be able to skip flavour text without losing out.
Lucy has severe dyslexia and can't read large walls of text. It can be difficult for her to identify what is critical information and what isn't and she may have to simply close the page in order not to trigger headaches or a stress response.
She likes the page for Event X as it is black text on a pale grey background, uses clear headings and bullet points and the descriptive text is at the bottom and in a box. She can digest the information in bite size chunks and come back to the descriptive text at another time.

Signing up

Once your player is interested, they have to send in a booking form to secure their place. Keep in mind advice from above to make the booking form clear and accessible. You can use your booking form to help determine further accommodations.
  • You probably don't need to know a player's gender (character is another thing) so don't ask for it unless it is somehow essential. If you really must ask a player's gender, include options for non-binary people.
  • Ask for dietary requirements – encourage players to list intolerances, allergies and special diets and to label them as “intolerance”, “allergy” or “preference”. This information can be passed on to caterers or first aiders as necassary.
  • Ask for “injuries, health issues, other allergies and disabilities” this information will guide you in preparing your event and making sure it is accessible and can also be available to designated first aiders in case of emergency. Let your players know that this information will be confidential.
  • You may want to ask about triggers and phobias depending on the nature of the game. This may shape how you run the game or what information you give to players.

Hayden is mildly allergic to strawberries and severely allergic to shellfish. He notes this on his form. The organiser of Event X, passes on this information to both the caterers and to first aid in case of exposure. The organiser also asks other attendees to ensure shells are not part of their costume or set dressing.

Food and Catering

Food and drink can be very important to the well-being of your players. Whether it is managing blood sugar, timing medication or a special diet, how you cater an event can have a big impact on a lot of players.
  • Make sure that there is always a drink available, at the very least free water. Even if players bring their own water bottles they may need a refill.
  • Aim for set meal times and let players know in advance so they can manage their health accordingly.
    • If a meal is going to be late, let players know at the earliest opportunity so they can have a snack if needed – late meals can have a big impact on some player's health.
  • Consider making snacks available. Some players may bring their own snacks, but providing extra is helpful and inclusive for those people who need to manage their diet.
  • Make sure your caterer is aware of all allergies and intolerances. Ask how they will deal with these and make sure they are safe for all players.
  • Ask caterers to make all meals as inclusive as possible so that players with special dietary needs aren't singled out by having a dramatically different meal.
  • Keep special food items (i.e. gluten free bread or dairy free spread) separate to avoid contamination and to ensure a plentiful supply.
Jamie has Coeliac disease and is very sensitive to gluten contamination. Event X organiser passes this information on to the caterer who says the main dishes will all be gluten free. The organiser checks with Jamie if this is sufficient. Jamie is still concerned about contamination, so the caterers and Event X organiser look at the kitchen facilities and find space for a gluten free food prep area. Gluten free snacks are provided on a different table to other snacks to avoid contamination.

NB: I'm not an expert and I may miss things out but I've tried to cover as much as I can. I have tried to give examples where I can and I hope I have not misrepresented anybody. We are all different and that means I can't cover every possible accommodation.

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