Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Accessibility in LARP addenda

The first three parts were well received but, I was reminded of a few extra things to consider. So here we are, a few tidy ups.

Addendum for Venues

In part Part 2 I talked about considerations for venue. I have one to add:
  • The ideal venue is near public transport and roads but this isn't always available. Travelling whilst disabled is difficult so consider arranging for a scheduled pick-up or shuttle service from a mainline train-station.

This is prompted by a reader comment.
Time keeping is pretty important to a lot of chronically ill and disabled people. As mentioned in the plot and food sections, many people have to operate to a certain schedule. This may be taking medication at specific times or intervals, eating at certain times, monitoring their activity levels, or important in managing issues like PTSD or coping with autism.
  • Some people may not be able to wear a watch for health reasons (pain, skin sensitivity etc).
  • You may want to make a point that anachronistic timepieces, including mobile phones, will be overlooked if used discretely.
  • Consider having an IC clock or timekeeping method in the main play area available to all players.
  • If not knowing the time or a distorted passage of time are a part of your setting then talk to players who have indicated illness or disability and work out a suitable OC or IC solution.
  • Consider having things happening at set times to act as markers i.e. lunch will be at 12:30. There will be an NPC arriving at 5PM.

Game X is an altered reality game with shifting timelines. The IC time does not match the OC time. John needs to take medication at set times. The organisers agree that John may use an alarm on his mobile phone (set to aeroplane mode) to notify him. They ask if the alarm can be set to quiet and vibrate to minimise disruption. Other players are instructed to ignore it.

Dina needs to measure her insulin every hour but doesn't have a watch suitable for her innumerate character in this post-apocalyptic setting. The Organisers decide that sounding a gong every hour fits with their setting. The gong can be heard across the site.

Costume and Kit

Personally I like clear costume guides. I think this helps create a setting, especially a fictional or historic world, as well as helping to form character and aid in recognition. Costuming can be limited for everybody by time, money and skill. People with disabilities may face other limitations.

  • Provide setting and costume information as early as you can – people with disabilities may need longer to make or assemble their costume due to physical or cognitive limitations.
  • Make sure your costume briefs aren't to rigid and offer a number of variations of style – some people may have difficulty dressing, or sensory issues that limit what they can wear.
  • The concept of aspirational kit, or kit that is evolving can be helpful as it allows people to start of with a basic layer and then embellish as they are able.
  • If you have rules regarding armour or heavy armour, consider that these may have to be modified to accommodate a persons disability.
  • Understand that IC footwear is not always available to people with specific mobility or medical needs.
  • Remember that mobility aids can't always be changed to fit with a costume.
  • If you can, include mobility aids in any “look and feel” photographs or costume guides.

Jay uses a wheelchair and is playing a combat character. The heavy armour rules state that the full torso must be covered in addition to legs or arms and helmet and the armour should be plate. This is not compatible with sitting in a wheelchair. The Organisers agree that Jay can wear a chest plate instead of full torso covering and that their modified grieves are suitable.

Hayley has to wear special footwear due to a muskularskeletal deformity. She is worried it won't look right with her costume. The Organisers include “practical footwear” in their costume guide and stress that OC practical footwear is always acceptable.

Downtime systems

This part is inspired by LARP blogger Encounter 21 on tumblr, who recently made a post about downtimes. These systems need to be carefully planned anyway, but there are some extra considerations regarding accessibility.

  • If you have a downtime system, keeping it to something that only has to be tackled once between games is best. People may not have the energy or ability to engage with a downtime system continually.
  • Give clear guidelines on how the system works and what can and can't be done.
  • Consider using a form instead of free form text. Players with cognitive of learning disabilities may not be able to engage with a free text system fully.
  • You may need to provide the downtime in various formats so that specialist software can be used.
  • Be prepared to receive a downtime in an alternative format if to meet a players needs.
  • Do not require on going downtime communication between player characters or NPCs. 
    • Do not require players to read lengthy IC documents during downtime. Uptime should not be impacted if a player is unable to keep up with fic, IC documents and descriptions during downtime.

Ffion has CFS/ME and does not have much energy between events (she saves it for events) so she can not devote a lot of time to a downtime system. Many other players are enthusiastically writing fic and IC letters. The Organisers rule that fic and letters written during DT are not to be considered part of the game and are for fun only. Only letters or descriptions submitted as a part of the official DT will have an impact on characters in uptime.

Joseph has a learning disability and struggles with reading and writing. The Organisers make the Dowtime system a series of questions that only have to be answered yes or no in a tick box format. They also make an audio recording of each question. 


Throughout these articles I have talked about players and organisers. There is another group to consider: your crew. Don't forget your crew. Crew members can also have disabilities which may need some accommodations. All of the points covered can and should apply to crew.
  • Keep in mind when assigning roles or jobs that people's needs and abilities may differ. 
  • Make documentation accessible and clear. 
  • Make sure your crew eat and rest properly (crew management is a whole topic unto itself).
  • Above all be honest about what you need and expect from your crew members. If you really need a crew member who can make repeated charges in to battle say that upfront so that people can make their own assessment as to whether they can put their name forward. 
  • Most crew teams have spaces for all sorts of skills and abilities, 
    • Be upfront and clear about what you need so that you get the best person for the job, and that people aren't left out or worse, actually hurt, by poor accessibility.
Nim would like to crew at Event X but is concerned because their Muscular Dystrophy means they aren't combat safe or able to walk far. They discuss this with the organisers who assure them that they will have a non-com NPC role and that they some of the encounters can be kept close to the crew hut to minimise walking. 

Now some general commentary.

In this series I tried to cover as many types of disability as I could whilst keeping it general. Everybody experiences their disability differently, which is why it is important to pay attention to booking forms and encourage conversation between players and organisers to establish what you as an organiser can do to help. However, there are a few areas I was a bit short on.

Firstly, I am not overly experienced with either the deaf community or the blind community. I provided a few thoughts and examples but I feel I could have done better. They are questions I have pondered previously and I am still trying to figure out the best way to make LARP more accessible for people with sight or hearing impairments. I know there isn't a one size fits all solution, but knowing what options and what small adaptations would make games more accessible would be great. If I find out I'll pass the information on to you.
  • If you are a LARPer, or somebody who is interested in LARPing, and have a sight or hearing impairment and would like to talk to me so we can figure this out, I would love to hear from you.
Secondly, I only briefly mentioned mental health issues. I am fully of the belief that mental health issues can be a disability however, I do think that their needs are different than physical disabilities (ven with all their variation). That doesn't mean that I don't think that accessibility should be denied to those with mental health problems; it's just not an issue I am ready to tackle yet. I would like to talk about mental health in LARP, how we can make things more accessible, things the player can do and things the organisers can do. That's going to take more research and more conversations though. But don't worry, those of you with mental health disabilities, I haven't forgotten about you, I jsut want to get it right.
  • If you are a LARPer or somebody who is interested in LARP, and have a mental health disability and would like to talk to me so we can figure this out, I would love to hear from you.

So, for now. I think that's it with this mini series of Accessibility in LARP. At least, until I do follow on parts. Remember, it's not about making the game easier for disabled players and crew, it is about making it no more difficult than for everybody else.

In case you missed them, part one starts at the very beginning of organising your game, part two dealt with venue logistics and part three was all about your plot and rules.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Guide to LARP accessibility - Part 3

This guide is lengthy and is split into a few parts. Part three looks at plot and rules - the things that really make the game. 
Part one starts at the very beginning of organising your game and part two dealt with venue logistics. 

The plot

Whilst a lot of accessibility is down to the venue itself, how you run the game is equally important. Considering your players' needs and integrating that into your plot and mechanics makes everything far more seamless and means that those with additional needs can enjoy the game equally with their fellow players.

  • Consider multiple methods of solving a puzzle or dealing with an encounter or that there is variation in how encounters are solved. A game that relies solely on combat or physical prowess to get through excludes physically limited players and a game that relies on only cryptic logic puzzles excludes those with cognitive or learning disabilities.*
  • Think about your pacing carefully. Having opportunities to rest in between action is important, though you don't want too-long periods of inaction.
  • People with physical disabilities may wish to play combat characters. Work with them to see how they fit into the setting and how you can bring combat to them by considering plot (pitched battles are different to snipers and traps), setting and terrain.
  • In an ongoing campaign, vary the times that regular events occur so that they are available to more players – players with disabilities often have to stick to an OC schedule even during games.
  • Are there ways of giving advance notice of action and events to players with disabilities so they can prepare or time their medication – this could be an OC message from a ref or the delivery of a vision or omen.
  • Think about where events happen, can you bring the plot to the players in some instances?
  • If you have players with vision impairment, cognitive disabilities or learning difficulties, find out what methods of communication work best for them and include them in your plot.
    • This may mean putting messages in writing or clear type, having a ref or NPC verbally deliver a message to a player and so on.
  • Props and plot items should be safe to handle anyway but think about items that can be carried one handed if you have a player who walks with a cane, items which are light weight if they have muscle weakness and so on.
  • Don't put anything plot critical in areas that can not be accessed by all players. All players should have the opportunity to reach plot (that's players, not characters, characters may differ).
  • Have back-up plan and alternative plots in case a player is unavailable or unable to do certain actions at a particular time due to their disability.

Morgan is partially sighted and worries that ze won't be able to find key items. The organisers tell zer at the start of each “session” (i.e. morning, afternoon and evening) specific areas he can focus his search on for example, in the shrubbery, they also make sure that IC hidden items are marked with a bright ribbon - players know that only people with the “search” skill can find these items.

Clara's medication has to be taken at the same time every night and she usually falls asleep at 11pm. The Organisers make sure that no Big NPC meetings that affect her character take place after 10pm.

* Not all games are for everybody and that's ok. If you are running a specifically 100% combat event then make this clear in your advertising so that people can make a choice of whether to attend. However, if somebody with a disability does enquire about your 100% combat event, then you should still consider any reasonable accommodations.

Rules and Mechanics

Rules and mechanics are how stuff happens in your game world – it's how we make the unreal, real. They can affect and be affected by people's disabilities. Your rules and mechanics are about how people do things, so you should make sure that they let all people do things.

  • Consider implementing a non-com rule – a rule that means people who can not be involved in combat can avoid it safely OC. These rules should still involve the player IC. Be aware that some players who start off combat safe may have to become non-com later in the game due to health reasons. Know how this should work.
  • Hard skills are popular and common – hard skills are things you can actually do OOC that are used IC. You may need to find a way of balancing this for disabled players so that areas of the game aren't shut off.
  • It is helpful to have printouts of core rules available for players to check mid game, especially for those with cognitive or learning disabilities. Post them on the back of toilet doors or in bunk rooms.
  • Lammies, cards or sheets with explanations of specific skills that players with those skills can carry on them are helpful.
  • Keeping mechanics and rules simple benefits everybody especially players with disabilities.
  • Make it clear to all players that OC mobility aids are not to be moved, hidden or tampered with at any point. You may need to find some way to distinguish between IC costume items and OC mobility aids.
  • Allow some flexibility in rules that require specific actions so as not to exclude people with mobility issues.
  • Think about your Time in and Time Out times. Do they give people a chance to recover and prepare for the event without too much rush?
  • Are your OC Man Down calls sufficiently different to your IC calls for a medic.

Chris has EDS, he is finding it difficult and painful to bend over patients who are lying down in order to use his medic skill. The organisers make an allowance so that the patient can be seated instead of lying down. This allows Chris the option of sitting next to his patient to apply the medic skill.

Rima is partially deaf and is worried she will not hear spell vocals properly. The Organisers decide that all spells will be accompanied by throwing a coloured beanbag at the target – the colour relating to a specific effect. Rima is satisfied she will now know when she has been hit by a spell.

In this guide I've tried to cover as many different bases as I can but I am just one person and I can't cover every possible combination of event and disability. This isn't a comprehensive list but should give you an idea of how to handle most situations. I particularly didn't go in to much detail regarding hard of hearing accessibility as it is something I have yet find good solutions to in LARP. I also only skimmed over mental health issues as I feel that mental health accessibility is a topic which would be best suited to its own post.

Additionally, this isn't a list of things that you absolutely must do every time. There are some things it can be handy to just do automatically that can help all players, but there are other things that are more tailored to an individual. Nobody would blame you for not providing a gluten free catering option when none of your players need gluten free. However, you should be prepared and know how to provide those accommodations if necessary.

At the end of the day, making a game accessible opens your game up to more players and helps you players have a more enjoyable event. Having more players and players who are happy with our event is really what we, as event organisers, are aiming for and good accessibility can help us achieve that. 

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.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Guide to LARP accessibility - Part 2

This guide is lengthy and has been split into a few parts. Part one started at the very beginning of organising your game. Part two takes a look at your venue and sleeping arrangements.

The site/venue itself

This is a tricky one because sites can vary so much depending on game. Many people with disabilities accept that not all areas of a site will be accessible – it's a frustrating truth. There are things you can do to mitigate this and still make a site inclusive, this largely involves talking to your player and thinking about where stuff happens.
  • Make sure as much of your indoor space is step free or has step free access. This is essential for common and dining rooms, sleeping areas, toilets and washrooms but, you should consider all spaces.
  • If there are steps or lips in doorways then provide ramps or alternative access.
  • Building access isn't just for people in wheelchairs – people with mobility problems, balance issues, chronic pain or chronic fatigue all benefit from level access.
  • Do not put plot critical items or sets in rooms that can't be accessed by all your players.
  • Consider the terrain and how rough or steep it is. Can your players navigate it safely? Look for alternative paths for less-able players, or make sure there is provision for changing a set piece or access.
  • Consider where action and events will take place. Can your players reach them or will they miss out on things. Does your big encounter have to take place in the ravine or can it take place nearer to the main hall?
  • Make sure your venue has adequate seating, and if possible a variety of seating types.
  • Consider heating – temperature can affect many people's conditions. Make sure there is heating AND ventilation, that you know where heating controls are and convey to players if the venue is likely to be hot or cold so they can plan their kit accordingly.
  • Look at the lighting. Does it highlight trip hazards properly? Do players with vision impairment need extra lighting? Very bright, coloured or flickering light can also be an issue for people with sensory problems such as migraines, autism, vertigo or epilepsy. Refer to the booking forms and if a player notes one of these issues consult with the player.
  • Consider designating an OOC quiet room for people with disabilities who need a time out or quiet time. Keep this room quiet and free of too much sensory stimulus.
  • Make sure there is an accessible toilet and washroom – large enough for a wheelchair, with handrails and a low sink. If it requires a key make sure to give the key to the player or see if it can be left unlocked for the duration of the event.
Sasha uses a wheelchair. She is worried she won't be able to access things in the woods over rough terrain. The Organiser shows her the graded access path through the woods that she can use as a short cut and says that all events will take place near to this path. Other players will not have access to this path (unless accompanying her) and she doesn't have to use it if she is confident on the other paths.

Lee has epilepsy that can be triggered by fluorescent lights. The event organisers find out that their venue uses strip lighting so decide that they will bring their own lamps and use daylight bulbs to create the bright light effect they want in a safe manner.

Sleeping arrangements

If your event is overnight pay attention to sleeping arrangements. A good night's sleep can be the difference between functioning and being immobile to some players. What makes a good night's sleep can vary dramatically.
  • Find out early if your venue has bunk rooms and what size and configuration they are (i.e. how many do they sleep).
  • If the site is camping only, see if you can designate a room for indoor sleeping for those who need it. Another option is to designate an area of field for disabled camping that is close to facilities including power sources.
  • Offer IC and OOC sleeping options, even if your event isn't 24hr. Some people will need to nap during time in and they may prefer OOC to IC for this.
  • Find out what bedding, if any, is provided so that people can plan accordingly.
  • Make sure there are at least some power sockets available in sleeping areas – some people may use a C-Pap or have other medical equipment and will require power.
  • Have back-up options available. Some people's needs may change unexpectedly.
  • Consider reserving bunk rooms near to bathrooms for disabled players. Additionally, bunk rooms near to the main play area might be preferred by some disabled players so they don't have to far to walk.
  • Make sure rooms and beds are navigable by players in a wheelchairs or who use a walking aid.
  • Consider setting up comfortable areas in IC places where players can rest easily without dropping OC.
  • It can be helpful to give details of nearby and inexpensive B&Bs or hotels so that people have another option.
Rose has Crohn's Disease so the organisers make sure she has a bunkroom near to an accessible bathroom.

David has a back injury that requires careful rest. He requests that a bottom bunk is reserved for him as he can't manage ladders. The organisers also move the venue sofas into one corner and leave a few blankets lying around with the IC reason that squatters were using the building before the characters arrived. This provides an IC rest area for David and others that need it.

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.
Part 3 covering the plot and game rules can be found here!