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.
Timekeeping!

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.

Example
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.

Example
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. 

Crew

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.
Example 
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.


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