Q&A How can we be more accessible for vision impairment.

Bethan asks:

My small university LARP is looking to become more accessible, and your guides have been absolutely fantastic at helping us with basic accommodations and adjustments for both physical and mental health conditions. However, one thing that I’m having difficulty figuring out how to accommodate is the visually-impaired. We have a very small budget, and play in a public woodland area with wide, tarmacked paths but a rather steep hill. I know that without a significant amount of detail you can’t possibly give us any kind of detailed breakdown on what changes to make, but I was hoping you might be able to give us some kind of broad idea on what hurdles there might be?

University games are always interesting when it comes to accessibility as they are so variable and so often quickly arranged with short notice and minimal resources. One of the best ways of working with this is good communication with your players and making sure you understand any specific needs. This alone can help you make sure that you have a way of accommodating an individual prepared in advance and easy to use. I am going to assume that you have already asked your player base to contact you if they have accommodation needs so you should be covered there.

Now on to a few more specific things you might consider.

Take a look at the Guide to Accessible Documents. There are explanations on how to make your written documents easier to access for visually impaired people. This may include having thing in large print, or making sure there is a “clean” copy of any IC documents available. This means that you can still have a pretty IC prop whilst making sure that people can read it!

If there are concerns about fighting safely or other more active aspects of LARP (such as running away from orcs) then I would encourage refs to check the ground before play starts and flag up any potential hazards if they can not be cleared away. For example, putting a brightly coloured pole or flag at the edge of paved areas to indicate that the footing will change, putting a lantern on an exposed tree root (also good for night time games) can help to make people more confident that they can fight safely.
Additionally review your rules on fighting. Asking players to slow down their attacks a little can also make for safer fighting as it gives people more chance to see what is coming. Work with your players to find out what they can handle. Can you fit in staged fights or duels that may offer more control for the impaired player but still allow them to participate?

One of the easiest ways of creating a scene or setting is through visual cues and set dressing. You are playing outdoors so there isn’t a tremendous amount of set dressing going on, but it is likely you still stage scenes for players to encounter, have NPCs dressed or looking a certain way, have important plot points highlighted visually. Think about ways you can create or describe a scene that doesn’t rely on sight. Encourage NPCs and other players to describe what they encounter or what they are doing, rather like in a table top RPG – it doesn’t mean dropping OC, it can be delivered as a tremendous monologue or as part of conversation – think how Shakespeare used dialogue and soliloquy to describe scenes to his audience. There are a number of things that can be bought on a small budget that can be used to great effect in engaging the senses: small bells and wind chimes from the pound shop; cheap incense (though be cautious of asthma and allergies); coloured bulbs of films over torches (still visual but easier for many to detect than fine detail); rustling leaves; download a sound effects app or find sound affects on Spotify that a ref or NPC can surreptitiously play from a smart phone. Have items that can be picked up, handled and touched to give a sense of  a place – raid charity shops for these or pound shops especially around Halloween (never be afraid to venture in to the kids’ section): an old velvet curtain can give the impression of luxury, especially if paired with a pretty ornament or two, were as a faux-fair rug and broken cups tell a different story.

Now, it should be noted that I am not visually impaired so these suggestions may not be complete. If you are a vision impaired LARPer and you have more suggestions to add, or would like to correct my suggestions and help me improve my advice please get in touch. Additionally if you would like to write a Player Guide on LARPing with a vision impairment, I’d love to hear from you.

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