Archive for the ‘ access ’ Category

Making LARP More Accessible

I’m a massive nerd, I love Star Trek, I studied geology at uni, I love a chance to cosplay, and I love gaming of all sorts. One of the types of gaming I love is LARP (Live Action RolePlay). Murder Mystery events are LARPs, just never given that name. You play a character for the event, wear a costume, solve some puzzles, and mostly have a great bit of fun with others.

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A picture of me using my wheelchair at a Empire LARP. Photo courtesy of the talented Tom Garnett.

The ones I tend to attend focus on fantasy settings (magic & monsters), though futuristic, horror, survival, regency, and a whole host of other LARPs exist to choose from. They’re a great way to get away from the daily grind of living under an increasingly oppressive government regime of service cuts and poor access. The problem is that most LARPs are run by folk that consider themselves non-disabled, so all those access barriers we meet in day to day life can pop up there. I thought it might be an idea to list a few ways that we can work to minimise access issues and maximise fun in these environments: Continue reading

Working Together Under The UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities)

I went to Manchester yesterday and attended a seminar run by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) all about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD, or CRPD). It was really enlightening and taught me exactly how the CRPD could and couldn’t be used. I have decided to start with this post which aims to briefly summarise the basics of what I discovered. Hopefully I can get some more detailed posts written later to expand on everything.

1. What the CRPD is:

Certain groups, like children, women & disabled people are seen to face greater barriers when ensuring their human rights are met globally. A number of conventions have been drawn up to supplement the basic declaration of Universal Human Rights written by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948; one of these is the CRPD. There are no “new rights” or “different rights” for disabled people included. The CRPD simply sets new standards and contextualises how to ensure equality for disabled people all over the world.

It is based on the social model of disability which suggests disability is the result of people with impairments being discriminated against by socially constructed barriers, be they direct or indirect in nature.

The UK signed the CRPD in 2006 (which means the UK said it agreed with the convention) then in 2009 it ratified it (which means it made a commitment to implementing it). This places the following obligations on the Government (which they coordinate through the Office for Disability Issues, ODI) ;

  • Ensure disabled people have protection from all forms of discrimination including failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Pass new laws and make policies where appropriate
  • Abolish or change laws and practices that discriminate against disabled people
  • Take account of disabled peoples’ human rights in its practices and programmes in advance, not retroactively (sometimes called ‘mainstreaming’)
  • Collect and disseminate data and statistics in accordance with article 33 (this is to act as a qualitative measure of progress and to aid in improved policy development)
  • Ensure public authorities comply with the convention
  • To report to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva every few years to update them on it’s progress and any problem areas. The first report was done in 2011 (read it here) and the next is due in 2015, then one is due every 4 years.

2. What it is not:

It is not law. If someone breaches the CRPD then they haven’t broken a law. Fortunately there are many laws in the UK that cover the same things as the CRPD so that there can be legal recourse. For example if someone abuses a disabled person they would not be arrested for violating article 16, but they could be arrested under the Equalities Act and/or for other crimes such as harassment/criminal damage/causing bodily harm. The prosecution could then be strengthened by it also being a violation of the CRPD as judges are allowed to consider the CRPD when ruling in cases.

3. How it can be used to improve the rights of disabled people in the UK:

  • When successful prosecutions are strengthened by the CRPD it sets legal precedent, or case law. The more case law is built up around the CRPD the harder it becomes for people to ignore it.
  • The government, public bodies and local authorities all have committed to the standards in the CRPD which means that they can be used to point out to organisations where they are falling short on equality commitments.
  • As well as applying pressure on the government internally (via MPs, voting, national media, protests etc..) we can use it to apply pressure on the government externally (via suggestions & pressure or even condemnation from the UN). The government has to report to the UN on its CRDP progress every 4 years, but as you can imagine they often paint an unduly positive picture of their work. We can counter this by preparing Shadow Reports to feed back to the UN. 
To stop this post becoming a monster I’ve put up another post with details of the rights of disabled people here. A fun (and by fun I mean very depressing) game you can play is counting all the ways the Welfare Reform Bill and cuts to the provision of services for disabled people violates the CRPD the UK ratified less than 5 years ago!

Urgent PIP Action Needed – Draft Regulations

The government has announced it’s draft PIP regulations now all of the consultations have closed. Two of the biggest issues with these draft regulations are as follows;

  • Changing the criteria for enhanced mobility component of PIP for those with physical difficulties getting around – in a nutshell the Government has now decided that anyone who can walk more than 20 metres (it was initially supposed to be 50m) does not reach the threshold for the enhanced mobility component (unless they have difficulty planning and following a journey). The DWP itself admits that 42% fewer claimants will be awarded the enhanced mobility component that would be the case if DLA continued. We estimate about 200 people in each constituency will be affected by the loss of their car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle or wheelchair. That’s over 100,000 people losing out on access to the crucial Motability scheme. Higher rate DLA (which is being replaced with the enhanced mobility component) is also a gateway to many other benefits such as disabled persons travel cards  taxi-schemes, bus passes and fast-track access to the blue badge scheme. It has been hinted that the enhanced mobility will take over where Higher rate DLA leaves off. So the impact of this is even more than just the loss of monthly income & cars/wheelchairs.
  • Excluding the qualification that claimants must be able to perform an activity ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner’ from the regulations themselves. Campaigners, myself included, fear is that if these qualifiers are not included in the regulations, they will not be legally enforceable and tribunals may not be able to apply them on appeal. The Spartacus Campaign Group hope to get some legal advice on this as quickly as possible. If you combine this with the change above it means that theoretically someone who could walk a maximum of 25m once a month could have their mobility competent removed. A disaster for anyone with even a vaguely fluctuating condition.
We have very little time to persuade MP’s that this is not acceptable. Please do what you can.

Hardest Hit have put a ‘contact your MP’ tool on their website and the Spartacus Campaign Group have provided information and a link to this and other resources at http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-emergency-act-now/

A letter/email often works best but if you don’t feel up to it there are other ways you can get in contact; you can tweet your MP or post on their facebook page if they have one to spread the word.

Fibrogirl has provided some handy graphics to help illustarate the 20m rule to MPs on her blog such as the following;

Making Spaces More Accessible

One thing I get asked from time to time is “How do we make this event/ website more accessible?”.  I have a couple of ideas about how to go about this so I thought I’d share.

When thinking about access I like to divide it up into two different categories, direct access and indirect access.

Direct Access

This is how physically accessible your venue/website/event/business is for someone with a disability. Things to consider include;

  • Step free access – steps may well be a problem for people with mobility issues, rolators, prams, wheelchairs and visual impairments. Does the space have ramps and/or working lifts?
  • Stepped access – steps often can’t be avoided but it’s still useful to try and ensure they have hand rails and are not too steep to help people with impairments effecting mobility and balance. It’s also useful to check they are in a well lit area and have clearly marked edges (like a stripe in a contrasting colour) to help people with visual impairments.  Have an idea how many there are so you can tell people who ask that there are ‘x’ steps into the building and then ‘x’ step to the toilets and ‘x’ steps to the meeting room.
  • Background noise – making sure the levels are not too high can help those with hearing impairments, it can also help people with some mental disabilities too.
  • Lighting levels – making sure things are well illuminated can be really helpful for people with visual impairments.
  • Clutter – a simple, clutter free layout is much easier to navigate and therefore more welcoming to everyone.
  • Communication – do you need someone to interpret? How are you going to make sure that people who can’t see your PowerPoint presentation can access it?
  • Text – think about easy to read fonts, this doesn’t mean sticking to  triple line spaced, 18pt Ariel all the time but it does mean re-considering that size 6 squiggly nightmare you were thinking about using. Keep it easy to access to maximise the diversity of your audience. You might want to think about braille for for the visually impaired, or making sure you’ve thought about how a screen reader will deal with your website.

Indirect Access

This is all about how emotionally/ psychologically accessible it is. This looks at the atmosphere you create and the messages that get sent out to disabled people interacting with that space. Some ways you can improve indirect access are;

  • Avoid stereotypes – just because the media suggests all disabled people develop a compensatory super-power/ are sinister/ are benefit frauds/ should be pitied/ are sexless/ are infantile/ are inspirational it doesn’t mean it’s right. 
  • Impairments are personal – curb your curiosity, disabled people are not curio’s for your entertainment. It is really rude to put someone in a position where they feel like they have to explain their health history. Don’t ask if you don’t need to know, especially not before you’ve said hello and asked what their name is.
  • Avoid disablist language – many people feel uncomfortable with (often archaic) medical terms being used as interchangeable with the words rubbish, annoying or volatile. Think before you call someone lame, crazy, mental, cripple, retarded, a flyd, spaz and so on. Some disabled people choose to reclaim those words, but many more don’t. Some disabled people don’t mind those words but can you be sure your audience is comprised of those people? It’s your right to use offensive language but the effect may well be to exclude disabled people. Don’t forget hate speech is illegal.
  • Don’t talk about someones disability unless it’s relevant. Examples include; calling people by their names not their conditions (use Emma, not ‘wheelchair Emma’ or Jo, not ‘the epileptic’). If you have to talk about disability in general terms then the social model suggests you say disabled person rather than person with disabilities. If you need to talk about it with regards to an individual then avoid using emotive language like suffers from/ burdened with/ victim of / struggling with to describe someones impairment (use person with epilepsy not epilepsy sufferer).
  • Keep a reign on comments online – There are great arguments for not moderating comments, but you need to decide if you want your website to be accessible to disabled people. By not working to keep it a safe space then people will be excluded the way they are from other websites. It’s not just the prolific use of disablist slurs that can turn disabled people away. Those who delight in picking on spelling, punctuation and grammar make it clear that those with certain learning disabilities or neurological conditions are not welcome. Yes, it can be difficult to read but does that really require a full on flaming? Will it change the persons impairment?
  • Avoid assumptions about capability – most people would rather be treated like they are more capable than they are than to be patronised.
  • Are you running a competition or game? Have you made sure it’s something accessible to all? By forcing disabled people to either do something they will struggle with or have to avoid you make it clear that they are being excluded from that activity.
  • Create an environment where disabled people can point out problems and suggest solutions without fear of being ostracised or minimised.
  • Don’t think that a summer with a broken leg is comparable to a lifetime of disability.
  • Don’t assume watching House on TV means you are an expert in other peoples conditions.
  • Remember that each disabled person is different, has had different experiences and has a different outlook on life. Not everything about them is tied to disability.

Not all of these things solely benefit disabled people either. A route suitable for a wheelchair will be suitable for a pram, describing diagrams and text can help those who are aural learners rather than visual engage with a presentation.

There are an awful lot of other things that could be added to this I’m sure, but this is just a quick list of things that can help make somewhere more accessible from off the top of my head. If you have suggestions of things that could/ should be added please feel free to pop them in the comments!

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