This text is written from the perspective of both larping withing the Nordic Larp community/style and having worked more than 10 years being a mental health home visitor improving the lives of my clients with autism and adhd.
I’m going to record the text as well, for accessibility reasons.
I also wish to thank Swedish larp organizer Maria Rodén who has inspired me many times with her no nonsense approach to accessibility needs as a fact of life.
My idea is that this text can help those who are organizing for participant with non-neurotypical need when it comes to processing verbal communication.
In Nordic Larp the prefered way of disseminating information to participants is making materials available to reading before the larp, and to then organize so called workshops to teach by having participants be active in their own learning.
These workshops can be very differently designed, and sometimes you need to have a longer or shorter “briefing” with the whole participant group. In my opinion a briefing is not a workshop, but a workshop can be set up with a verbal briefing.
During a briefing one or a few people read or talk about the information they need to give the whole participant group. A briefing can be mandatory for all present individuals, like a fire safety briefing or just for part of the partcipants, like going through the battle safety rules before a more physical workshop for ppl who will play fighters.
The traditional way of listening to a briefing, in “ordinary life” is to be standing still, if most other people are standing, be silent both verbally and without making sound with your body or devices. Most social contracts also regulate that your eyes are supposed to rest on the person who is speakings face, but that you are to look away now and then so you aren’t seen as being too intense or staring. Leaving the room is seen as rude as long as the presenter is still speaking, and standing too close is seen to be weird.
The advice is divided in two, one is an example of a introduction to the briefing resetting the expectations of everyone involved. The other is a practical instruction on zoning the room, or the space one is using.
Welcome to the briefing, before we begin I would like to say that different people have different needs to be able to concentrate and therefore I want to go through how we will do this:
If you need to leave during the briefing, please do so. You don’t need to ask permission and [name] is available after to fill you in if you missed something.
You can stand, sit down, chairs are available if needed, and you can even lie down if there is a need to do so.
I do not request that you look at my face when I am talking, you can have your phone out, or your knitting, other craft or just have your eyes closed. If I need you to look at something I’m holding up or pointing out I will say so.
If you are hard of hearing or need to zone other people out, you are welcome to the front, to be by my side as I go through this information.
As you saw when you came in here the room/space is also divided into some basic zoning.
Needs based zoning
Often in accessibility what is good for one type of accessibility is good for those who are not disabled or are differently abled. This is not true for this style of briefing. I will now go through how one can use zoning to make it possible for participants to self select in what way they want to experience the briefing, to improve their information retention. These are just some suggested zones, as your participant needs might vary. I also recommend to write the zones out on paper in easy to read lettering so that the information about zones is not just given verbally. Tape the papers to the wall or maybe even a volunteer!
Close to presenter
This zone is good for those who are hard of hearing, or have auditory processing difficulty. Even with the aid of hearing aids or if presenter uses a microphone and speakers, it can be nice to be able to also read lips and body language. If you have a stage, these participants might even need to be up on stage with you. If sitting, they can sit in front of you on pillows, if standing they need to be off to the side. Please do not turn away from them completely.
Silent and concentrated.
This zone is for those who both need silence and are able to be silent. It can also advised to have a slow, calm body language in this zone, and if you look at your phone, to not start tapping it/make notes on it. A good zone also for those who might sit or lie down with eyes closed.
This zone is for those who can handle a little noise. Knitters fit perfectly here. People taking notes on their phones. Ppl with smaller stims. The kind of recent lovers who basically sit in each other knee. A participant doing another participants hair or makeup while listening.
Talkers and movers
This zone might be divided into two zones if the space is big enough. Talkers usually need to whisper questions to their mentor/friend/someone who was late. Movers can either be restless or in actual physical pain. Movers dont always walk or pace, sometimes it’s a more vigorous stim that needs to happen for them to be able to participate.
These are my most common zones, but your participant group might need other things. Think through what those needs might be, consult some people who are coming to your larp, maybe even ask about information processing needs in the casting questionnaire? I prefer you ask actual participants this information, and not potential participants as some are not forthcoming with their needs if they are afraid it might affect their chances at getting a spot at the larp.
You could also add a LOUD zone if there is a possibility to put up sound protections screens , and if you are filming (see below) you could stream the briefing for example to a FB group for the event so that people can even listen in an adjoining room or anywhere where the wifi or 4G is good enough for audio/video.
Note: If you are filming or even streaming the briefing, which can be a great help to anyone who needs to listen in another room/at another time be careful with where you place the camera. Tell people what areas will actually be on camera as it’s very common to not want to be filmed. This creates an additional “filming zone”.