A while ago we created a video about disability in larp. Inspired by a comment on this we decided to embark on learning about hidden disability in larp. We wanted to be able to offer practical advice on larping with a problem no one else can see. That meant learning from the people affected. So we set up some video interviews and put posts on social media.
This is the distillation of what we learned.
What is a hidden disability?
The simple definition is that it is a disability no-one else can see.
What does this mean?
Disability is a word that means less able. Lets look at this way. All people are different. Being human means you are on a spectrum. At one end there are those that push the limits of human achievement to new heights. There are also those who need help to exist on a day to day basis.
Having a hidden disability means that you may need some help.
Our four interviews were
I’d like to say thank you to everyone we interviewed. It doesn’t sound enough for what you gave us. So thank you again.
Three out of the four suffer from fibromyalgia. That was our first surprise. There are a lot of people with fibromyalgia out there. A large number play larp. That doesn’t discount any other issues that people larp with. We went with our respondents. It turns out that you can learn a lot from someone with fibromyalgia.
It’s at this point I need to mention, that 3 members of the LARPBook team have their own problems. So let’s add into the mix
Stuart – Who can keel over if he doesn’t look after himself.
Katie – has fibromyalgia
Rob – has Spina Bifida Occulta.
Communication is key
If we learned one thing its that communication is everything. It’s not about how much, or how little someone can do. It’s about matching the larp with someones comfort zone. I’ll try and explain.
People with a hidden disability or in fact any form or disability are not easy to pigeon hole. Like everyone else in the world they have good days and bad days. Days of high capabilites and days that are worse. Being able to ask open and honest questions about the nature of the game and its environment. This lets the person booking able to make a judgement or call that says ‘is this larp a really good idea or not?’.
Opening up a line of communication lets other questions be asked too. Such as ‘On the day if I need asssitance can I get it’; or ‘Is such and such a thing available?’. Knowing the options and who to talk to is everything.
General rule of thumb – if you can talk a problem can be discovered or resolved.
Good and Bad Days
I mentioned this briefly but lets explain what it really means. It means that you have no idea or your capability on any given day. Sometimes people falsely pigeon-hole those with any kind of capability. The thinking often goes along the line of these people are limited to or by X. Not true. Everyone has good and bad days. What is different is the range of what is possible can be really big and change really fast. In less than day it can do from ‘I am king of the world’, to ‘I don’t lie down for a while I am going to be in real trouble’.
Never assume you know what someones capbilities are. Just listen to what they say and trust their judgement. Just know that if things get then that peron genuinely has to do what they need to do. Whatever that is.
Tips from Larpers
We asked one of Facebooks for tips and ideas about handling hidden disabilties. This what we got
I think the biggest tip would be ask people beforehand what they need. My autism, for example, causes sensory issues around touch and loud sounds, so some warning is nice. Mechanics should also be adaptable in case someone isn’t as able to move the same way as others
Don’t Assume Anything from Behaviour
I must admit i have come under flack due to my own aspergers. their are a number of times things I did which to others seemed wrong or dangerous. Sometimes all that’s needed is a simple coversation.
Cannot do is real. Understand and don’t abuse
I have severe allergies. Not a disability but it limits the type of costumes/make up I can do and the environments I can be in like if people are smoking in a common area that’s closed off it restricts me from interacting.
I’ve been redicualed and even gotten "warnings" for being unable to certian things on my NPC shifts.
It’s amazing what can be done
I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and my YouTube channel is Don the AS lifter.
Often a person has more than one condition, larp can help
Essentially i got schizophrenia so making friends is hard…physically the right side on my body is destroyed (total acl rupture and rotary cuff) i got arthritis and nerve damage on my fingers and a tear on my left thumbs ligament (never got it fixed)…martial arts has always been my life yea my body hurts but its a passion so i deal with it lol and larping helps me
Keeping Warm is Vital
This ones is from the Rachel Heaton interview. Never Larp without Hotties!
If it helps keep it short
I have fibro and m.e. so have been unable to do fest larps for a while but are still able to attend a day larp once a month
Always Carry Food
This one is from the Mason family interview. Having regular food is imporant – so pack and carry some
Turn it your advantage
This ones from Rob. Turn aspects of your disability into character traits. Do not play yourself but use what you have.
Thank you to
- Meg Schley
- Michael Barley
- Emily Sykes Chonsky
- Don Markham
- Muluk Bal’ham
- Katie North