Kieron Gillen calls Nine Worlds, the sci-fi/fantasy convention that recently moved to Hammersmith in London for the foreseeable, as the petri dish of fandom. Where policies and practices will be tried, out, measured and may be put into effect by other shows in the near future.
Bleeding Cool mentioned in our Nine Thoughts piece a number of aspects of that, including preferred pronouns on name badges and photography only by permission, and lanyard colour schemes that denied any photography requests. But there were other aspects to consider – and the suggestion that other shows may head in this direction may encourage a little analysis.
Their access policies may be the most extensive of any show. It recognised that there were issues from all sorts of people regarding attending such shows, and it aimed to find a way to welcome as many people in as it could those who may eschew other shows for a variety of issues. This meant far more than step free access, though there was that too, but also concerns for “neurodiversity”, sensory issues and
Coloured acetate overlays for everyone’s name badge, with a specific shape to help those with difficulty distinguishing colours, to indicate communication preferences.
A blue tint over your badge with a star sticker will indicate that you are actively seeking communication. This may be used because you have no communication difficulties, and love meeting new people, or you have difficulty initiating conversations, but would like people to initiate conversations with you. No distinction will be drawn between these, and the communication preference system will not be restricted to those with communication difficulties.
A yellow tint over your badge with a triangle sticker will indicate that you only want to talk to people you already know, or if you initiate communication.
A red tint over your badge with a circle sticker indicates that you don’t want any communication right now, except in an emergency.
Or their use of quiet rooms
We will provide a quiet room to enable people to take a break from the convention. Anyone is welcome to make use of this space, and the intention is that people can use it as a place where no-one else will talk to them or interact with them (so multiple people are most welcome, as long as they maintain that.) Please don’t use this space for socialising!
We will provide sensory activities and toys, including colouring, Sudoku, word searches, a weighted soft toy, and other sensory/fidget toys. The room will have soft furnishings, including bean bags, cushions and a place to lie down.
Water will be available just opposite the entrance to the quiet room, and we have asked the hotel to provide a fruit bowl, so people are able to have a snack, even if they can’t face leaving the room and dealing with people.
The quiet room has no windows, and is lit by both spot and panel lights, these are adjustable, and we encourage you to adjust these or turn them off, as you require. We will provide soft lighting options. We are unable to provide more than one quiet room this year, and recognise that different people may have different needs regarding lighting etc. We will provide eye masks and ear plugs in the quiet room.
We have asked the hotel to turn off the piped music in the ground floor Chablis social space for the duration of the event, to provide a semi quiet socialising space free of extraneous noise. This is also the alcohol free space.
Which went down well.
— Elizabeth (@Books_Pieces) August 12, 2016
More on “spoon theory” here. And yes, @9Waccess is a Twitter account run by Samantha, specifically keeping up on access issues through the show.
Not all these policies will be picked up by other shows. But it does indicate an inclusive approach that may well become more commonplace in the future in all sorts of places.