Accessibility, inclusion, and diversity are important. Some people agree, some people disagree. I’m not here to talk to the people who disagree today; instead, I’m here to talk to the people who agree, but don’t know what to do next.
Whether you’re organising an event or get-together, designing a game or website, or trying to foster a positive workplace culture, it can be difficult to know where to start regarding inclusive practices. Depending on your priorities and to-do list, you may not even think about inclusion initiatives until too late in the project to properly implement them.
So if there’s such a thing as ‘too late’, when is the appropriate time to think about inclusive practices?
I asked Twitter this question recently and received some fairly similar answers:
- ‘Immediately.’ – Aram Vartian, designer and producer working on tabletop games.
- ‘Games? In the design phase. Before you start coding. Events? Before you name/announce them.’ – John Kane, developer at Gritfish.
- ‘It should be one of the top things considered as soon as planning begins.’ – Sye Robertson, artist and designer.
- ‘In the early planning stage, but also as a recurring agenda item in committee meetings to make sure diversity/inclusivity in reflected in every decision.’ – Marcus Carter, organiser of DiGRA Australia conference.
- ‘Immediately. We deserve to be included and considered from the start and can always tell when accessibility considerations are rushed, unplanned, or an afterthought.’ – Susan, game reviewer who writes about what it’s like to play while deaf.
- ‘As early as possible.’ – Rae, accessibility consultant.
- ‘Should happen at the very beginning.’ – Jess Watson, previous coordinator of the Perth Games Festival.
So it feels like the overwhelming response is that accessibility, inclusion, and diversity need to be considered as early as possible. If you are aiming to have an inclusive game, event, or workplace, then inclusion initiatives need to be at the forefront of your mind from the preliminary stages of planning that game, event, or workplace.
Well, according to accessibility expert Ian Hamilton, the cost and difficulty of making a game more accessibility is tied to how early you consider it. ‘Retrofitting and refactoring is difficult and expensive, considering early can be cheap or free.’ For events, it’s similar. ‘Accessibility must be considered from the very outset,’ Ian said. ‘Your choice of venue, timings, location can all have a really significant impact. But it’s also critical to have someone on it all the way through, including on the day.’
Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg—the global gaming content director at ReedPOP, who is involved in the organisation of the PAX convention—said that ‘for us, we consider both function and promotion of diversity and accessibility from the very start of our planning, so we can incorporate it properly into the show and ensure we’ve consulted the right people and groups. Because for events you’re asking two questions. One is around functionality (i.e. venue accessibility, gender representation on panels, etc) and the other is on raising awareness (i.e. diversity lounge, NEXT exhibit, etc).’
Accessibility, inclusion, and diversity are not something that you can simply pay lip-service to. If you want to create inclusive practices, it’s a commitment. This is something Marcus Carter has explicitly tried to prioritise with the DiGRA Australia conference. ‘It’s worth being a regular agenda item so that it is incorporated in every decision made by organising committees. It makes it a structural commitment rather than superficial,’ he said.
Thinking about accessibility and diversity as early as possible in planning your game, event, or workplace ensures that you are saving yourself time and money, and are showing a genuine commitment to inclusive practices.
This article has only covered the when and the why, but it hasn’t delved into the what and the how. What is an inclusive practice? How do you ensure your game, event, or workplace are accessible and diverse?
There are plenty of resources out there. Queerly Represent Me has an article on how to make inclusive events, Able Gamers’ ‘Accessible Games’ site has a bunch of resources for game design, and the Game Accessibility Guidelines are always useful. You can also always hire consultants to work with you on a one-on-one basis, such as Queerly Represent Me’s team.
But you probably won’t make a perfect game, event, or workplace, even if you start early and use all the resources you can. Every time you try to make something inclusive, it’s also a learning experience for how to do better in the future. So another part of implementing inclusive practices is to learn how to respond to being called out. There are resources for that too.