Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Price of LARP

Periodically discussion of the cost of LARP comes up. Recently I've heard it mentioned in relation to new comers to the hobby being suprised at the cost of a ticket to a weekend fest event and in relation to an event with a £220 ticket. 

Often this surprise comes from people who are less familiar with event organisation and who may not be aware of what their ticket money is going on. It can also be confusing because LARP doesn't always run to the same "economy of scale" as many other things - that is, bigger doesn't always mean cheaper. 
Rather than talk about exactly what costs a LARP organiser may face I've approached it from another angle, looking at what I would expect as a player with different price LARPs. This reflects some of the outgoings and behind the scenes costs of organising the event but can be a little a little easier to grasp since we are dealing with the finished product. 
I haven't included things like the cost of water and electricity, websites or other advertising, or basic printing as that is often folded in to other areas of the game like venue hire or infrastructure unless otherwise specified. 

Keep in mind that very few things are zero cost. It might seem as if getting uniforms for your NPCs is zero cost if you already own them from a previous game, but they did have to be initially purchased and so isn't always comparable to somebody starting off without the same basics. The experienced LARPer or organiser might have a few things in storage that they can pull out to keep costs down but it is rare to have everything you need and inevitably, money is going to have to be spent.

The £0 game
LARP can be run for £0 ticket cost. All you need for LARP is a bit of a setting, some character, and some players willing to RP at one another. These LARPs usually aren’t advertised and are really games and ideas run between groups of friends. They are generally fairly informal and probably don’t run over night due to accommodation needs. You can run a £0 LARP if you use publically available land or run in your own home. Food is not provided. Costume, props are either not considered necessary either because the setting is modern/suited to the environment or because people are happy and able to just imagine. Alternatively you may expect players to provide their own costume and props or have a ready stock of costume and props available, but this supposes that money has been spent previously.

The £5 game
Many university LARPs run for £5 a go and may be what people are thinking of when they cite this low price point. It usually means that you are using a low cost venue (i.e. a student union room or free hire room of a pub) or are making use of public outdoor space such as a woodland or park. In the case of a university LARP the set dressing and props can vary between basic and “quite good actually” but props, costume and set dressing have usually accumulated over time rather than being bought specifically for an event with the exception of one or two items. The £5 ticket cost usually covers consumables like printed items and any small props or costume items. Usually food isn’t provided and these events usually only last a few hours at a time.  When not supported by an already existing university society set dressing and prop availability may be more limited.
You could also run at this cost if you wanted to run as for the £0 game but have people chip in for food, or to be able to pay for one or two special prop items.

The£10-20 game. 
These games usually run for around half a day. Most of the ticket cost is going toward either a suitable venue plus some props OR food for players plus some props. You may find overnight games on this budget but the facilities are likely to be pretty basic and it is likely to be self catering. They may be larger games with player numbers in the 35+ category. If only one of food or venue is provided I would expect to see slightly more complex set dressing and props or for the venue to be a little more tailored to the game setting.

Ornithocracy - photo by Tom Garnet. one day games and a setting that worked well with a more basic venue.

The £20 - £40 game.
Normally at this point production values are getting a little higher. You may get a hired venue and some catering, especially at the top end of this price bracket and you would likely start to see a few specially made or bought props for the event and some attempts at set dressing. Generally these are going to be one day events as many would struggle to hire a venue with sleeping accommodation (or tent pitches) and provide catering and props in  this price bracket, though it is possible. An overnight event is likely to be the more basic sort of scout camp or camping only. Events backed by existing societies may be able to provide a little more in this price range due to having a store of existing costume and props that can help fill in the gaps between more specific items. The food may be basic, but should be tasty, expect buffet style meals.

The £40 – £70 game 
This is quite a big category but once we are charging over £40 a ticket there starts to be a lot more options for variation available to us from what type of site or venue to how it looks and what is provided for the players. There is no one thing I would expect a game in this category to look like but there are certain thing I would hope for and I would want these or the absence made clear at the time of booking.
This price group is likely to be made up of overnight or weekend games. It becomes feasible to book a venue with some sort of overnight accommodation or camping space with this budget. Most likely this is going to be for the sole use of the game, though in actuality this doesn’t always pan out due to public rights of way or “misunderstandings” with the site owners about what exactly sole use entails. This allows for a much more involved type of game and people might start to talk about “immersion” more here. (Immersion is definitely possible at the lower price point but it becomes easier when you can be choosier about your sites.)

 For smaller events with fewer than 75 players, I would be expecting some sort of catering though, for a weekend, that is going to be tight and may only be basic, especially at the lower end of the budget. Some self catering options are likely to be available. I would expect that, even if the venue or site doesn’t look quite as you would expect for the in game world for there to be some attempt at set dressing and/or a good level of props and monster/NPC costume sufficient to create a particular feel. Exactly how the money is spent is going to vary a lot depending on genre and setting details. For example, you may just have to accept and “hand wave” the fact that all your high status regency characters sleep in bunk rooms and eat in a shared dining space at canteen style tables but that’s ok or explained by the plot because you also have an actual dragon NPC as well as some highly terrifying and realistic xenomorphs to deal with.

Lager games or “fest style” games may not provide catering for their players but they have to pay for a larger site to support the number of players, may be having to pay extra for a generator, water access and waste disposal or even having to hire in amenities such as toilet blocks. Fest style games usually have a larger infrastructure which grows alongside the number of players and a larger crew who will also need access to the same amenities as players. Many fest systems have also invested in large props, costume and weapons for NPCs/monsters and possibly some larger semi-permanent structures or marquee style tents, in order to help create the game world and also house the larger quantity of items that are needed to run the game.

You occasionally find one day events in this price category but they are usually more “high end and may make use of specialist or exclusive locations that are particularly suited to the setting as well as high quality props or NPC costume and catering.

Split Worlds Ball photo by Tom Garnet, a short game may cost more if a special venue is used.

The £70 to £100 game
These are often much like the games described above but for larger numbers of players; larger venues with sleeping for 75+ people are often more expensive and in shorter supply. In this category, you also find games which are looking for more specific venues – while you can and will see events in scout camps in this price bracket, you will also often see events being held in manor houses and castles. This allows for creating a richer game environment. You are likely to also see higher production value – that is a consistently higher level of set dressing, props and NPC costume. These are usually weekend long fully catered events and you may expect the catering to be more tailored to the occasion.

You may find camping or scout camp style venues in this price point but you are likely to find a higher number of players (thus requiring paying for a larger site plus extra costs for amenities and a larger crew) and/or a higher quality of props, set dressing or NPC costume.

£100-200 games. 
This is a big flexible category and it largely comes down to how good and setting appropriate are the props, venue, costume and dressing and how big is the player base. It is not unusual to start seeing smaller games here – with player numbers bellow 20. The ability to provide a quality setting, with suitable accommodation for a small number of players often pushes the individual ticket price up. It can actually be difficult to find a site for use that accommodates a small number of people and has communal indoor and or outdoor spaces available for sole use without paying larger amounts, or accepting that you will be paying for beds that are not filled.
Indoor sleeping and good or thematically appropriate catering is almost certain at these events and deviations from this are usually for IC reasons. In some cases players may expect to be issued with costume or individual prop items.

Incarceration, Photo by Oliver Facey. Sometimes an immersive setting doesn't mean OC comfort.

£200+ games
Quality is everything here and again we are usually, but not always talking about smaller numbers of players. Whether a large or small game you can expect a fairly high quality of set dressing, props and of course plot to match – though this would be relative for the type of game. For example a high-end fest game may still be camping but you may be camping in organiser provided setting suitable tents or you may expect a very well kitted out dedicated monster crew with their own setting appropriate vehicles. A smaller game may have comfortable sleeping or less luxurious but thematically appropriate accommodation that still meets players OC needs well.  Unique and customised venues may appear here too – a specifically built or refurbished battleship for example or a carefully reconstructed medieval guild hall with all the trappings.

Of course there is a lot of variability in all these categories and the specifics will vary with the game and what is suitable for the players and the setting. £100 may buy you a comfortable bunk in a pretty manor house or it may provide you with a rough pallet in a disused warehouse made to look like the interior of a space station. The cost of a LARP ticket is ultimately paying for three things: setting accuracy, player facilities, and catering. Player facilities can expand to include admin and support crew for larger games as well as food while setting accuracy is everything from the type of building and site to the costume NPCs wear.

the "GOD" tent at Empire photo by Paul Wilder. The bigger the event, the bigger the support crew needed
Budgeting any LARP is a case of balancing these three needs with the money available, the game you want to run and how attractive it all is to your players.  Of course a game is nothing without good plot and writing to say nothing of the players. Price never guarantees a good game or good writing, though you would hope that the higher ticket events can provide a good experience. It is absolutely possible though, with the right group of people and a good setting and plot that you can have a great LARPings experience for free. That isn’t to say that spending money on props and setting is a bad thing, and many people enjoy being able to physically interact with their game world. There is no right and wrong or perfect budget for a LARP. Imagination only is not inherently superior or inferior to creating bespoke settings and many players enjoy the opportunity to play with both styles of LARPing.

Ideally we would like games to be accessible to everybody, not just in terms of disability access, but in terms of financial access too. However, we live in a world where things cost money and that means that the more we want to physically add to a game the more the organisers have to pay and this cost is inevitably reflected in the ticket price. There are few organisers that run LARP games professionally and take a wage and the vast majority of labour, from writing to running around, is undertaken by unpaid volunteers. Of those that do take a wage or make a profit this reflects the amounts of time and effort that is put in to running their games and profit is usually reinvested in the games for future improvements. It’s difficult to begrudge somebody who is spending hours working every day on a project to want to be recompensed for it. There are many who would like to see some sort of recompense built in to LARP pricing in order to value the work done by organisers and staff, yet at the same time we know that that would make the hobby unfeasible for many players on financial grounds. 

It is sad when there are games which sound fabulous that we have to pass on because they cost to much, but we should remember that that upper limit varies a lot and there are some people that £35 for a day’s event is out of their reach. There is no way we can draw a line that says “this is the upper limit of what people should pay for a LARP”. What we can do is continue to run the games we want to play and to continue to have a grassroots style game community which offers a range of different genres, styles and prices of games that people can choose from. We can also make sure that we don’t think of cheaper games as inferior, both as players and as organisers. There are dozens of games out there in the lower price bands that have been successful and satisfied people’s desire for good roleplay. This means that even if you can’t afford the four day immersive space station LARP with bespoke uniforms, you know you are still able to enjoy quality games that are never lesser and are merely different. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Your Accessibility Needs to be Accessible

So I went swimming today as I do every week. I go to my local leisure centre (local council run swimming baths and sports facilities for none UK readers) and it’s generally OK. It is a recent build and they actually thought about accessibility when building it. It’s all level access or accessible by lift. There is a well equipped hydrotherapy pool (which I use sometimes) with winch and step free access ad two adjoining disabled changing rooms.
The main pool also has winch access and two accessible changing rooms adjoining the general changing room.
The Accessible Changing Rooms (hereby shorted to ACR for ease) have beds, toilets, loads of grab bars, adjustable shower with shower seat, wheelchair and electric winch. Really good.

The problem is, that an ACR is not accessible if you don’t allow access to people who need it.
Whilst the hydrotherapy pool needs to be booked in advance so you know when to open up that pool and the adjoining ACRs for use, the main pool is, during it's general swimming hours, open to everybody. Perhaps you don't realise it, but that everybody includes a number of people who are disabled or otherwise have accessibility needs.

I regularly attend the General Lane Swimming session on a Wednesday. It's the time anybody can come along and swim lengths. The lanes are labelled slow, medium and fast. It's a broad range of users. There is usually at least one other walking stick propped up next to the steps when I go to swim. There is a guy with a prosthetic leg who regularly swims at that time. They are just the easily visible people. There are going to be others with invisible disabilities as well.

We need those rooms to be open and accessible. When they aren't they make swimming, which may be our only form of exercise or part of rehab or physiotherapy, at best more difficult and at worst impossible for us.

I have fairly limited needs when it comes to an ACR but I still benefit from them. I have pain and stiffness in my limbs which can make manoeuvre in a normal small cubicle difficult and painful. I get dizzy and wobbly and benefit from extra grab rails as a safety feature. My muscles spasm and seize and being able to sit under a hot directed shower helps to reduce the issue. I need to dig out medication and find it easier when I can lay things out in the space provided. 

There are people with far greater needs than me who don't look disabled and who don't attend a special "disabled swim session". Those accessible changing rooms need to be accessible. Otherwise this happens.

I pay at the front desk, I walk to the pool area, I walk down the corridor to the changing room and it's locked. Not in use. Locked.
So I go to the second accessible room. That's locked too.
That means I have to retrace my steps back along the corridor to the front desk to ask somebody to unlock the door. Then walk back to the room in order to use it.
They unlock the room, explain they've locked them because groups of teenagers have been in there "making a mess". I point out that maybe that makes it a touch inaccessible for those who need it.

Anyway, I grumble, change, shove my stuff in a locker, swim, come back, grab my things from my locker. I am now tired and wobbly due to swimming. I am wet and cooling down. I am holding a bag of stuff and my boots. 
And the room I used is occupied. OK fair enough, there are a number of disabled people who swim at this time.
So I go to the other changing room.
Which is still locked. Not occupied. Locked.
So I, dripping, wet, getting cold, with all my belongings, can't go back to the reception go to the poolside and tell a member of staff there. They can't leave poolside but can radio to reception.
And then I have to stand, dripping wet, wobbling a bit, clutching my boots, waiting for somebody to come with keys, and watch as they saunter casually toward me to oh so graciously grant me access to the accessible changing room.
For somebody with fatigue and pain problems this is a huge deal and can change the pace of the entire day and disrupt the benefit of swimming at all.

I was told that they are being kept locked because when it's busy, there have been groups of people using it who shouldn't be in there. Groups of kids or teenagers messing around. So in order to stop them making a mess, they are locked. I was told that if the room was needed we could ask at the front desk. Of course, nobody tells you this at the front desk. There is no sign or inquiry. It also places extra responsibility on the customer. Do able bodied patrons have to ask to be allowed to use a changing room? Do able bodied people need to wait for somebody with keys to come along? What are we supposed to do if, and I know this may be hard to believe; more than one disabled person wants to swim at the same time?
Do doors get locked immediately after we leave? Will there be somebody to unlock the doors on our return so, when dripping wet and trying to balance our bag, there is a room free for us to dry and dress in?

Your accessibility has to be accessible and that means that you can't just rely on the building having the right facilities. You have to consider who actually uses those facilities and why. You need to make sure that your policies, staffing and actions are suitable and fit for use. 

This leads on to another issue I encountered, one which comes up almost every time I'm at this particular place. To be fair it comes up in almost every other accessible bathroom or changing room I visit too. Emergency cords. You know, those long red cords that hang from the ceiling with a red toggle on them? Those things. They are designed so that if somebody using the ACR falls, becomes stuck or otherwise needs emergency assistance, they can pull on it and an alarm will sound. As with any other accessibility feature, it has to be accessible to be functional. all to often they are not.

Tell me, how accessible do these look to you? If you are able bodied, imagine you have had a fall and are stuck on the floor. Imagine your muscles have gone i to spasm allowing only a small range of movement. Imagine your hip has dislocated and you can only move a short distance. Imagine you need help but you are unable to raise your arms above shoulder height. 

Do you think you could reach these? Do you think these are going to help somebody in an emergency? They are literally not accessible what ever their original intention was. These pictures were all taken on the same day at the same location, the leisure centre I regularly use. This is an issue every single time I visit and is something I bring up with the staff regularly. I am always promised that it won't happen again. That staff an cleaners will be reminded and yet ...
This isn't an isolated issue. As I say I see it in almost every facility I have used. It is such an issue that there is an entire campaign with handy cards dedicated to it

image from Euan's Guide
I have only ever seen one of these in the wild and it was in the Accessible Loo in the cafe 200 Deg in Leeds who tell me that it is their policy to have one in each store to keep it accessible. This is a brilliant example of how easy and how beneficial it is to actually think about accessibility (and is one of the reasons I have become a very loyal customer of theirs).

This isn't formatted as an open letter to the, but a letter with very similar content is going to be set to the leisure centre in question. For now I will probably still go there because that's the option I have but I want to see some changes.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Quiet Protest (or 9 reasons people don't go to a demo)

Protests, demos and marches are everywhere right now, and for good reason. For many people the world has become a scary and unsafe place. For others there is anger and frustration over current affairs and politics. This is becoming a global issue, not isolated to the US or the UK but across the globe as people begin to take a stand against all manner of injustices.
This is big, it is powerful and many would argue necessary.

But there are many who don't take to the streets or twitter accounts. There is a temptation from those who do wave placards to label those who don't as uncaring, passive or even as tacitly supporting the very people with protest against. For those whose only engagement is through Facebook posts, the sharing of news stories and pictures or signing an online petition, there are terms thrown around like "slactivism" and "passactivism" often with a sneer. The implication of course is that you are only making a difference if you go on a march. You only care if you are at a demo. That social media posts don't count and are lazy or disingenuous. It labels the people who don't stand up as uncaring and shallow.

The problem is, of course, that those assumptions are often far from the truth and are a form of one-upmanship which can often slide into the dangerous territory of prejudice as we scorn those who are unable to do what we think is "proper". This is because the ability to be able to go to a protest or march is often due to certain privileges the person has. There are many reasons that somebody simply can't or choose not to do the type of visible active protests they would want to do.
So let's have a good old fashioned list.

1. Standing up is not an option

You may have noticed the above paragraphs are littered with words like "stand up" and "active". That's deliberate. A very common reason for not going to a protest id because you are simply not physically able to. There are dozens of physical impairments that mean standing outside in the cold or walking a mile down a road in a crowd is difficult or impossible.
Like me, people may get severe fatigue or pain from standing and walking for extended periods, or they may already be suffering pain and fatigue from their daily activities and not be able to leave the house for a march. Other's may have arthritis, mobility issues, or back pain.
Even those who use wheelchairs and scooters or crutches can struggle. Not all locations are wheelchair or crutch accessible. Plus, moving through crowds is difficult and dangerous when on wheels or crutches. It is easy to get knocked or trodden on and in a tight packed crowd crutches and sticks are too easily knocked or tripped over.

2. Fear of arrest or targeted attack

It is clear to most by now that authorities (in the UK and US at the very least) treat black demonstrators very differently to how they treat white (or white passing) demonstrators. This is obvious even in news reports when black protests are often described in violent terms or as devolving in to unrest compared to similar gatherings of white people being called demonstrations and protests, or in the case of violence, as "erupting in high spirits". It would seem fair then that there are many black people who can legitimately say they would rather not take to the street as they do not want to at best be labelled a rioter or at worst beaten and arrested or even, as has been the case at some US demos, shot and killed.
This extends to other visible minorities. Hijab wearing women fear being assaulted or forcefully deveiled. Brown skinned people from the Arabian peninsular (or who are assumed to be from there) fear assault and harassment, and those men with beards in particular fear being arrested under so called "anti-terror" laws.
It should be noted that these fears are not paranoia and there are many examples from a number of countries of people being assaulted for representing a minority. These fears may vary country to country depending on the local sociopolitical situation.
I'm referencing skin colour, ethnicity and religion here - other issues are covered in other points.

3. Being "outed" unwillingly.

People who are trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual intersex or queer are often selective in who they are out too, and for good reason. Even though we are solidly in to the 21st century attitudes toward LGBTQAI people are still astoundingly poor with people being denied basic rights, not being legally recognised, forceful conversion therapies still being legal in some places and outright abuse and hatred in others. If it was easy to be openly trans, gay or queer there wouldn't be the need to protest these issues.
The sad thing is that we do still need to campaign and protest these issues, but often the very people they are for do not feel safe attending. There is a very real threat of violence, harassment and assault, and it is not limited to the time and place of the protest. For those who are not out to everybody or indeed anybody, attending a protest risks outing yourself involuntarily. At the very least people may question why you were there leading to difficult questioning about who they are. While in the UK people may not legally be fired for being LGBTQ+ that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In other countries the laws aren't even there. Attending a rally can put a person at risk of ongoing repercussion should homophobic or transphobic people see you there and make assumptions.
Physical risk at the time and the risk of lessened job security or losing housing is simply not a risk some people are able to take, nor should they be expected to.

4. The delights of misogyny 

Sexual harassment of women or people who present as female is a thing that happens. I cannot be denied or ignored. The reaction of authorities and other members of the public to the opinions of women is also frequently coloured by misogyny. At best this can mean biased reporting or the use of sexist remarks and language, that belittle the voices of female protest. At worst this can lead to sustained violence against female protesters and public outrage that women would dare to speak up about issues that have long been overlooked as has been the case at some Indian protests over rape laws.
On a more individual level many women or wary of going to protests for fear of sexual harassment or assault from other protesters. It is a sad truth that even in a large crowd of seemingly like minded people there are those that will take the opportunity of close proximity to grope and harass female presenting protesters.
With these risks in mind it is clear that many women or femme presenting people may hesitate before taking part in a public demonstration.

5. Socioeconomic, finances and class.

In some ways, many protests can be the privilege of people who have relative economic security. This may be buffered by other factors such as race and gender, which often go hand in hand with job security and wages. As noted above there are some people who fear losing their only source of income if they are spotted being at a demo their employer does not support or if it outs them as being an unwanted demographic.
Furthermore there are some people who simply can't take the time of work to go to a demo. They work night shifts, evenings weekends or have to accept the hours given to them. They may not be given sick pay or paid leave so taking the time off simply isn't financially viable. There are also people with families who may not want to take their entire family to a protest but can not afford the child care necessarily to be able to go, or value the time with their children, especially if they work long hours or multiple jobs. Additionally there are those who can not afford or do not have the transport needed to get to the demos. Many demos only happen in one or two cities in any given country, or only in larger cities. For those that live further away this just isn't practical.

6. Religion

Some difficulties faced by Muslim protesters have already come up in other points: fear of arrest or attack, fear of unveiling etc but there are other concerns. There are other religious groups that may encounter difficulty protesting. Many planned demos in the UK and US are scheduled for Saturdays, on the assumption that less people are working (though not everybody is off, see the above point). However for practicing Jews Saturday is Shabbat, a day of rest and prayer. This may not restrict some Jewish people from protesting but depending on how orthodox or traditional the person is they may not be able to join a protest or will have other commitments such as attending temple. Similarly Friday protests may be difficult for Muslim people to attend if they take part in Friday Prayer and may be counted as a day of rest for some groups. Consider also the period of Ramadan or the day of Yom Kippur and other fast days in Judaism and how that may impact on a person's ability to fast. During fast days people are generally recommended not to take part in any activity that causes exertion: standing for hours or walking with a large crowd can be surprisingly taxing on the body especially in particularly hot or cold weather and would not be recommended for a person who is fasting. A person may choose to break fast for a particularly important demo but they should not be judged for carefully balancing their religious obligations with the priorities of a demo, especially not when there are other ways of showing support to a cause.
I have to admit here that I don't know enough about other religious such as Hinduism, Sikhism,  Buddhism other world religions and various indigenous beliefs to say if there are any aspects which may make attending a demo difficult. However we should probably understand that there may well be and we shouldn't judge.

7. Neurodivergance and Mental Health

I hesitated initially to group these together however in my experience there is sufficient overlap to make it work. Protests, demos, rallies and marches tend to be busy, crowded, loud and a bit chaotic overlaid with a whole host of emotions and energy. For anybody with an anxiety disorder or with sensory processing issues this is a nightmare. They simply can not cope with these situations without experiencing severe stress, anxiety or meltdown. Other people may not be able to attend without a trusted individual to act as support or a carer who isn't available for that day or isn't willing or able (in the case of an employed carer) to attend. Protests tend to be highly emotional affairs on difficult issues which can cause a lot of distress to people. Many people simply can not cope with the emotions and mental fortitude required of in-person demos. Especially now in many western countries, people are feeling ground down by a long series of negative world and national events and it would be damaging to their mental health and wellbeing to attend. Smaller more controlled methods of activism are better suited.
There is also the issue of executive function - that is, the ability to plan, carry out tasks and follow through on activities and daily tasks - which can be impaired for a number of reasons including Autistic Spectrum Disorders, dyslexia and dyspraxia, ADD, bipolar disorder, depression, and a number of other issues. Going to a demo involves finding out the time, date and place, checking you are available, scheduling it, remembering it, organising your day accordingly, organising transport,making or arranging any placards or other things you are taking, dressing appropriately, packing snacks and water, meeting friends and getting home. That's a lot to deal with for anybody but can be an insurmountable list of tasks for somebody with executive dysfunction. Even those who want to and plan to  go to a demo may not be able to make it on the day if they are struggling with what is needed. Often prioritising basic self care is more important.

8. Employment obligations and status

There are a number of individuals who do not feel that they can attend a protest or who may be contractually obliged not to visibly attend political rallies. This is particularly apparent in anything which directly shows support for or protests against political parties or representatives. Those who may need to show neutrality include civil servants, especially those who work in the House of Commons; people in the armed forces, especially those who are more senior; police, teachers and doctors, who need to maintain a professional and unbiased working relationship with the public. Certainly there are people from all these professions who can and do attend rallies however, they must all personally weigh up the pros and cons of attending at each individual demo and consider if it is suitable for them or if it will jeopardise their career, safety, their influence or the protest itself. Consider example a senior policeman who attends a demo about racism. It is a strong message and something that is good to see, however, if they are recognised by a member of the public, either at the demo or a counter-demo , who later needs to be questioned by the police it could compromise investigations or make the interview more difficult.
Often when we see police in uniform on the side of a protest, or legal professionals, or military personnel holding a banner, it is a very strong message because those individuals have to be willing and able to defend their personal beliefs and reconcile them with their professional duty and reputation.

9. Seeing and hearing

Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing often struggle at demos and rallies as the vast majority of the information being shared is audio. Even for those with hearing in the normal range it can be difficult to hear what is going on over crowd noise, traffic and through poor quality amps and megaphones. If you are hearing impaired it can become impossible to hear what is being said and to engage fully with the protest. It can even become painful and disorienting. It is rare that speakers are accompanied by a sign interpreter or that a closed caption system is available (requiring monitors) and even if they are they may not be visible from in the crowd. 
Those who are vision impaired can find being at crowded rallies extremely difficult as there is often no clear path as people mill about. It can become hazerdous or disorienting without a guide and guide dogs may not be suited to the conditions. They may not be able to provide banners or signs and can not read or see other visual aspects of the demo thus not feeling they can fully engage. 
There may be other methods of demonstration suited to those who are hearing or vision impaired. 

The quiet protest

Keep in mind that every voice that speaks out on an issue whether online or down the pub is contributing to protest. Every signature on a petition is a voice made clear. Projects like Millions Missing that used empty shoes to represent those who couldn't attend and organised simultaneous timed Twitter posts provide creative ways for people to get involved. People are writing to their MPs and attending local meetings. There is even the notion that, for those who really struggle to get involved in activism, that merely existing and being in anyway visible if you are part of a minority or targeted group is a form of protest. And that's awesome. 
Standing in front of a town hall is just one way of pushing back. Support and hold up every fight no matter how small and quiet. They add up to a rebellion.

If you are organising a demo or other activism and want to make it more accessible, especially to disabled people, then you can read my post on Accessible Activism