I called this session because the additional access provision this year was largely possible thanks to extra one-off funding through Royal & Derngate’s Changemaker programme, and having raised our bar, I want to make sure it doesn't get lowered now the funding is gone. Whilst quite a few of the things we put in place are cheap and easy to keep doing, there was still a considerable spend on provision that we wouldn’t be able to replicate.

We talked about the access mainly relying on two key components - a good SPACE and enough MONEY. We also ran through what things were problematic to reproduce on a small budget, and then had a bit of a brainstorm about where additional funds might come from next year and beyond. We also spoke about how, having raised the access provision bar, we can’t ever go back to running the event without this provision. We talked about making a commitment that if we can’t be this accessible next year, we won’t hold the event.

Things we can easily do again:

  • Sonido hearing boosters, which we’ve bought and can bring to all future events.
  • Floor map, which was cheap to supply as it just needs fluorescent floor tape, and the rope which we can re-use. (It will mean host venues not minding us taping all over their floor, which can sometimes be an issue.)
  • Large-print lists on the timetable wall.
  • Wheelchair-accessible space. We’ve long had a commitment that all D&D events happen in wheelchair-accessible spaces, so we’ll continue this to hold to this. This didn’t come up in the session, but I want to add that we will do better checks on accessible toilets, nearby disabled parking and the journey to venues as well.
  • Pre-event information. We now have a much better understanding of the level of detail and what to include in pre-event info, especially to help neurodivergent participants to feel prepared before attending.
  • Playroom, stim and silent spaces If we can find the right venues, these don't cost a huge amount to set up, especially the stim and silent rooms. 

Things that need funding:

  • Audio beacons were a great experiment to be able to do. They were useful for the blind/partially-sighted participants, but we also accept the speakers we hired weren’t quite the right thing and that the spill of noise was difficult for other participants. We would like to explore different kit that allows the sound to be more directional and that let’s participants adjust the volume. We’ll need quite a bit of funding to continue this experiment as tech will be expensive.
  • BSL interpreters. It was great to have a large number of interpreters this year. Our standard provision previously has been 4 interpreters for the annual event, and 2 interpreters on request for other events. We had a really useful conversation with an interpreter in this session, talking about the disparity in rates for individual interpreters making it hard to budget. It was great to know about the NUBSLI recommended rates, and that it is sometimes possible to negotiate rates if our budget restricts us to the NUBSLI minimum.
  • Captioning opening and closing each day.
  • Dedicated access support workers (“The A-Team”). Having these folk around to help with a broad range of access needs was great. We will need to find extra money in the budget to continue this provision. We did talk about this being a potential volunteer role as access training would be included and this could be something people are interested in getting in return for working some of the event.
  • Braille / tactile maps - these cost £250. The Braille principles are reusable and were provided for free, but the map was obviously specific to this venue so we’d need to look at budgeting for this again for next year’s venue. It’s also probably not something we could practically offer for other events, but we’ll keep it in mind for any other large events.
  • The pop-up Changing Place. Migloo were extremely generous, charing only £200 in total, including delivery and collection. This is huge discount on the normal costs. It was great to have the space and funds to be able to do this. In future we will check if venues already have one, and encourage them to think about installing one if not. We hope to be able to replicate this deal with Migloo if possible as it helps them to spread the word about changing-place provision.

Some funding ideas included:

  • A third ticket band called something like “Real Cost Ticket” which would be something like £60. The idea being that anyone who’s organisation is paying for their ticket, or who is just feeling generous, could buy this higher value ticket, and that people buying the regular or concession ticket would get a little hint as to what the subsidy levels are, which might encourage more donations.
  • Looking into a specific funding pot run by the Paul Hamlyn foundation which sounds appropriate for us.
  • Sponsorship - this was a bit of a contentious issue, which a general plea that we don’t “sell out”. But also the sense that the right kind of sponsorship might be valuable. We talked about the Migloo Changing Place being a good example of this kind of model. We also talked about getting venues local to the event to sponsor a particular aspect of it - for example, would a venue be able to pay for one BSL interpreter? That way we can create good provision with the cost spread around organisations.

Saying that we won't hold our next annual D&D event unless we can provide the same level of access support felt like  really powerful thing to commit to. Please consider donating to D&D or becoming a supporter of Improbable if you're able to spare the money!

You can also help if you made use of any of the access provision at D&D13 by writing us a short testimonial about what it meant for you to be able to participate. We'll need to prove to funders that it makes a difference. You can drop us a line at [email protected] or add a comment below.

Chris Grady asked for a budget breakdown. I’ve rounded out figures for ease of viewing, but it works out roughly like this:

£18,000 from Royal & Derngate specifically for access - for 2013 only.
£5000 subsidy from Improbable, taken from our NPO core funding.
£5500 ticket income (not guaranteed - final figures still to be confirmed)
£500 donations (not guaranteed - we’re down this year)
£300 teen bursary donations from D&D 12
TOTAL - £29,300

£11,500 staff & marketing costs. This includes; marketing, outreach, producing, access, tech, design and general event staff. This was higher than usual this year as we had a big job spreading the word about accessibility and reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise have known there was support for them to participate.
£2000 Venue hire
£6500 BSL interpreters
£6000 access kit
£2000 event kit, including furniture hire, PA system, kids space, lounge area
£1000 other stuff like the security we had to have this year, van hires, and all those myriad little miscellaneous costs.
£500 teen bursary spend (Improbable committed to round up the donations to £500)
TOTAL £29,500

A more detailed breakdown of the access costs is:
£6500 BSL interpreters
£1800 captioning
£1200 training and employing 4 access staff
£5700 other staff - marketing, consultancy, outreach
£1300 blind & partially-sighted support, including fees and equipment.
£2000 equipment for hard-of-hearing support
£200 yellow floor cloths (for neurodivergent and partially-sighted support)
£250 tactile maps
£200 changing place
£100 new breakout signs
£90 staff t-shirts
TOTAL £19,340