[personal profile] silmarian
I want to help your event.

Crowd management may be the most important utterly ignored area of event planning. Too often it, and especially line management, are treated purely as security concerns if they're even considered at all. A lot of events stick their heads in the sand and hope nothing bad will happen. A lot of the time they're right, but when they're not things can get awful really fast. Regardless, line management isn't a security issue, it's a customer service issue. The staff in charge of the lines needs to be trained in how to handle them, how to handle ADA requests, and where to put the lines if things begin to get out of control. Naturally, most larger events need security of some type to be present, but as long as the line management staff can reach the security staff quickly then they shouldn't be 'in charge' of the line.

This is apparently a radical idea, and one that gets a lot of push back from various quarters (especially security staff).

One problem with having security in charge of the lines at an event is that the security staff is looking out for the best interests of the event, not necessarily the best interests of the people in the line. Now, if the lines are fairly short in duration, under half an hour, this isn't a large problem but it is still problematic. For one, study after study has shown that if you give someone a uniform and call them a guard they will treat the people they are guarding rather less well than they would have otherwise. For another, security guards are looking out to solve problem people, they are not looking to solve problems for people, and lines are full of people with problems.

In America, we have a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other nations may have similar laws, but the ADA here requires that we give 'reasonable accomodations' to people with disabilities. Just exactly how disability is defined can vary, but it is the best customer service move to treat it rather broadly and include invisible disabilities. One such example is a person who doesn't need a cane to walk, but cannot stand still without enduring a great deal of pain. If the line is unexpectedly long it will hurt them to stand in it. There are two complementary ways to solve this, and an event that cares about its attendees should employ both.

The first strategy is the easiest one to implement. It's simply to have someone standing at the entrance to the line or, if there's no set entrance, standing at the end of the line. Give them a sign on a tall stick that says 'End Of Line' or 'Line Forms Here' so that people can see at a glance where they're supposed to go. For people with an accessibility need this gives them someone readily identifiable to talk to and find out what accommodations are available.

The second strategy is to have people walking up and down the line and quietly checking on groups of people. Asking, "Is everyone okay over here?" not only helps people feel like they're being paid attention to, which goes a very long way towards making them hate the line slightly less, but it will draw out people with invisible disabilities. The person who was wrong about being able to muscle through their disability and stand in line might be too embarrassed to call somebody over but they will answer a question.

Having someone to check up on people standing in line also helps keep an eye out for people who are having a diabetic attack, or heat stroke, or need to go to the restroom and are afraid of losing their place in line. In that last case, the line staffer can act as an intermediary between that person and the people around them.

Another frequently overlooked strategy for customer service in a line is just keeping people informed about what is going on. There are ways to figure out how long the line will last, which will be covered in another post, and communicating that information lets people know what's going on. Disney World has large, light-up signs that tell park goers how long the line will last. If it's an event in a theater or stage letting people know when the doors are expected to open can go a long way towards keeping them happy. Another good strategy for rooms with limited seating is to keep a running tally of the number of people in the line and having the end-of-line person be able to tell people whether or not they'll be able to get a seat. Nobody likes to wait in a line only to be denied a seat and people will often not stand in a line if it looks like the theater will be full.

Hopefully this is a helpful first pass at lines as customer service. The next post will be about different ways of handling accommodations for accessibility and after that will be our preferred line management structure. Oh, and reviews of lines at various places.

Date: 2016-01-22 01:28 am (UTC)
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
From: [personal profile] sasha_feather
Thank you for this great post! May I link it at [community profile] access_fandom?

Date: 2016-01-29 11:30 am (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Good post.

The UK's Equality Act (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act) is similar to ADA in requiring 'reasonable adjustments' from anyone who offers any service, and the UK's definition of disability, embedded in the act, is all-encompassing.

I really liked Loncon 3's handling of queues, they had roving staffers who intercepted me before I even got into line and led me directly over to the access desk, then rushed off to get my registration packet while I was doing the access sign-in. If I'd had to wait two hours plus in line, I just wouldn't have been able to do it.

It's more difficult to do that for people with invisible disabilities, but just as important.* My neurodiversity may well limit my ability to stand in line even more than my mobility impairment, and the two feed off each other. The more stressed I am by being in line, the more pain I'm in, the more I'm unable to handle being in enforced proximity to other people and stressed by it.

* The only obvious improvement for the London 3 system would have been a sign explaining the process and asking people with invisible impairments to make themselves known if they needed assistance.

And, of course, if you're neurodiverse then approaching a stranger for help is difficult enough, making them a pseudo-authority figure by defaulting the line running to security just makes that harder still.

Date: 2016-02-04 12:04 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
I did think about the issue of making sure people see the sign - make it portable and have the people assigned to the line keep moving it to wherever the tail of the line is. That way everyone should get a chance to be near enough to read it.

Of course that is working on the presumption they have the ability to read it, so backing it with the odd PA announcement might be wise.

Date: 2016-01-29 11:54 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jazzyjj
Nice entry. I have been escorted or told I could just proceed directly to the end of the line right up to the desk, or whatever was at the end of the line. When my family and I were visiting Honolulu back in 2004, I was escorted right through security at the airport along with my brother and a sister. The 3 of us are white cane users. I forget whether this was on our way back to Chicago, upon arrival in Hawaii or both but I found this simple gesture very helpful. I've experienced this other times too, and have always thanked the people who let me do it.
Edited Date: 2016-02-02 09:53 pm (UTC)

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