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Hybrid attendance isn't enough

Jenny is a slim white woman with short dark hair. She is wearing a white respirator N95 mask, and a white tshirt that reads: "Disabled people deserve joy". Above the text is an illustrated rainbow and flowers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was an uptick in virtual events, entertainment and care. What happened to that?

We have since seen a rolling back of this access, regardless of the fact the pandemic is still very much ongoing, and many of us remain confined to our homes. Many disabled people have been house/bed-bound for decades pre-pandemic also.

Many events now take place in person, with hybrid attendance sometimes granted. To be clear, hybrid attendance should always have been made available. It allows for disabled people, lower income people, those in rural areas, parents, carers and more to attend.

But with the threat of Covid still very present for all, hybrid attendance is not enough.

I recently virtually attended a disabled artists show and tell event run by Chronic Art Collective. Not only could I attend virtually from home, but everyone there in person was wearing a mask, the space wasn't crowded, air flow had been considered, and HEPA air filters were shown to be running.

The difference that made to how I felt in that virtual space was massive.

Since the start of pandemic I have virtually attended many meetings, events and shows through hybrid access. This is the only one where Covid precautions were clearly taken in person too.

Think on that. The only one.

Community care in action. Covid protective measures being layered, spoken about openly, encouraged and actively expected.

It can be done.

Hybrid attendance isn't enough if I have to sit there and watch as people engage in non-Covid safe behaviours. That doesn't feel like inclusion. It doesn't feel welcoming, or safe.

But this one event did. And I hadn't really realised the difference it would make for me until I experienced it.

The disability sector is supposedly about breaking down barriers. The arts are supposedly about creative thinking and imagining something new.

And yet they often don't feel like it.

How often are we told it simply can't be done? That layered Covid protective measures aren't possible? Well it can be. And should be. For everyone's safety attending in person, but also for the wellbeing of those attending virtually too.

Don't make us bear witness to our own unnecessary exclusion.

It's not fair.


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