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How COVID-19 Made Acting Lessons Accessible to Me

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As an actress with cerebral palsy, I have two needs: Acting lessons for training and transportation to take me there. I have recently moved to Frederick, MD. Back when I lived in Burtonsville, I was much closer to Washington, D.C., the place to study acting in this heart of America. But it doesn’t mean Uber trips were cheap. I began my training at The Theatre Lab last summer. My “Intro to Acting” class was an early Saturday morning class. I could take an $18 Uber ride to Silver Spring and take an easy Metro ride there. Rinse and repeat for the ride home. One of the various reasons was why I took a morning class is because Uber rides are much cheaper in the morning than the evening.

As most acting studios go, most of The Theatre Lab’s classes take place at night for actors with day jobs. While I am definitely open to do night classes, the Metro station (which is literally around the corner of the TTL) and downtown D.C. can be dangerous at night. Naturally, I would rather Uber home since it was a decent ride to Burtonsville from D.C. After looking through TTL’s catalog and considering which night classes I would love to do, I would go to the Uber app at night to calculate the exact price of the ride home. Instead of the affordable $35 Uber to TTL that’s available at the day, the night Uber is $70. As someone who relies on SSDI every month, that scenario would wipe out my money. Today, I live twice as far from D.C., meaning that Uber is twice as expensive. Yes, I can metro home to my new Metro station, Shady Grove. But, I want to put safety over money.

As of right now, I have done one night class at a music school in D.C. Even though the timing of the class was great (6-7:30), the rides to and from there were still expensive. My afternoon rides to the school in DC was $25, which is cheap. But, the evening rides to home doubled because of the time. It was $45. I spent $64 each week on transportation, which was a financial challenge. Like everyone else, I have rent and credit cards to pay. Since I can’t cook, I need to order food for delivery to eat. It would be a big burden to choose between weekly transportation and meals.

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Cut to today: The coronavirus pandemic has made the world around us literally untouchable. However, technology is even more powerful. In late March, I decided to check on The Theatre Lab’s website to see what they’re going to do with the rest of their classes from that semester. On that page, it was announced that The Theatre Lab would finish the classes they had started online. But additionally, The Theatre Lab’s next round of classes will be online!

A wave of happiness hit me when I read that. All of these classes that I was dying to take, but didn’t sign up for at that moment because I was wary of money and Uber, were available to me at the comfort of my own home! For the first time ever, I didn’t have to worry about money or transportation. With my web camera and the Zoom app, my fellow students and I can study acting and participate as much as an in-person regular class! Currently, I am in a singing class with The Theatre Lab, along with a Voice and Speech class with Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Why hasn’t a remote option been available until now? I understand that society is generally designed for able-bodied people. So, of course, most institutions don’t naturally worry about someone’s concerns with transportation and similar necessities. They honestly shouldn’t. People with disabilities like me need to arrange or figure out our transportation. But if there is a lack of resources, then we can’t go out and live our lives in society.

If it wasn’t for Zoom, I wouldn’t be getting the education I have been desiring for a while. Remote learning for all kinds of places is a huge solution for inclusion and equity. It’s life-changing for people with disabilities like me who can’t drive, can’t find resources for transportation and protection, and don’t want to rely on someone else to take them around all the time.

It’s also a good option for businesses. The Theatre Lab’s classes get quickly sold out because people from anywhere in this country can learn online. But with in-person slots for the classes, there can be limited spots for remote learning. So that way, people can physically go to the classes, but not have the slots for the classes be filled up with remote learners. After the pandemic ends, I hope educational institutions and businesses of all kinds remember how remote learning has helped so many people. Let’s make the future of learning accessible and inclusive of everyone!

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Originally written for National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (@NACDD).

Getty image by Demaerre.

Originally published: July 5, 2020
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