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Can Classes Stay Virtual after COVID-19?

By Emily Kranking 

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 DC, 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 a $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 DC can absolutely be dangerous at night. Naturally, I would rather want to Uber home since it was a decent ride to Burtonsville from DC. After looking through TTL’s catalog and consider what 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 DC. 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 DC. 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. So, it would be a big burden to choose between weekly transportation and meals. 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 their classes that 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, was 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 abled-bodied people. So, of course that 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 are a lack of resources, then we can’t go out and live our lives as an individual person of society. If it wasn’t for Zoom, I wouldn’t be getting the education that I have been desiring for a while. Remote learning for all kinds of places in general are huge solutions for inclusion and equity. They are huge solutions 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 a tired guardian to take them around all the time. It’s additionally 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 businesses of all kinds of education remember how remote learning have helped so many people in general. Let’s the future of learning accessible and inclusion to everyone!