What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another post on Technology Reviews! As you will have read or heard in last week’s blog, vlog and podcast, this week we’re going to be looking at what technological solutions to attending events in 2020 we should keep in a post Covid world, as we begin talking more about what the new normal will be.
So as we know, 2020 has been a hard year in many areas of society. On one end you have the infection rates, mortality and long-lasting affects of having the virus, and on the other hand, you have businesses going bankrupt. Many conferences and other events have had to be moved online, which divides even more the rich in society with the Upper and Middle Classes, compare to the lower classes, who might not have any other means of attending events. We also have disabled and vulnerable people in all classes, who this year have been told to shut their social lives down.
However, while there are many bad sides to the pandemic, in a weird sort of way, modern technology has made life easier. In last Sunday’s blog I went into how technology, video chats and streaming services make it easier for disabled people to social distance and shield _ which if you haven’t seen them yet, can be seen further down the technologyreviews.co.uk blog, on the Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube, and on the Accessible Technology Podcast on the Phoebs Lyle Soundcloud account. But for many wheelchair dependent people, there will be many technological solutions to attending events this year that will have allowed them greater access to events than they would have otherwise had.
This is a list of some of the technological solutions that I think should stay around in a post Covid world to help bring around better accessibility.
No 1: Virtual Quizzes for Pubs and Businesses
If there’s a winner for anything that has taken off during the pandemic, it’s the craze for Virtual Quiz nights.
In a normal year, I would go to quiz nights in my local pubs quite regularly, and they are a great night out. I really enjoy the Christmas and Disney quizzes that go on and have scored well in both of them in the past.
But during the pandemic, that had to change.
My reason for including virtual quiz nights for pubs and businesses as my first point is because people with underlying health conditions will still be required to shield in the next year, at the same time as more will want to go out.
Most of the quizzes I go to give you a tablet or tell you to download an app or go to a website on your phone to join in, where you’d enter a code.
If bars, pubs and restaurants offered a certain amount of virtual tickets as well as in-person tickets, not only would it help people like me who still can’t get into a particular building, but it would also let people with underlying health conditions or who have got Covid-19 to still attend an event, just online.
No 2: Virtual Tours
As many of my Accessible Technology Podcast listeners will know, I have a slight obsession with Georgian history, most notably the Regency Era, as I am obsessed with the conversation and debate over who the Prince Regent, the future George IV, might have been.
At the beginning of 2020, I saw that there was going to be a lot of events held in Mainland GB about the Regent, and of course I wanted to go along, but because I can’t travel as easily because of my disability but also because a lot of planning has to go into it, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go.
This changed within a couple of weeks however when the coronavirus arrived in the UK and Ireland, and this is where, without sounding disrespectful to the millions of families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, I think the technological fixes have helped me as a disabled person.
Not only have I been able to go along to the George IV: Art and Spectacle exhibition virtually, but I’ve also been able to tour the Royal Brighton Pavilion, which I’m not sure I’d be able to access fully anyway with me being fully wheelchair dependent.
What really impresses me about the virtual tour of the Royal Pavilion is that you have your audio tour guide in each of the rooms, but a sign language or subtitle option would have to be included if virtual tours stayed around in the future, and I would also like the ability to move around the room by tapping the screen, or by staring in a particular direction to move round if I use a virtual reality headset.
No 3: Virtual Talks
Sticking again to the Regency, I was also able to attend a virtual talk on The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain, where Ian Mortimer was interviewed by HistoryExtra.
Since again, I can’t travel just as easily as other’s anyway, I feel like this allowed me to attend a talk that I’m generally interested in, and I’ve also been to a number of other virtual talks since.
Many historical buildings and museums don’t have the right wheelchair accessibility that they should have 25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act became law, and while I understand why this is the case, if there’s anything this pandemic can teach us, it’s that we have the technology now to let people attend in whatever way is safest and easiest to them, which could get around the disability discrimination problem.
If virtual tours and talks were packaged together in an All-Virtual-Pass, I’d definitely be interested in paying for it, and if someone told me they couldn’t offer an event to me in person because of accessibility issues but they could offer it to me virtually, I’d see it as a compromise. Even if half the questions come from the in person audience, and the other half come from the virtual audience.
Another reason why I’d like to see history conferences taking place in a half virtual, half in person scenario is because apparently my mother still likes to use her 2 holidays at history conferences a year as a change to get away from me. Giving that I still live at home, I have no idea why that is!
No 4: Online Conferences
During the various Lockdowns we’ve lived through, I’ve also been able to attend a vast number of technology conferences, which I think could also stay around in a half in person, half virtual event way.
As I said in point 1, there will still be people who need to shield in a post Covid world, but this would be a good way of letting us go to events while still looking after our health.
What I like about attending conferences virtually is how I’ve been able to talk with people and ask questions, as well as expanding my network and getting new contacts. But what I think could improve is allowing people to choose whether they would like to talk to the panelists in person or type their questions into the chat, but I think that’s doable anyway.
No 5: Virtual Meetings
At the minute, I’m volunteering as a Lead Reporter for Leonard Cheshire’s Change Makers Programme in Belfast, where I report on and try to change issues that disabled people in the community are concerned about.
In a Post Covid world, I do hope to get reporting on most stories and conducting interviews with people in person, but as someone who lives in Northern Ireland and can’t travel as easily as others, I will be doing most of my work over Zoom.
But anyway guys, what do you think? Do you agree with everything I’ve said, or do you think there’s any other areas where going half virtual and half in person could help? Looking forward, it seems doing a bit of both worlds is what we’re going to be looking at, so we may as well get something that’s as accessible for everyone.