CiTR's Content Creators Roundtable discussed how the pandemic has affected disabled creators

The pandemic has forced us to adapt.

In the past year, Zoom has taken on more roles than anyone could’ve ever expected, serving as a classroom, concert venue and everything in between. Although most people are desperate for life to return to the status quo, disabled creators are hopeful we won’t leave every pandemic-induced adaptation behind.

On March 29, CiTR’s Accessibility Collective hosted the roundtable discussion “Content Creators & Accessibility.” The event allowed disabled content creators to come together and discuss how the pandemic has impacted their work — and it turns out, in many ways, the impact has been positive.

Due to the pandemic, musician and performance artist Velvet Crayon was forced to cancel his tour. The cancellations were disappointing, but, it didn’t take long for Crayon to appreciate the advantages of performing through the streaming website Twitch.

“People can access things digitally more easily than leaving their home and going to a venue where they don’t know what accessibility will be like,” said Crayon, who is no stranger to accessibility issues at live venues.

Mike Begum, who is a professional player of the game Street Fighter and also has also been streaming throughout the pandemic, echoed Crayon’s sentiments. Begum plays video games with his mouth while lying on his stomach, this has presented many challenges for him since he began attending tournaments in 2004. He recalled one tournament where he had to compete while laying down on two barstools pushed together since the venue didn’t have a table.

Stefan Honisch, who is a Banting postdoctoral fellow in the department of theatre and film at UBC, has also found the shift to online interaction beneficial in many ways.

“[There’s been] increased opportunity for collaborative problem solving, and managing multiple accessibility needs within the same environment,” said Honisch. He’s hopeful that when in-person classes resume, UBC will retain and refine some aspects of online learning.

Although the panellists agreed that online spaces have a variety of accessibility benefits, they also acknowledged that the internet can’t solve every issue. Crayon believes that it’s time for the world to start adapting to the needs of disabled people, and not the other way around.

“We’re all overcoming challenges, but the world needs to catch up,” he said.

Begum doesn’t plan to stop streaming anytime soon, but when in-person tournaments start back up, he’ll be there. He feels it’s essential for tournament organizers to see people like him, so that future disabled competitors don’t face the same barriers he has. Of course, this isn’t the only reason he’ll be returning— Begum simply loves to compete:

“I don’t want to stop until the wheels fall off — like, literally.”