How did you get in here? Did you need a door? Did you need a stairway? Did you need a ramp? An elevator? Your feet? Your crutches? Your wheels? Your facemask? Your vaccine?
After more than 14 months of pandemic living, for many of us, a face mask feels as essential as our clothes to board the bus or enter a store. Even though Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are lifting some restrictions on indoor and outdoor public spaces, many of us still feel anxious out in public, even if we’re fully vaccinated.
In March 2020, we at BSR moved to limit our coverage to distanced, outdoor events, or digitally accessible/streaming events, and we stuck with that through a few waves of attempted reopenings and new shutdowns over the following year. We turned down many indoor invitations for ourselves and our writers because to us, questions of Covid safety were, at heart, questions of access no different than the ones we were asking long before the pandemic.
Now, moves to reopen the city feel different than they did last year. A significant and growing percentage of us (including BSR writers and staff) are protected from Covid thanks to safe, highly effective, and widely available vaccines we can get for free. Many of you, our readers, are ready to return to in-person arts events, and the cultural community is preparing to welcome you, with many regional organizations announcing a return to normal programming for the 2021-22 season. Starting in June, BSR will resume coverage of indoor events.
What you need to know
We’re dedicated to our writers’ health and safety. Writers will decide for themselves what they’re comfortable covering—noone will be required to enter a space that puts them at risk or causes undue stress.
Our writers will also be paying special attention to what Covid precautions are in place at the events they attend—both what is advertised, and what happens in practice. We’ll be sharing that with you in the space where you already find the info you need to get to the show: dates, location, phone numbers and links, and accessibility info like captions, audio description, ASL interpretation, or relaxed performances.
That’s because your Covid risk is an accessibility issue. Many people (including young children and some people with certain health conditions) cannot be vaccinated yet, or can’t get the full benefit of the vaccine. Continuing reasonable Covid precautions helps make public spaces accessible to those folks, just like ramps help ensure that everyone can get into the building.
Accessibility all around
While many restrictions are easing, Governor Wolf confirms that Pennsylvania will maintain its masking order until at least 70 percent of our state’s population is fully vaccinated. Philadelphia masking requirements may extend beyond that. At BSR, it’s our opinion, informed by health experts, that masks, distancing, and sanitizing measures continue to be a smart practice for crowds indoors or out. Our coverage will reflect that, and prioritize events that protect everyone in the audience, not just the people at low risk.
Keeping a close eye on this aspect of our arts and culture spaces is a natural extension of our overall mission. We already know that not everyone can access every space—whether it’s a matter of transportation, cost, sensory experience, physical barrier, or other difficulty. We love to note when organizations do the work to make sure their events are accessible to all kinds of people, and we know that Covid safety is just one more related consideration. A diverse crowd who can safely and comfortably access the event improves the experience for everybody.
Image description: A selfie of Alaina, a white woman in her thirties with blonde hair, standing in an ornate art gallery at PAFA. She’s wearing a green-patterned face mask.