The Best Work You May Never See: Focus Group Video From Agency Wax Promotes The "Visibility for Disability" Initiative

By

Robert Goldrich
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019

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Bewilderment. Unease. “A bit of a stretch.” “It just rubs me the wrong way.” Those were some of the reactions from focus group participants shown fake ads for products like laundry detergent and cereal that prominently featured people with a disability.

However, when shown the same ads with an explanation from the actors why it’s important to accurately represent people with disabilities on TV and in the media, the focus group’s opinions changed as they saw the value of the work.

This focus group scenario played out in this video as part of the “Visibility for Disability” campaign from Calgary-based agency Wax for the Calgary Society for Person with Disabilities (CSPD).

Currently, fewer than 3% of characters on North American television have disabilities and of these, 95% are played by able-bodied actors. “Audiences are asking to see more diversity in our media. Despite being the largest minority group in the world, people with disabilities have been largely left out of this important cultural conversation,” said Mickey Greiner, CPSD executive director.

The CPSD and other such focused organizations--including The Easter Seal Society, RespectAbility and the Media Access Awards--published an open letter calling on the media to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Launched on International Day of Persons with Disabilities earlier this month (12/3), the campaign aims to change how people see disability by changing what they see in popular media. 

The Visibility for Disability initiative is asking content creators to pledge their support towards giving people with disabilities more screen-time. So far, 100 content creators from film, television, advertising and marketing have signed the open letter; including celebrities like Danny Woodburn of Seinfeld, Kurt Yaeger of Sons of Anarchy, Eileen Grubba of HBO’s Watchmen, CJ Jones of Baby Driver as well as major brands like Levi’s and Shaw Communications.

The campaign drives audiences to VisibilityForDisability.ca, a site where people can pledge their support by adding their names to the open letter, while finding resources for hiring people with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera.

Credits

Client Calgary Society for Persons with Disabilities Agency Wax, Calgary Nick Asik, creative director; Monique Gamache, design director; Chris Lihou, associate creative director/copywriter; Jordan Findlayson, Monica Sommerville, copywriters; Brad Connell, Sam Benesh, art directors; Thomas Turner, Tina Song, production artists; Greg Damus, director, strategy. Production 2 Words Productions Jay Lawrence, Tom Acton, DPs. Jay Lawrence, editor; Mark Riddle, camera assistant; Dan Gretton, audio. Audio Production 6 Degrees Dan McManus, audio director; Peter Irwin, sound engineer.

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