When someone with a physical disability approaches, what do you do? Do you look away, stare or simply see the person coming toward you?
That’s the question a campaign from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation wants people to ponder.
The national 'See Us' campaign wants to reshape how people view others with disabilities, highlighted in its call to action: “Don’t just look at us. See us.”
The campaign, created by purpose-driven agency Oberland in New York, features a diverse group of people candidly asking whether they look sorry, unhappy or seem like they are struggling.
“Does looking at me make you want to look away?” asks a 20-something blond women with wavy hair and a nose ring. As the camera pans back and it becomes clear that all the people are in wheelchairs, the woman asks, “what about now?”
The participants in the video include activist and adventurer Laura Beck, comedian Jessie Chin and neuroscience student Ian Malesiewski.
“I want to see a world in which it’s no longer curious to see a wheelchair user everywhere you go – for the community to feel empowered and not let their ‘disability’ define them. I want an accessible world, a world full of adaption that opens the doors for us to have the same opportunities that every other individual is given,” said Beck.
“’See Us’, to me, is about opening the eyes of others who look the other way, fighting for inclusivity, hoping for a cure, and never letting our disability stop us from living our very best life.”
Peter Wilderotter, president and chief executive, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation said there are over 61m Americans living with a disability, all of whom have powerful stories to tell.
"It is our hope that ‘See Us’ will rally a swelling chorus of voices that will challenge the world to see people living with paralysis for who they really are and what they have accomplished. It is no longer a choice but rather an expectation to be universal in thought and inclusive in action,” said Wilderotter.
Oberland co-founder and executive creative director Bill Oberlander said the website refresh for the Short Hills, New Jersey-based foundation and online campaign offer myriad ways to open lines of communications to raise awareness and change conversations.
“Individuals living with disabilities overwhelmingly want and deserve to be seen and heard,” said Oberlander. “The true stories being shared on the site and socially will bring more humanness to those most of us don’t know how to engage. And, that’s a great thing,” said Oberlander.
Visitors to the site can donate to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The organization, founded in 1982, is dedicated to curing spinal cord injuries and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis.