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The Disability Pride

and Awareness Committee


PRESS RELEASE

Pride Against Prejudice:

Disability Awareness

Campaign Begins

November 5th


(Toronto)

Disability pride is a new concept. Like other minorities people with physical and developmental disabilities are speaking about the pride they feel within their community. On November 5th a series of public service announcements that bring that pride to the screen will begin airing.

Astra Milberg, a woman with Down Syndrome and one of the stars of the 8 week public service advertisement campaign believes that people with developmental disabilities need to become more visible. "People need to see what we can do. For years people shoved us away, put us in institutions, now we are here in the community. We want people to know what we can do."

The ad campaign begins with "Blue Gene Baby, a 30 second television spot that asks the viewer to consider how they value someone with a disability. Two other spots deal with blatant prejudice and with institutionalization.

Michael Soucie, a young actor from Toronto, stars in and directs some of the public service announcements. It was a privilege to be involved in the project. As both and actor and director, I was personally challenged to think about sexism, racism, homophobia and to understand that 'ableism' is just as serious an issue. I hope that when people see these commercials, they will make the same kind of connections that I did."

Funds were raised to film these commercials by the Disability Pride and Awareness Committee, housed at the Essex County Association for Community Living, and now other organizations are being asked to contribute money to purchase air time.

The writer, and inspiration for this campaign, Dave Hingsburger is a well known disability rights spokesperson. "I saw it as important that we address some of the very real prejudice that people with developmental disabilities experience. From my work with self advocates who have disabilities, I know that the disability community is beginning to coalesce around and speak to issues of both pride and prejudice. There is a growing sense of real pride in the accomplishments of that community. This campaign will demonstrate pride and confront prejudice."

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The Purpose of this Disability Pride Campaign

Visibility and voice. Astra Milberg, one of the stars of this series of public service announcements said that she felt that it was important for people with disabilities to speak up, to be seen and heard. The purpose behind these television spots is to directly challenge the viewer to think about people with disabilities in new ways. These 'spots' confront attitudes about value, about worth and about freedom. Historically people with disabilities have been shunted aside, moved out of the mainstream. Though today people with disabilities grow up in their own homes, they are often still not welcomed into the everyday social fabric of our society.

The disability pride movement wants to present people with disabilities as full citizens. These 'spots' do not ask for 'pity' or 'pennies,' they ask for respect. Using bold images and strong words, these public service announcements both uplift and challenge. The committee of people behind this campaign wanted to engender new attitudes and to encourage new questions about people with disabilities. In Astra we have a role model of pride and conviction. She is one of thousands of people with disabilities whose very lives give the lie to attitudes that devalue.

The Idea

These public service announcements will appear without a logo. Early on the committee determined that we will use a 'stealth' approach to attitude change. The very existence of a logo on one of these announcements would tie them to organizations that have their own agenda. We had but one item on our agenda, "People need to think differently about those with disabilities." We had but one purpose, "Create a media image that more truly reflects who people with disabilities are and what they can do." In Astra Milberg we found a spokesperson of both pride and passion. Her chemistry with Michael Soucie and their work together as actor and director brought life to the ideas that we put forward. The use of the same two actors throughout the campaign will do the work of a logo - tie the commercials to each other and make it clear that each is part of a larger campaign.

We want the viewing public to sit up and notice the commercials for what they say and what they do not say. The ads ask people to think, not give. We want people to be challenged to change, not challenged to charity. We want people to give thoughtful pause and truly reflect on what they've seen. This is a big job to do in thirty seconds. But a picture is worth a thousand words ... and those are odds we like.

The Facts About The Campaign

The campaign will begin on November 5 th and run for eight weeks. Air time will be purchased on a variety of different stations. Typically the public service announcements run for 30 seconds, however there will be a few one minute spots purchased.

There are three different commercials. One about value. One about pride and prejudice. One about freedom. All three spots feature Astra Milberg, an actress with Down Syndrome and Michael Soucie, a writer and actor. The spots were written (with input from the actors and producers) by Dave Hingsburger and produced by Andrea Nemtin.

Quotes From Some of the People Involved

Astra Milberg, Actor/Advocate for Disability Rights
It is important for people with disabilities to be proudly visible in our community. We were hidden away for years, now we want to ensure that people know who we are and what we can do. I hope these commercials will help parents of children with disabilities realize that their sons and daughters can be proud of who they are. Negative attitudes about people with disabilities need to change. Positive thinking and positive attitudes will help people with disabilities achieve real goals. I hope that these public service announcements will challenge people to think different.

Michael Soucie, Actor/Director
"Where do I sign?" I had been asked to work on a series of public service announcements that would educate the public about people with disabilities. I know that name-calling hurts and that people with disabilities, like other minorities, are often the victims of teasing and the butt of jokes. Putting these together has given me a number of opportunities to understand how important it is to confront racism, sexism and homophobia. Acting with, and directing Ian and Astra, has been an unforgettable experience; I have grown in so many ways.

Ian Clarke, Actor
I jumped at the chance to get involved in this project. As a first generation Canadian of colour, I can appreciate the persecution that people with developmental disabilities must face. Society has been able to overcome certain prejudices, with both time and understanding playing an important role. If my involvement in the project helps change the perception that some people have about people with disabilities, I will be proud of the result.

Andrea Nemtin, Producer
At PTV we work with ideas instead of products. Our aim is to help advocacy groups shift public perception of key issues and ideologies. We believe that the 30-second TV spot is one of the most powerful social communication tools ever invented, and we use it to educate and illuminate.

Dave Hingsburger, Writer
It's time. Time to hear what people with disabilities are saying. Time to confront prejudices regarding the value of all people. Time to realize that the exclusion of one endangers us all. Time to realize that "Sticks and stone may break my bones but names will never hurt me," is a lie -names hurt, attitudes bruise. These public service announcements are strong and direct. They tell the truth, the battle that all minorities face is pride against prejudice. I know which side I'm on.

Susan Tough, Committee Member
Years ago, York Behaviour Management Services assisted in moving people with developmental disabilities from institutions to the community. We saw first hand how important freedom is to a people. In this campaign we eagerly volunteered to both fundraise and help organize the publicity efforts because we believe that people with disabilities want not just a home in the community they also want to feel at home in the community.

Nancy Wallace-Gero, Committee Member
Essex County Association for Community Living provided the organizational support for this project. We have always been committed to the idea that people with disabilities needed to have a greater voice in public forums. These public service announcements allowed us to support a project that would let the world see people with disabilities as proudful people who live lives of purpose. We hope that people will be challenged, and like Astra, hope that people will "think different" because of the values that these commercials present.

The Ways You Can Help

Over the last year the funds were raised to produce the three PSA's and to begin to air them. We have enough money to run a very limited campaign. We could use assistance with buying air time. For $500.00, for example, we could put ten spots on the Weather Network or 5 spots on CBC Newsworld. For $2,000.00 we could put a spot on prime time; at this point we are not buying any prime time advertising - unless you give us the money and ask us to.

Agencies or individuals who make a donation of $500.00 will receive copies of the PSA's that they can use as education and training tools.

Further, we could use help getting these PSA's onto local stations. Any agency that can get air time for us on any station in their area will be given the PSA's for the cost of making broadcast quality tape so that they can follow through with accessing local air time. These organizations will also be given, for free, a VHS copy of the ads to be used for training.

The PSA's are paid for, now we need money to have them seen by the largest audience possible. If you can help financially or if you know of ways of getting air time, please contact us.

Donations are tax deductable and need to be made out to:

Essex County Association for Community Living - PSA fund (it is vital that PSA fund be written directly on the cheque) 372 Talbot Street North Essex, ON Canada N8M 2W4

Ideas for air time can be called into

Dave Hingsburger at 705-424-7181 E-Mail: diversec@interlinx.qc.ca


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