Monday, May 31, 2010

New "hire people with disabilities" campaign urges businesses to think beyond labels

From WLS-TV in Chicago:

CHICAGO -- Several months ago, a $4 million national disability awareness campaign hit the airwaves with high hopes for increasing employment among people with disabilities.

"Think Beyond the Label" is a 30-second TV spot featuring Chicago artist, and founder of Dance>Detour, Alana Wallace. She said this was more than an acting job.

"Because I really embraced the message. I embraced the fact that it was clever and funny and it was unlike the usual messages that we see people with disabilities depicted in. You know, where it's the pity party," Wallace said.

Health and Disability Advocates, a Chicago-based national policy and advocacy group, created this campaign.

"The Think Beyond the Label" campaign is the first campaign since the old "Hire the Handicapped" campaign in the 1970s, and we wanted to take this new approach that would get employers, especially small businesses, who I think we are seeing through the Bureau of Labor Statistics are just starting to hire," said Barbara Otto.

Otto is Health and Disability Advocates' executive director.

"The focus of the campaign was supposed to be on how we label everybody in the workforce. Everybody in our office, the close talker, the volume syndrome, the guy that talks too loud on his phone. There's always-- as we sat down and talked about it with out creative producer-- there's always that person who makes coffee in the office," said Otto.

The commercial aired first aired in February and has gotten a lot of positive feedback.

"We got lots of e-mails and phone calls from businesses who are thrilled," Otto said. "We got an email from Scotland saying, 'Thank God, finally somebody's got a sense of humor about disability and focusing on our contributions instead of our deficits'."

"That is so funny because that label truly fits me," Wallace said. "I can't make a good cup of coffee. I just can't do it. I'm totally coffee impaired."

"Think Beyond the Label" will continue to air for the next few years.