—A new ad for the WeThe15 campaign provides a powerful rebuttal to the use of “special” labels for those living with disabilities—
We were walking down Davie St. toward Vancouver’s English Bay. Coming towards us was a little person with a large goiter on the side of his neck.
My wife and I passed him by, but our son, walking several paces behind us, couldn’t help but stop and gaze intently at the gentleman’s unique appearance. Well, the gentleman loses it. He starts blaring a not-so-gentlemanly rebuke of our son, who stood motionless, dazed by the attack.
I hurried back to apologize and explain my boy’s intellectual challenge. After which the gentleman himself became generously contrite. It was like a head-on collision of two genomic casualties of fate.
And to this day, I’ve wondered which is more emotionally taxing: Having a physical disability that draws unwelcome attention, or having an invisible disability that invites unwarranted judgement?
In fact, the right answer is neither should be. That’s according to a glorious ode to simple acceptance recited by athletes in a spot for a new campaign called “WeThe15” for a coalition of groups—including the International Paralympic Committee—seeking to end discrimination against people with disabilities.
In stark contrast to the ongoing “Superhuman” campaign by Britain’s Channel 4 praising the heroes of its Paralympics coverage, this ad features people with disabilities saying “Bollocks to that!”
In their own very direct rebuke of that “Superhero” label thrust upon them, as well as the casual use of the term “special,” these people are instead celebrating their very unremarkable lives as proof of their super-ordinary humanness.
They have mortgages and push strollers—or they are the stroller, as one child-ferrying wheelchair athlete jokes. They are blind people laughing about meeting on a blind date. They watch reality TV and “pretend” to watch reality TV.
They are the 15. The 15% of the global population—or as the final individual proclaims, the 1 billion ordinary people around the world—managing just fine with a disability. And they are simply asking to be accepted as such, to break down the barriers around them.
After watching this, I now wish in hindsight that my son and I could have sat down with that gentleman so many moons ago for a coffee and just an ordinary chat.
“We’re the Superhumans” (Rio 2016)