The Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba (CPAM) is a hub for information, referrals, support and advocacy for anyone affected with Cerebral Palsy or those connected with people living with this disability. In 2018, the organization approached us, along with the Public Interest Law Centre, with a unique ask: help them launch a public awareness campaign to support a human rights legal challenge by two young people living with Cerebral Palsy.
Understanding the challenge
The case, filed on behalf of Tyson Sylvester and Amelia (Amy) Hampton against Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living, Manitoba Families, and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), states that both Tyson and Amy (and others) have been discriminated against based on their age and physical disability. As students, they qualified for government-supported rehabilitation, custom technology and respite outside the home as well as other assistance. Upon graduation, they transitioned to a patchwork of home care services maxed out at 55 hours a week, forcing them to make decisions between laundry and a warm meal, instead of seeking a job or further education.
The biggest challenge was to find a way to amplify Tyson and Amy’s voices. With limited services now available to them, they are fairly isolated from the community, making their plight largely invisible to anyone unaffected. We needed to find a way to draw attention to the case and make Winnipeggers and Manitobans take notice.
Finding the concept
It was this community isolation that we locked in to with the Locked out of Life idea. We wanted to physically show what that isolation meant for Tyler and Amy.
With Tyson and the client’s approval, we let a guerilla activation anchor the campaign, to try to reach the most Winnipeggers with a single act. Tyson locked himself in a jail cell in the middle of Old Market Square, inviting passersby to engage with his story and the injustice experienced by other young people with a disability through an audio recording.
This single-day stunt was turned into a documentary-style video, which earned a gold Telly Award and two national AToMiC awards. That video was the campaign’s first introduction to the wider public, which proceeded with an ask for support, sending people to the branded website we created specifically to support the campaign.
The website includes our brand story for the campaign — juxtaposing graduation as a time of celebration to the unjust removal of supports for young grads with disabilities. We also designed a powerful logo to symbolize the campaign — clearly communicating a complicated concept at a glance. Using the traditional symbol for disabilities nestled inside a lock, the logo expresses who the campaign is about and hints at isolation from community by placing it inside the shape of a house. We also used this graphic style to illustrate the injustice and invisibility of the issue by pairing this symbol starkly against many other, solid graphics of homes.
The website, more importantly, features the four ways you can help support the campaign – monetarily, or by amplifying the campaign by sharing the video, signing the online petition (currently at over 2,600 signatures) or by filling out a templated letter to government.
As we were leading a campaign on accessibility, we took special care in the colours used (and their contrast online), and font choices for the campaign (including placing a font resizer in the navigation menu of the website). We also applied French and English closed-captioning to the campaign video to ensure wider accessibility.
What happened next?
The documentary video, which lives on the website, has been viewed over 100,000 times —no small feat for a video shot in a city with a population of less than one million. The media picked up and is following Tyson and Amy’s case. And the site itself allows people to continue interacting with the case, as news updates and public legal records related to the case are made available.
Tips for creating memorable campaigns
1) Collaborate when you brainstorm. When coming up with a campaign idea to cut through the clutter, it’s important to seek outside perspective. In this case, CPAM and PILC consulted us, and we widened the table, inviting our video collaborators, Wookey Films, into concept discussions. The more brains you involve, the better your outcome will be.
2) Take that leap of faith. Even when the idea for Locked out of Life came to us in the brainstorm session, we all wondered whether we could get client buy-in or trust the public to engage with Tyson respectfully. It takes a lot of courage to do something bold, but often, the greater the risk, the bigger the reward. With Tyson’s early buy-in, we knew people would see through the vulnerable image to his strength and advocacy.
3) Ask yourself “what is the goal” and then “what’s the best way to get there?” Sometimes, we get focused on the tasks or mediums we envision rather than the end goal. CPAM and PILC approached us for a standard interview format video, but when we asked what they were hoping to accomplish, we realized we needed to open them up to something out-of-the-ordinary to meet their ambitious goals.