Published On: September 7, 2023By

In short

We know most businesses wouldn’t set out to create a barrier. But there are many ways that they can — even unintentionally — put up barriers and prevent people from fully accessing and engaging with their organizations. Those with disabilities often experience these barriers the most — and it’s a problem so prevalent that Manitoba sought to address it with legal obligations under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. To help businesses become more aware of existing barriers and how to remove them (as outlined in the Act), we worked with Abilities Manitoba to come up with a clear concept that illustrates the human impact of these barriers and the ease with which you can get rid of them. The result? Welcome to “Barrier Town.”

Through our client’s connections, we were able to create Barrier Town, a metaphorical representation of the real challenges people with disabilities face when interacting with businesses. The goal? To get businesses to start thinking critically about barriers they might have in place and push to start tearing them down. While the videos we created tell the story of how people with disabilities experience Barrier Town, everyone in their lifetime will be impacted by disability, even if temporary — and no one can avoid every barrier. We all benefit when spaces are made more accessible to everyone, with full inclusion in mind.

Methodology

We worked with Abilities Manitoba to connect with a focus group of people with disabilities and asked them to share their lived experience with us before developing a creative concept.

With our client’s blessing, we came up with a video concept that makes the problem so clear it’s almost farcical. We’re used to promoting places that people should want to visit, but to promote the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, we had to invite people into an uncomfortable world – a place that’s hostile to those who live there.

Grounded in their real-life examples, we staged three scenarios to illustrate some of the common barriers people with disabilities face in our province relative to interacting with businesses through customer service, information and communications, and employment.

Execution

We produced five informational videos as part of the campaign — a long-form and short-form video to promote the concept of accessibility as a whole, and a video dedicated to each of the three sections of the Act that affect businesses. We supported these with three one-pagers, providing concise information and actionable steps for businesses to ensure compliance, and created social media posts to direct people to these resources on Abilities Manitoba’s website.

By using monochromatic colours, urban landscaping props and a “Barriers” directional sign, we created a fictional world for the video that represented the experience many have living in a world rife with barriers. We also used a deadpan delivery style for the voiceover, welcoming folks to the uncomfortable and unfair world of Barrier Town.

While experiencing the barriers is anything but a joke, the video incorporates humour to make the point that every business should be barrier-free. We know that most business-minded folks would do almost anything to invite more customers in; hire the right people and make sure everyone can interact with their business online. Removing accessibility obstacles can help do just that.

It’s obvious that not many folks would keep people out of their business on purpose, so the video helps make a blatant point through an engaging, deadpan delivery, to help acquaint people with how to fix barriers that they may not notice themselves.

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Engage the Experts

If you want to know how to speak to those who will be most impacted by your work, the best thing to do is ask. But don’t expect to get answers for free, just because the insights you get may be invaluable, doesn’t mean that your expert’s time and effort doesn’t have value.

Make It Easy to Help

In order for businesses to begin breaking down barriers, we needed to break down any barriers between them and information on the changes we’re pushing for. While “Barrier Town” did the heavy lifting in terms of explaining why businesses should change, we made sure the quick guides helped make the how as clear as possible.

Risk Being Seriously Funny

Sometimes injecting a bit of (tasteful) humour can make an otherwise difficult message a bit easier to convey. While striking the perfect balance between comedy and competent messaging is not a simple feat, it could be just what you need to bring a relatable message to the masses.

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Outcome

A key part of the success of this campaign came from connecting with people who have lived experience early in the process. We were able to ground our concept development in their experience and ensure it would appropriately capture what it’s like to feel excluded from businesses and compel those in charge to learn more about how to create change.

We were told that by giving our subject matter experts the ability to self-advocate and see themselves onscreen, as well as be compensated for their time in the workshop and input behind the scenes, we helped provide them with a sense of accomplishment, confidence in their involvement, and a pride in their advocacy.

On our part, we were reminded that everyone benefits from spaces when they are made more accessible. Our society stands to gain so much from including more folks with disabilities in all public realms. And it’s always more meaningful to help amplify the voices of those with lived experience to advocate for themselves and a more inclusive future.

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