Challenging what people think of disability
Miriam is one of our Change 100 interns. She tells us about her experience working on our t-shirt campaign and why the slogan "Disabled looks like me" is so important to her.
I applied for the Change 100 employment scheme in January 2019. I couldn't have imagined that it would lead to creating such a rewarding project as our Disabled Looks Like Me campaign. I began working as an intern in the Trusts and Philanthropy team in August 2019. While I loved being a fundraiser, my passion has always been advocacy and campaigning.
It's a credit to Leonard Cheshire's supportive working environment that this campaign was made possible in the first place. My mentor Lucy gave me the space to explore my own interests and come up with ideas. Then it was up to me to put them into action.
Working with Mimi Butlin
I'd been a big fan of Mimi Butlin's Instagram account @cantgoout_imsick since her #BelieveUs campaign had gained a lot of publicity. As an invisibly disabled woman, her beautiful illustrations and powerful slogans resonated with me. The idea of a collaboration came to me. How could we combine Mimi's artistic talent and voice for disability advocacy with our platforms and resources?
Mimi's creative talent has been the keystone of our campaign. The team and I all had a broad idea of what messages we wanted our t-shirts to convey. It wasn't until meeting with Mimi and hearing her list of potential slogans that we could see our vision becoming a reality.
Each one was a winner, but we eventually decided on Disabled Looks Like Me. Concise, attention-grabbing and most importantly; universal and can be worn by anybody. Disabled Looks Like Me allows disabled people to claim their disability to the world proudly. It also lets non-disabled people show their allyship.
I'm still in awe of how brilliantly Mimi created a slogan that made precisely the point we wanted to make so succinctly. Disability does not look a certain way, and you cannot assume a person's ability from their appearance alone.
Helping disabled people feel less alone
Seeing the campaign's successes on social media has been such a joy. Whether it was celebrities and activists, I've admired for years or ordinary disabled people like myself. Every single post has made the team and myself so happy and grateful to each person for their support.
Knowing that our message has resonated with so many people all over the world was amazing. Helping disabled people feel less alone in their struggle was an essential goal of the project from the beginning. I'm so glad we've been able to achieve it.
Reaching millions on social media
We spent such a long time working on all the behind-the-scenes strategy. Suddenly we saw all these people posting pictures in their t-shirts on social media it quickly made all our hard work feel worthwhile!
Reading people's stories about their experience with disability has been truly touching. We estimate that around 5 million social media users have viewed our message. If engaging with our campaign has changed some people's perspectives on what disability looks like, then we've succeeded in our efforts.
A spotlight on what life is like for disabled people
None of us could have predicted that a global pandemic would hit us this year. One unexpected positive has been that a spotlight is on what life is like for a lot of disabled people.
Not all disabled people are housebound. But the reality for most of us is we cannot leave the house, socialise or work whenever we want.
Chronic illness is a lockdown
Now we are all in lockdown, working from home, unable to see friends and family. People are starting to understand how difficult it can be to have your freedom taken away from you.
In an Instagram Live video on the subject, actress Miranda Hart said, "chronic illness is lockdown…imagine being the only one in lockdown. Imagine everyone else doing all that you desire and you being stuck at home", which explains it perfectly.
If any positives can come from the campaign coinciding with lockdown, it's that non-disabled people have a deeper understanding of the invisible struggle disabled people face every day.
Collaboration is the key to success
The success of our campaign has been a collaborative effort. I'm looking forward to hopefully creating more campaigns in the future to tackle the many more issues surrounding disability.
I'm very proud of our team, Mimi and every single person who has supported us by buying a Disabled Looks Like Me t-shirt. I could never have made my ideas into a reality without every person's help.
Disability goes beyond appearance
We've achieved our goals of challenging what people think of when they think about disability - and proven that it goes beyond appearance.
Disability affects people of every age, gender, race and class. We are all different, but we are all united in our experience - disabled looks like me, and you, and everybody. As soon as everybody understands that, we can make a real difference to disabled people's lives.