When the individuals from our Adult Day Service were told about an opportunity to be filmed for a public service announcement (PSA) in honor of Easterseals’ 100th Anniversary, everyone quickly indicated they wanted to be involved. I especially recall one of our most outgoing participants, Jeff, saying, “I would love to be in a commercial.” Just like most people, everyone relished the opportunity to feel like movie stars around video cameras and special lights. Beyond that, it provided an opportunity for our participants to showcase their abilities for the crew.
From start to finish, the film crew ensured that our participants remained the focus of the shoot, emphasizing their strengths and capabilities. It was wonderful to see the pride and joy on each participant’s face as they worked with the videographers, referring to themselves as movie stars and celebrities throughout the entire process.
It was also amazing to observe the videographers develop realizations about the skills and talents of our participants as they worked with them throughout the course of the day. For example, while everyone was playing ball on the baseball field, I could see the crew become caught up in the action of the game. This was especially true when “movie star” Kyeong hit the ball off the tee 20 times in a row, smiling and laughing as she ran the bases with eyes full of joy that everyone could see. It was a fulfilling day for everyone.
When the “We Celebrate” PSA video debuted, I had the opportunity to sit with each participant as they watched it for the first time. They were so excited to see themselves on screen representing Easterseals’ 100th year celebration of connection, inclusivity and change. Many of them requested that I share the video with their families while others celebrated their commercial debut with laughs, smiles and other expressions of joy. It was a unique opportunity for the participants to see their own efforts and abilities recognized in such a direct and rewarding manner.
The entire video shoot really made me consider the fact that 100 years ago a project positively focused on the abilities of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities would never have occurred. People with intellectual disabilities were sent away to institutions or hidden in homes to avoid the stresses of urban life, not to be seen or heard from by the general public. They certainly wouldn’t be enjoying a game in a community park or being the focus of a film crew’s attention, interacting with the camera as any actor or actress would.
It was a single day of fun, but it served to put a much-needed focus on human capabilities and possibilities. Informing a group of professional storytellers that sometimes the reality of people’s lives is different than expected, but no less action-packed, engaging or fulfilling. It also reminded me, a person who works with these individuals every day, that we have only touched the surface of finding ways to make activities inclusive and providing opportunities for everyone to engage within their communities.