By Pam Vetter
“Every day, millions of people choose to do the right thing.”
As part of a television ad campaign focused on responsibility, a Liberty Mutual commercial shows actress Teal Sherer, a wheelchair user in real life, going outside in the rain, wheeling down the sidewalk to the bus stop, getting on a wheelchair accessible bus, and rolling under a metal gate at a school with the simple goal to cast her vote in this year’s election.
“While the spot is intended to remind everyone of the responsibility and privilege to exercise our right to vote, it’s also a masterful and authentic representation of people with disabilities,” says Disability Advocate Christine Bruno of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts.
In fact, Liberty Mutual Senior Marketing Communications Consultant Jennifer Anderson stressed that authenticity was important in developing the advertisement. “We did focus groups with non-wheelchair users in Boston, Atlanta, and St. Louis to test our image advertising. The majority of people understood what we were trying to do with the spots,” says Anderson. “Through the Media Access office in Glendale, Calif., we did focus groups with wheelchair users and met one-on-one with wheelchair users. Time and time again, they told us that this is one of the only ads showing them in everyday life. They stressed that they’re either shown as victims or as superheroes, but rarely shown doing what everyone else does. They wanted to be depicted living life every day. It was a powerful thing.”
Every step of the way, Sherer was impressed with the new level of respect and involvement, which she considers a huge step forward for the entire movement to bring attention to other performers with disabilities. “Auditioning was an interesting process,” says Sherer. “Laray Mayfield cast it. She is a well-known motion picture casting director