Community Magazine

Online Activism Works…and I Have Proof!

By Emily @emily_ladau
Online Activism Works…and I Have Proof!

Far too often, using social media to advocate is negatively perceived as being nothing more than "slacktivism." Well, guess what?! Something HUGE happened, and it's all thanks to online activism that so many of you were part of!

A friend of mine first called my attention to an osteoporosis prevention campaign called "Beware the Chair" a few days ago. When I finally watched the video, I knew I couldn't stay silent. I wrote an article for Huffington Post Impact about why we must Beware the Scare Tactics and put an end to negative portrayals of disability in advertising and public service announcements.

But here's the important part: people started talking. People started posting, tweeting, emailing, and sticking up for the disability community. The protest against Beware the Chair took on a life of its own through social media. I was so incredibly inspired by the conversations happening on social media that I knew I couldn't let it rest. I received the contact information for the creative director of FCB, the agency behind the campaign, and sent him this email:

"I've learned that FCB is the agency behind the #BewareTheChair campaign, and as a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate, I will absolutely not tolerate such stigmatizing use of wheelchairs as a prop in your PSA. I would like to know what, if any, research was conducted to determine if such a campaign would be culturally and socially appropriate? Did you communicate with members of the disability community? Were there focus groups with wheelchairs users? It seems no steps were taken of this kind.

I have written a public response to the campaign on The Huffington Post and I will remain firmly by it in the hopes that perhaps FCB will realize just how egregious this PSA actually is, followed by putting an end to it, publicly apologizing, or perhaps even completely changing the messaging.

Fighting osteoporosis is a noble cause, but not in this manner. It appears that not even NOF and NBHA support this campaign anymore. As they tweeted to me directly:

@emily_ladau, NOF and NBHA provided educational information for the @Beware_TheChair campaign, but withdrew our support after seeing the ad.

- Nat Osteoporosis Fnd (@OsteoporosisNOF) April 29, 2015

@emily_ladau@OsteoporosisNOF@Beware_TheChair Emily, both NBHA and NOF have done just that - removed all NBHA and NOF mentions and links.

- NBHA (@NBHAInfo) April 28, 2015

You can view my post here: Beware the Scare Tactics: Stop Negative Portrayals of Disability in PSAs.

I also urge you to look at a sampling of the conversations happening on social media: Conversation 1
Conversation 2

And this response as well by Dominick Evans: My Wheelchair is Not Limiting - It Is My Freedom.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter, and I welcome a conversation with you to discuss further. Please stop contributing to the stigma of disability. Scare tactics like this are not the way to help people or prevent osteoporosis.

Thank you,
Emily Ladau"

And this was the response I received this afternoon:

"We are addressing immediately. Thank you."

And you know what?! They did! The reply was short, but they got the message of advocates around social media loud and clear. They've ended the Beware the Chair campaign and posted a message on the website to make it official.

So many people have thanked me for writing the HuffPost article, and for that, I am so incredibly grateful. But the real victory here is not mine. It is all of ours who took to social media to speak up and make our voices heard. Online activism DOES work, and technology is the fuel for the fires of change!

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