I have a beef with the government of Ontario. Ya ya…I’m sure many of you are telling me to stand in line, but once more bear with me! (I should make that the blog’s tagline “bear with me”) There is a campaign hitting TV and radio that intends to cut down on distracted driving. The goal is a good one. Reducing traffic related injuries and deaths caused by texting and driving, hell any distracted driving is something we should all work for. I respect it, support it and encourage it. There is a reason that my voicemail message has the words, “I can’t answer my phone right now as I am either on the road or away from my phone.” Even with Bluetooth, I will only answer calls from a few people while I am driving. If you aren’t on that list, you’re going to voicemail. I answer for those people because I know they’ll understand if I have to go silent while navigating traffic and I NEVER look at my phone to answer the calls or refer to anything.

So I laud the goal. My beef began when I saw this ad: #PutDownThePhone

Brutal isn’t it? Graphic in its look at the consequences. It’s meant to shock you into taking the message seriously. The radio ads are just as brutal, with one describing how you can no longer move your hand to pick up your phone. You can’t move at all. A nurse tells you how nice it is outside and turns you so you can look out the window. The first time I saw this ad, and then heard the radio versions, my nose immediately went out of joint.

Can you guess why?

Yep, life in a chair sure is horrid isn’t it?

Just because you are in a wheelchair, your life isn’t over. I’m still working on an article talking about some remarkable people with all levels of spinal cord injury that I recently met. Their lives aren’t over. They are different…but they aren’t left in the state that this ad depicts. In fact, anyone with an SCI of any level is worked with during rehab to get them back into their lives as best they can. Not just sit by a window while a nurse coddles them. Of course, there are some that do need that level of care, but their lives AREN’T OVER!

Look, I get it. I wouldn’t curse being in a chair on anyone, and quite often the injury is caused by something totally avoidable. Not wearing a helmet. Texting and driving. It doesn’t always happen that, though. I know the attention a wheelchair gets in an ad like that. The fear it can cause of “oh god, I don’t want to end up like THAT”. It’s a vivid message, using fear to change a societal behaviour. I get it.

Perhaps I am too sensitive to the message, but doesn’t that also reinforce the idea that ending up needing a wheelchair is the end of life as you know it? That ad makes it look like your life might as well be over period. It reinforces the idea that ending up in a chair is the worst thing that can happen to you. You know…as opposed to ending up in an open casket at your own funeral. Can’t really dig in any stereotypes in that image. I know I’m now oversensitive to how the disabled are portrayed in media, how their images are used, whether it be for inspiration or tragedy.

I just can’t get over the question that hit me when I saw this ad. Did no one behind ponder how it would make anyone already in a chair (and who perhaps drives…god forbid) feel about how they portray life in a chair?