How Canadian Tire keeps disability—and accessibility—in the picture
It’s time to include disability in the picture—and for a national brand like Canadian Tire, they did exactly that. After signing the Dear Everybody agreement, the brand kept their promise to help create a more inclusive media landscape where people with disabilities are represented.
Working alongside Holland Bloorview, the creative team at Canadian Tire kept accessibility and inclusivity top-of-mind when creating their Halloween content for their website. Together, the teams planned and executed a fully accessible photoshoot for kids and adults with disabilities. The end result? Inclusive photos of families enjoying the spooky season together—and making it clear that Halloween is for everyone.
“A lot of times the media can have a narrow view of what the real world looks like,” Merik Williams, Canadian Tire’s Producer of Creative & Content said. “Instead, we wanted to capture the real world on a typical Halloween night. There are kids and parents out there who have disabilities—let’s see them represented.”
This conscientious mindset guided the process from beginning to end.
“My AVP and I have had numerous conversations on how great it would be to show more diversity and inclusion in our photography, and we looked at what shoots were coming up that required talent,” Jeremy Perry, Canadian Tire’s Manager of Creative & Content Production said. “Naturally, we both thought Halloween would be an awesome opportunity to get the ball rolling.”
The Brainstorm Session
From the start, Cathy Kim, AVP Content Management, advocated that authentic representation was pivotal—not only for the success of the campaign—but also to ensure the final images felt genuine.
“In general, Canadian Tire recognizes there’s so much more that we can do to create an inclusive environment. One of the places we can look at is how we represent our brand through content,” she said.
The Planning Process
Ahead of the photoshoot, Holland Bloorview supported the Canadian Tire team through meetings and conversations about disability, accessibility and language. Having those conversations early on played a key role in building a smooth and successful process.
“We didn’t lead with assumptions. We were very fortunate to have an open line with the hospital and with the talent to ask questions,” Merik said. “We were more focused on capturing how kids and families would enjoy Halloween, versus directing our models to portray stereotypical poses and actions you often see when shopping online for Halloween costumes and décor.”
Holland Bloorview also worked closely with clients of the hospital who were interested in modeling for the photoshoot. The hospital consulted with participants ahead of time, ensuring that all involved understood the models’ on-set accessibility needs.
The Canadian Tire team, Holland Bloorview staff and their production partners worked collaboratively to create an accessible and comfortable environment, ensuring all clients and families would be comfortable on set.
The team removed any potential physical barriers when entering or navigating the studio on and off set. This included ensuring washrooms onsite were accessible, as well as providing time and space for caregivers and support animals to be present and even part of the shoot when needed. A Holland Bloorview representative was also on call over the course of the multi-day shoot to support the models with any questions and changing needs.
The Final Products
At the end of the day, the Canadian Tire team wanted to make sure the images they created could represent diverse Canadian families.
“It was important for us to capture images where the focus wasn’t on the person with a disability, but rather representing regular Canadian families enjoying Halloween,” Cathy said.
The company posted the photos across both the Canadian Tire and Party City websites, truly embracing the Halloween spirit.
While Canadian Tire’s creative objectives were successfully met, this experience has also opened more doors to continue the conversation on creating inclusive and diverse content. None of it would have been possible without the partnership with Holland Bloorview.
“Working with the team and models from Holland Bloorview was similar to working with a casting or talent agency,” Jeremy said. “The entire process from beginning to end was super smooth and it was an absolute pleasure to work with each of the models and families we had in for our Halloween shoot.”
Jeremy believes it is important that other companies hear this story to avoid preconceptions and truly understand how intuitive it can be to plan photo and video shoots featuring people with disabilities.
It’s time to end stigma against people with disabilities—and our Dear Everybody campaign aims to do just that. Over the past four years, the campaign has called on brands, companies, organizations and individuals to create a more inclusive media landscape by including people with disabilities.
OMNI TV’s Focus Punjabi chats with Christopher about ableism
Christopher, one of the kids featured in this year’s campaign, talks about times when he was excluded at school due to his disability. He shares that, “Playing a game or having fun in life is not a privilege or a gift, it’s a must-have in a child’s life.”
That TVOkids Show spotlights Dear Everybody
Holland Bloorview ambassador and TVOkids reporter, Alex, talks about ableism and how to combat it in the classroom.
Things to Know T.O. talks to a Toronto director about disability inclusion in film
Meagan McAteer speaks about her short film, ONE DAY/DAY ONE, and her partnership with Holland Bloorview to help cast its lead role and provide coaching on disability inclusion best practices in film.
BT Toronto speaks with Gavi about ableism and communication
Breakfast Television Toronto interviews Holland Bloorview ambassador, Gavi, about her lived experience with ableism, and president and CEO of our Foundation, Sandra Hawken, speaks to this year’s Dear Everybody campaign.
Strategy speaks to Holland Bloorview about the forgotten “ism” in its latest campaign
The fifth year of the Dear Everybody campaign is urging Canadians to talk about “ableism” by amplifying the voices of six kids and youth who share their hurtful experiences with ableism. Ashleigh Saith, vice president of strategy and public engagement at the Holland Bloorview Foundation, noted wanting to leverage this “moment in time where people are more aware about what’s going on in terms of social inequities”.
Toronto Life profiles Jay about ableism and dating
Jay, who uses they/them pronouns and identifies as queer and polyamorous, explains the challenges around dating due to the stigma surrounding disability. They said, “There is an assumption out there that all disabled people are asexual – that we don’t date, we don’t love, we don’t have kids”.
CTV Toronto interviews Christopher about ableism and play
Christopher has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and loves basketball, but still experiences instances where he’s left out due to his disability. He says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge my skills before you’ve seen them because sometimes they could be great”.
CBC Toronto talks to Holland Bloorview youth about the Paralympics and ableism
(Story starts at 53:35 min. mark) Holland Bloorview inpatients take part in a Paralympics viewing party and share their thoughts on ableism and this year’s Dear Everybody campaign. Campaign supporter and motivational speaker, Spencer West, is also interviewed about the topic.
Toronto.com speaks with GTA teen about the harmful effects of ableism in her life
Rachel, one of the youth featured in this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, wants people to know that she’s more than her disability. A long-time Holland Bloorview client, she states, “…the media represents us so helplessly or I guess miserably, we are not exposed to the general population in a way that is authentic”.
CityNews Toronto speaks to Nathan about ableism and identity
21-year old Nathan has cerebral palsy and shares the effects of ableism in his life as it relates to his race and identity. He says about ableism, “I faced it quite a lot, especially being a Black male with a disability”. Nathan recalls being stopped by police officers who have accused him of stealing a walker that was indeed his.
CTV.ca shines a light on ableism and profiles Dear Everybody campaign spokesperson, Nathan
Nathan talks about the intersectionality of race and disability, how ableism has affected his life and how he’s helping to spread the message of inclusion to classrooms and workplaces across Ontario.
AMI interviews Stewart Wong on Holland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaign
Stewart Wong, Vice-President – Communications, Marketing and Advocacy, in conversation with Accessible Media Inc. discusses the importance of the Dear Everybody campaign and the need for disability representation in the media.
Toronto Life – Because we have to start seeing disability differently
15-year old Paige talks about disability representation on Toronto Life. Paige talks about authentic representation of disability in books and on screen. In conversation, she expresses her views on the Dear Everybody campaign and the necessity to see disability differently.
CTV Toronto’s Pauline Chan interviews Arshile Egoyan and the Cappelli’sHolland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaign is mentioned as ‘influential’ in Egoyan’s research when creating his short-film, ‘Absence’, which casts Julian Cappelli as a “differently-abled” character.
CHFI’s Darren & Mo interview Arshile EgoyanFilmmaker Arshile Egoyan speaks about partnering with Holland Bloorview for his latest film project and why disability inclusion in the media is important.
Breakfast Television Toronto talks Dear EverybodyBT Toronto’s Frank Ferragine speaks to Arshile about casting Holland Bloorview client Julian Cappelli for his upcoming short film, ‘Absence’, and about how he’s supporting the Dear Everybody movement.
Toronto Life – Because kids with disabilities belong in the picture tooAdvertorial about the Dear Everybody campaign via a profile of Lesley and her son Malcolm, who has a limb difference and uses arm prosthetics.
NEWSTALK Sauga 960 AM talks to Stewart WongNorm Murray speaks with Stewart Wong, Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Advocacy, about how the campaign is creating a shift in the media landscape by asking brands, companies, broadcasters, and producers to include disability in the picture.
CBC Metro Morning profiles the team behind AbsenceCBC Metro Morning’s Ismaila Alfa speaks with film director Arshile Egoyan and the star of his latest movie, Julian and Julian’s mother Donna. The interview discusses the movie making process and the need to break down the stigmas surrounding disability, especially in film.
Strategy profiles Holland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaignAshleigh Saith, Director of Public Engagement, Holland Bloorview Foundation, explains how the Dear Everybody campaign is continuing to advocate for more authentic representation of people with disabilities in the media. The campaign is asking companies and brands to sign the “Dear Everybody Agreement” to break down barriers in the media landscape.
This is Casey
This is Casey MacKay and this is what a broadcaster looks like.
A graduate from Humber College’s Television and Broadcasting program, 23-year-old MacKay is now pursuing a career in sports broadcasting working as a program assistant with the CBC. It’s a position he thoroughly enjoys, as he spends his days creating shot lists and clipping videos.
“I’ve never been somewhere where they’ve been so friendly and patient and welcoming,” he says.
“I think whenever companies see a person with a disability and see their skillset rather than their physical limitations that is a big thing.”
And while MacKay has spent years consuming the media, if you asked him about the representation of the disability community he agrees more work needs to be done.
“I did not see enough people on TV or on the news—and I still don’t see enough people—with disabilities being represented as much as they should be,” says MacKay.
“I’d like to see hosts being represented and actors, in movies, with disabilities. I’d like to see disability being talked about more. And I think if all that were to be done it would be a real eye-opener, not only for my generation but for any generation to come.”
Signed, Mann Casting
For this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, Mann Casting was asked to assist with the video creative.
The agency has been around for 11 years and is a progressive when it comes to ensuring diverse casting.
“In casting everybody sort of talks about representation of how diverse Canada is, so why wouldn’t we include [disability]?” says Steven Mann, the president and director behind the company.
“There are so many different people, so I think we should reflect who we are in advertising especially.”
For Mann, if it wasn’t specifically required, he rarely would have actors with disabilities come to casting sessions. His casting associate, Sarah Sheps—who has ten years of casting experience—agrees. For the team, most casting requests involving actors with disabilities were primarily for public service announcements.
In order to become a part of the change, Mann and his team focused on accessibility when picking their newest location. They wanted one that can be easily accessed by anyone and everyone—even with a wheelchair.
“If [people with disabilities] want to be actors there’s no reason that they shouldn’t. They should have the same opportunities as everybody else. Everyone should get an opportunity to do what makes them happy,” says Sheps.
“We just need to make sure we had everything set up for success, so accessibility was really top priority.”
A Day in the Life of Tai!
What does an audition day look like?
Have you ever auditioned for a role in a commercial or show? Have you ever dealt with first-audition jitters and trying to figure out the casting director’s facial expressions?
Unsurprisingly 15-year-old Tai is no rookie to auditioning. But while he’s undeniably a triple-threat—he’s a musical theatre star with a passion for singing, acting, and dancing—Tai faces a couple more challenges beyond line memorization and edging out the competition.
Follow along as he takes us through his day at one of his recent auditions and the things he and other actors with disabilities have to think about when it comes to the physical casting space and location.
8:00 a.m. – Today is audition day! I’ll be trying out for a role in a commercial. Just woke up (after my alarm went off, and my mom had to wake me twice) and I think I’ll wear my blue shirt since they told me to wear bright colours and no logos. Time to shower and I need to remember to comb my hair.
8:45 a.m. – Mom is driving me to the audition today. We stop by a Tim Horton’s first for a bagel and an Iced Capp because we haven’t had time to eat yet. I’m starving!
10:00 a.m. – Just got to the casting house downtown, which is very far from our place! I see a ramp up to the sidewalk but there appears to be one stair leading to the door. This should be fun…
10:05 a.m. – Okay, it was easy enough but still a little frustrating for me to get inside. I bumped up a stair or two, but it wouldn’t be so easy for some of my friends if they were here…
10:07 a.m. – It looks like the shoot is on the fourth floor. Great, the elevator works! I make it to the audition location and make it inside the casting lobby. I sign-in and wait my turn.
The room is filled mostly with kids, who look around my age, without disabilities. I’m super excited to audition for this role. I hope I get it!
Oh, look, it’s one of my friends! Let me go over and say hi. Usually we get called to the same auditions when they’re looking for someone with a disability.
10:15 a.m. – The assistant calls me in. There are three people in the room: two are sitting at the table and one is standing by the camera. They ask me to laugh, to look sad, and to look happy. They barely look at me, so I don’t know what to think about that…
10:30 a.m. – I am done. I’m out of the room and back in the lobby. I feel really good about my audition. Now it is the time to wait…
Sometimes I hear back, but most times I don’t hear anything unless I get the job. I didn’t get the job for that audition.
That was one of the first auditions my agent has sent me in more than two years. It’s always difficult getting an audition unless brands and storylines specifically ask for a kid in a wheelchair.
Mostly, my acting and modeling opportunities come from Holland Bloorview and other similar agencies.
I would really love to get a job on a TV show.
I know I can play the teenaged-male character. I am a teenager after all.
Until next time…
Signed, Vapor Music
While she has almost two decades worth of industry experience, when you ask Karen Goora how often she sees actors with disabilities at casting sessions, she replies with “Hardly ever, actually never.”
“In order for me to have access to kids with disabilities and to give them opportunities they rightly deserve and are capable of doing, I think that agents have to start representing kids with disabilities and not see them as disabled,” she says.
“[A kid with a disability] can act, can be a cartoon character, can be a commercial voiceover, can be a spokesperson.”
As the Creative Director at Vapor Music, Goora is all too familiar with the audio world and that’s why she loaned her experience to this year’s Dear Everybody campaign.
Along with her team, Goora helped produce the audio for Dear Everybody’s spot piece, offering up the studio space, recording session, direction, and edits to the best takes.
“I think it’s really important that opportunities exist for all kids. Kids with disabilities should be included in creative endeavours, whether that’s in front of the camera or in front of the microphone,” she says.
“Everybody’s creative and can act and provide an interesting voice to a campaign.”
Dear Everybody, this is what a sister looks likeAdvertorial about the Dear Everybody campaign via a profile of Holland Bloorview’s Melissa Ngo and her brother, Scott, who is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal.
Tai on Focus Punjabi (OMNI)Holland Bloorview ambassador Tai is interviewed at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre Dear Everybody installation and speaks to his experience as an actor and the importance of the campaign.
Dear Everybody Campaign on Focus Punjabi (OMNI)Holland Bloorview’s Meenu Sikand is interviewed at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre Dear Everybody installation and speaks to the importance of the campaign.
Signed, Forsman & Bodenfors
For this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, Matt Hassell made sure to root the narrative in two things: starting a conversation and actually seeing results.
“I’m hoping that the industry will take notice of the lack of people with disabilities in advertising,” he says. With almost two decades worth of advertising experience, Hassell has seen the industry change, embracing inclusion and diversity.
But he knows more work still needs to be done.
“If you have somebody with a visible disability in advertising it becomes newsworthy, and our feeling is it should not be newsworthy. We want people to get used to the idea of seeing it because they see that in everyday life and they should be seeing [disability] represented in their advertising.”
Hassell is the Chief Creative Officer at Forsman & Bodenfors, the agency responsible for creating this year’s campaign with Holland Bloorview.
As part of their strategy, Hassell’s team also came up with the Dear Everybody Agreement.
The Agreement is divided into two parts with one part asking brands to start casting people with disabilities and the other asking members of the public to start supporting brands who do.
Forsman & Bodenfors were one of the first agencies to sign.
“We wanted to give everybody the opportunity to agree to help. It isn’t necessarily about the most perfect ad campaign, it really is about having a whole industry get on side,” says Hassell.
“It’s an agreement between all of us, because all of us together are going to change the industry.”
This is Tai
From the moment 15-year-old Tai sang along to Alicia Keys in the car as a child, he knew he wanted to perform. And he’s on his way to doing just that, professionally.
As a student in the Arts Unionville high school program, he’s training to bring his dreams of singing on Broadway to life—either as Evan Hansen, or Damian from Mean Girls. And while he’s already acted in commercials and productions through his musical theatre group, to-date, one of Tai’s favourite performances was playing Ren in Footloose.
“It was not something you’d expect, considering I do use a wheelchair and he’s a break dancer but, we made it work.”
The joy of playing different characters is one reason Tai is pursuing an acting career. Another reason is to advocate for accurate representation of disability in the media, something that Tai feels is lacking.
“When [a person with a disability does get] cast, most of those roles are the sick person in the wheelchair that needs help. It’s often not a character that’s just living their life,” he says.
“It puts the false image of people with disabilities having to go through all of the struggles that you see on TV, when really I don’t really get socially affected by my disability. But the media will always show that [storyline].”
CBC Metro Morning Profiles Ambassadors Tai and SheriaunaCBC Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway speaks with Tai Young and Sheriauna Hasse, two young actors who only get to play roles of characters who have disabilities. As ambassadors for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital they hope to change that, and see other performers with disabilities
CTV News Channel Talks Dear EverybodyCTV News Channel’s Angie Seth speaks to Sandra Hawken, president and CEO, Holland Bloorview Foundation and Tai Young, spokesperson for Holland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaign. Sandra and Tai explain that Holland Bloorview wants to create more possibilities for kids with disabilities, and that this should be done through increased media representation.
Strategy profiles Holland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaignThe magazine cites Sandra Hawken, president and CEO, Holland Bloorview Foundation, who explains that the hospital wants to advance its campaign by asking companies and brands to sign the “Dear Everybody Agreement,” pledging to create work representative of all Canadians, including those with disabilities.
Dear Everybody, it’s time to address disability stigma in the media (opinion)Toronto.com publishes an opinion piece from Tai Young, a Holland Bloorview ambassador and spokesperson for the hospital’s Dear Everybody anti-stigma campaign. Young explains, “I’m not socially affected by my disability, and I think more roles and opportunities need to be created in the media where disability isn’t just the sad backstory.”
CTV News Toronto – News at Six profiles ambassador Tai YoungCTV News Toronto – News at Six profiles Holland Bloorview ambassador, Tai Young, about the hospital’s Dear Everybody campaign. Young states, “If they were to see more of that (wheelchairs), they would understand. Even if someone has a prosthetic arm, why can’t they play a role that doesn’t have a disability?”
TheLoop.ca shares Your Morning segment with George and SheriaunaTheLoop.ca shares the Your Morning segment that speaks to George Alevizos and Sheriauna Haase about Dear Everybody. George and Sheriauna talk about their experience with the initiative and why it’s so important
New campaign challenges media to include more people with disabilitiesCTV Your Morning profiles George and Sheriauna about Dear Everybody, Holland Bloorview’s campaign that challenges media to include more people with disabilities. George shares his experiences as an actor with a disability while Sheriauna expresses her desire to act in an industry that needs to be more inclusive.
The Message profiles Dear Everybody campaign launchThe Message profiles Holland Bloorview’s launch of year three of its Dear Everybody campaign which calls on brands to include more disability in their advertising. Some brands have already pledged their support. Find out which brands back the initiative.
SheDoesTheCity profiles Holland Bloorview’s Dear Everybody campaign.The website offers readers a list of stories and resources for kids and parents as they kick off the new school year. Holland Bloorview curated the list of reading material, geared to kids aged 3-10.
The Toronto Star profiles Tai Young, a Holland Bloorview ambassadorTai is a budding actor who uses a wheelchair and enjoys his success in the entertainment industry. Young wants to see more people like him reflected in the media – people whose disability is part of them, but doesn’t define them.
It’s Time To Include Disability In The PictureToronto Life profiles George in his journey as a Toronto actor with a disability. He states, “There have been moments where it’s hard for me to get an audition because of the fact that I’m in a wheelchair.”
This is Wesley
For 19-year-old Wesley, alternating between Machiavellian characters on stage and Kyle on Netflix’s Ponysitters Club has been nothing short of fun and satisfying. Currently a student in York University’s theatre program and acting conservatory, Wesley is learning all the acting techniques he can on his journey to becoming a seasoned professional.
One who’ll ultimately land a major role in the Marvel or Star Wars franchises.
But, not because of the potential fame or fortune.
“If I was to become a Marvel superhero then kids growing up would have the kind of representation I needed when I was younger.”
Wesley—who has cerebral palsy and gets around with his wheelchair and his service dog, Cameo—didn’t see characters like himself on the screen. That’s why advocating for the representation of disability in the media is a huge reason he’s pursuing this career.
“I see a lot of people with disabilities second guessing themselves and not pursuing what they want because they don’t realize they have the potential to do that,” he says.
“So I’m hoping that through my work and fully embracing what I can do, I’m allowing folks to take control of their own lives and pursue their own dreams.”
This is Sheriauna
If you were to describe 12-year-old Sheriauna, triple-threat is the first thing that comes to mind. Unstoppable is second.
With hobbies consisting of dance classes, listening to music, or drawing, it’s no surprise Sheriauna is always on the go. For this passionate pre-teen, anything creative or artistic makes up most of her time, with a huge focus on following her three passions: dancing, singing, and acting.
She’s only recently started her acting career but has already starred in three commercials. She can’t wait to be in more.
And while her end goal is to one day make it onto a TV show or a film, she’s still open to singing in a musical or dancing on a stage. It’s unsurprising that Sheriauna is up for any and all challenges.
One challenge she’s up to facing?
Bringing more acceptance and representation of people with disabilities in TV shows, film, and especially commercials.
“If [people with disabilities] are in a commercial it’s in a commercial for people with limb differences, for example. It’s not a soap commercial or a car commercial or anything regular like that,” she says. For her, it’s time casting directors and brands stopped focusing on cookie cutter images of who can and can’t play a role.
“If that person is right for that role, like their personality, then they should be able to play that part.”
The Dear Everybody colouring bookA 14-page colouring book for kids. See what a world without stigma looks like.
ACCESS THE BOOK
For teens who are alliesSee resources about disability for teens, recommended by Holland Bloorview families.