Mid North Coast disability awareness campaign spreads the word globally

ACCEPTING DIFFERENCE: Jacob Bush is now a valued part of the team at Nambucca Heads Woolworths. Photo Jay Black
ACCEPTING DIFFERENCE: Jacob Bush is now a valued part of the team at Nambucca Heads Woolworths. Photo Jay Black

THE impact of the highly visible Accept Difference disability awareness campaign on the Mid North Coast has extended further than ever expected thanks to social media.

Run by Early Connections, an alliance of five early intervention services from Taree to Coffs Harbour, the campaign is now reaching audiences worldwide with an astonishing 10 million views since its launch last month.

The Accept Difference campaign aims to encourage greater social inclusion and acceptance of families with disability and includes plenty of creative input from Nambucca Heads … from its director, Nancy Sposato to the smiling face of 17-year-old Jacob Bush, who is one of the real-life case studies and part of the team down at Woolies.

Jacob’s mother, Annette, said while disability was not always visible, people’s reactions were.

“You don’t see many people with disabilities out in the community or in work situations, which means people don’t get a chance to practice their skills working with them … learning how to accept difference along with understanding means people will be less segregated,” Annette said.

Annette explained that in Jacob’s case, his Year 10 work experience last year became a chance to help Jacob practice being in the work force as well as teach others how to work alongside him as a team member.

“Jacob is largely non-verbal but with supportive employers he was able to show what he was capable of and now he is a valuable member of the team at Nambucca Woolworths and also McDonalds a few hours each week.

“People are getting to know him and accept his difference, which means he becomes a part of the community, rather than separated from it … it is so important.”

She said that discrimination can happen every day in lots of little ways and that the campaign showed what a difference acceptance could make.

“History has been gloomy for people with disabilities, change is happening with public awareness.”

An intense three-month advertising campaign has begun on television, in print and outdoor media, as well as business and community education and online activity around #Accept Difference, sharing real-life case studies and experiences.