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CDC - Voices Behind the Creatures

CREATURE DISCOMFORTS
Images provided by Aardman Animations.

Extracts from the advertising campaign, on behalf of Leonard Cheshire Disability, that was launched on line at www.creaturediscomforts.org and in print in November 2007. Then in January 2008 the campaign was launched on tv and radio with the intention of changing attitudes towards disability. The cast of Creatures was then extended later in 2008.

Based on the Aardman Animations‘ Creature Comforts series, the ‘Creature Dis Comforts animations have the voices of disabled people describing, in their own words, the negative attitudes and barriers they experience. Each animation ends with the message “Change the way you see Disability”. In each of these commercials there are animated ‘Creatures’ talking to camera. There is also a microphone slightly in frame that shows that an interview is being conducted and they are being recorded.

Behind the Characters
Bull Dog on BridgeEnglish bull terrier - Brian - voiced by Kevin who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, often finds going out a problem. "We went to have a look at a pub that we were considering visiting on a group day out which calls itself disabled friendly, but when we got there we found there was gravel outside which made it difficult to move our wheelchairs around, an extremely sharp right turn to get into the entrance, and then a step to get to the bar! That's not what I'd call disabled friendly." "It's things like this that make you feel excluded as there are certain places I'd like to go to but can't because of access problems".  These barriers, however, don't stop Kevin getting out and about locally. "It's really important for me to actually live in, and feel part of the community. I must admit, I have lived here for five years and I cannot recall anyone looking at me as if to say 'What planet has he come from?' Everyone has looked at me as they do able bodied people and forgotten about the chair".

Sausage dog with wheels as back legsSausage dog - Flash voiced by Alex. At the age of 32, Alex had a fall at work which damaged his spine. Some 25 years later, he needs to use a number of computerised aids to control his television, telephone and other utilities around his home. Access is a topic that gets Alex hot and bothered. "No thought goes into disabled provision in buildings, even new buildings. Businesses follow the regulations so they get planning permission and a building has disabled access on the outside, but there don't seem to be any rules for the layout inside. For instance, in shops, there's no rule specifying that there should be a minimum amount of room between each clothes rail so people in a wheelchair can move easily between them." "I am just as entitled as everyone else to buy something in a shop, but because of the hassle with access, I often end up having to purchase goods online." Local transport isn't any better, as Alex explains. "I have a Derbyshire Gold card which entitles me to free travel on buses, but there are no wheelchair accessible buses on my local routes so it makes a mockery of me having the card in the first place!"

Stck insect Slim on BranchStick insect - Slim voiced by Irving who lived on the Isle of Man where, until eight years ago, he worked in the hotel industry. It was then that back problems, caused by heavy lifting, forced Irving to give up his beloved job and become registered disabled. Not that Irving likes the term: "People should be able to carry on their lives, regardless of whether they are disabled or not," he says. "Irving walks with a stick, and has to avoid hills and long walks. He relies on the local bus to take him into the island's capital, Douglas. "The majority of local bus drivers are accommodating; they make sure that the ramps are down before I get on". "I don't encounter as many access difficulties as people in wheelchairs," he continues. "I've noticed that there are a lot of shops and pubs without enough space to move wheelchairs around".

Slug in WheelchairSlug - Spud voiced by John lived in Chesterfield with his wife, and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986 and now needs to use a wheelchair to get around. John enjoys the theatre, but sometimes finds the smallest things a bit of a performance. "With the lack of disabled toilets, I've been in more ladies toilets than anywhere else. When you're stuck without a disabled toilet, it's the next best option really". John is very determined to get things done in life: "I never believe people who say you can't do this because you're disabled. I always think that no matter who you are you've got something in you so you can do something".

Hedgehog in wheelchairHedgehog - Peg voiced by Sheila who lived in Cardiff, and frequently battles with the parking there. "The thing that gets me is when you find that an able bodied person has parked in the only parking space. At the local theatre, there is just one parking space for a disabled person reflecting the small number of disabled seats in the theatre - just three. This parking space is often occupied by either a large bus or by an able bodied person. It's very annoying". Sheila has to be very organised when travelling: "I usually try to make as many enquiries as possible before I go anywhere. Recently, I wanted to go to a certain place in Newport and I phoned up before and discovered it was like a building site. I was told that the ground was totally unsuitable for wheelchairs so I couldn't go there". Her opinion of disability has changed since she has experienced disability first hand: "I used to feel sorry for disabled people, but they don't want your pity, they want your respect".

Tortoise on CrutchesTortoise - Tim voiced by Ian who has multiple sclerosis and lives at a Leonard Cheshire Disability residential service in Cardiff, South Wales. He enjoys getting out to the local shops with his wife and children, but often finds access a problem. "A couple of months ago, I went to a sports shop to buy some clothes and the aisles were so close together, it made it difficult to move. The shelves and clothes were so high up that I couldn't see anything. It was ridiculous!" And people's attitudes are sometimes a barrier. "There are certain people who would talk to my wife and not me. People need to think it's not the wheelchair, not the disease that's causing problems... Talk to me, not to my position. See the person, not the disability."

Edited image of creaturesMouse - Millie voiced by Shelley is 22 and lived at Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Lavender Fields transition service in Hitchin. "On the whole I enjoyed school, although I had a bad time when I was bullied, but I left with GCSEs in Maths, English and Science. It's hard to believe bullying can happen at a special needs school but I was bullied by a girl who was jealous of my abilities. I spoke to the teachers about it and they tried to help, but there wasn’t really anything they could do." "One thing I enjoyed about school was when kids from other schools would come in. They were mainly from mainstream schools and I would be the one chosen to show them around. Doing that really helped my confidence and I found it easier to start conversations with people. I think it was good for them as they could see that I might use a wheelchair but it didn't stop me doing things. " "It showed them that sometimes disabled people might live a bit differently to non-disabled people, but we still have the same feelings and need to be treated as equal." "My relationships have been quite difficult. I've never had a relationship that doesn't involve some type of disability on both parts, but I wish in the future that I could find someone without a disability. Some of my friends are dating non-disabled people and I'd like to."

Cat - Cath voiced by Debbie who lived in Blackburn and has a hearing impairment. She has two young daughters and runs the successful School of Sign Language."I had left school without any qualifications after a challenging educational experience, as I was hard of hearing and didn't receive any support. I didn't want to draw attention to myself and I didn't admit just how bad my hearing was until I was 21 and got my first hearing aid. As an adult it made me determined to help children and young adults who were experiencing the same social barriers. That's when I decided to contact a local deaf charity and enroll as a volunteer." After various volunteer and paid positions as a British Sign Language Interpreter, Debbie set up The School of Sign Language in 2006. "There are currently 24,000 deaf and hard of hearing people in Lancashire and 77,000 in the UK, yet there are only 325 qualified interpreters in the UK. "My aim was also to create employment for deaf people as well as a fantastic voluntary experience for hearing people who also wanted to make a difference in the deaf world as I knew I could guide them

Shrimp - Sonny voiced by Dean who was 23 and has spina bifida, so has been unable to use his legs since birth. He has lived at Leonard Cheshire Disability's Lavender Fields transition service in Hitchin for three years, using a wheelchair to get around. Prior to this he lived in foster care and residential schools for disabled children. Dean is hoping to move out to his own place in the next two to three years, but feels there is still a fair bit to learn first. "I've got to improve my ways. Like not spending so much money on things, so I can save. I used to spend too much on beer, but I've stopped that. Now it’s CD's, DVD's and magazines. If I'm going to have bills to pay, I need to learn how to save my money!" he explains "and I need to learn how to cook!" Dean takes a very positive stance when dealing with people's attitudes, he says: "If people stare at me or give me funny looks, I just ignore them and get on with my life. People should get to know me rather than make assumptions about me because of my wheelchair." He adds: "I'll admit that I would like to have more non-disabled friends."

Rabbit in wheelchair in Garden with familyRabbit - Roxy voiced by Isobel (Issy) was 22 and is a wheelchair user. She lives at Leonard Cheshire Disability's Lavender Fields transition service in Hitchin, and works as a volunteer at the Cancer Research charity shop in the town centre on Tuesday each week and at the Garden House Hospice Shop every Wednesday afternoon. "What I really want to do is to work in a shop and I'm applying for jobs at the moment. Unfortunately I haven't been offered anything as there are access issues with my wheelchair, but I'm going to keep applying."

Owl in a wheelchairOwl - Ozzy voiced by Adrian who was 25 and lived in South London. He has lost the use of his legs and had one arm amputated after a motorbike accident seven years ago. Adrian is currently taking a business course at Westminster University, he started last year. "They treat me wonderful down there, to be pretty honest. When I go down there, there's always someone opening the door. They give me all the facilities and everything's wheelchair accessible - by law, anyway, it's got to be." Adrian has started up a business, called Carter's Home Cooking, which specialises in Caribbean cuisine. "We provide food for my local community, and local shops. I've got a contract with a private nursery and an after school club. We also cater for private functions, weddings, christenings, birthdays, and anywhere we can get work, basically, I'm willing to go." He has great plans to expand his business: "Hopefully, I'll be the Caribbean equivalent of Nando's. Everyone must have heard of Nando's. You've got to think big and you've got to do it big."

 

ChameleonChameleon - Callum voiced by Chris was 41 and lived in Chatham in Kent. He was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 9, and can now only distinguish outlines in bright light. With his life and business partner Fiona Bucknor, Chris runs a successful business, Wicked Waists, producing bespoke clothing. "Our business relationship is excellent as we're really positive and don't think anything’s impossible, just that there are often obstacles for us to overcome, but we do this by working together." "My visual impairment has changed the way we work. As I can no longer see well enough to sketch, I often come up with ideas for the designs and will tell them to Fi who will sketch the design. We're both very visual and Fi can see exactly what I'm describing. She interprets my ideas to design and then to the finished garment." "We do spend most of the time working but we take time out for each other as well. My visual impairment hasn't affected our sexual relationship as we're both still really attracted to one another and have a very good and varied sex life." "People don't hassle us, but a good night out would be taking Fi to a restaurant where people don’t notice my disability and don't cause problems. And we can just sit down and have a nice meal together and enjoy the evening."