When Braeden and I found out we were going to be ambassadors for International Day of People with Disability 2022 we weren’t sure what that would involve. When we were told there was a photo and video shoot I wondered how Braeden would go. If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know he doesn’t shy away from attention. In fact, he sparkles in the spotlight – loving every minute. Being non-verbal, I think he loves it when people actually pay attention to him because often that’s not the case. People, more often than not, don’t know how to engage with him. Anyway, I need not have worried because the team behind the International Day of People with Disability ambassador video shoot were keen to have a way for Braeden to be fully involved, and the film crew from The Being Group were simply amazing, making sure Braeden was included and felt comfortable. I wanted to share our experience with you all because it was so positive. Many years ago if someone told me this is what Braeden would be doing, I’d have thought they were crackers. Never say never!
Behind the scenes – International Day of People with Disability 2022 ambassador video shoot
A few years ago I attended a disability-specific conference and when a wheelchair user speaker approached the stage it became apparent there was no access. She called out the organisers and commented how ironic it was that she couldn’t sit alongside the other speakers on the stage. It was an example of how people with a disability are often not considered. This is why I was so impressed and thrilled with how Braeden was included in every aspect of the photo and video shoot for the International Day of People with Disability.
Preparing for the video shoot
Ahead of the ambassador photo shoot we received an email from the team saying they’d like a way to include Braeden and wondered if he used any alternative communication so they were able to ask him questions. We were thrilled that they’d thought of it and chatted to Braeden’s speech pathologist who set up a session for us to work out the best way of Braeden answering the questions.
Braeden used picture exchange to tell his speech pathologist how travel made him feel and what he likes about travelling. We offered Braeden a range of travel photos to go with his sentences and it was all programmed into his iPad using his Pictello program. Braeden was extremely definite about how he felt and which photos should be included to represent his best travel days.
I chatted to Braeden’s speech pathologist about how it might be hit or miss on the day. Braeden is highly distractible and so people orientated I wasn’t sure he’d concentrate on the task at hand. My theory with Braeden is to expect the unexpected, make no promises on his behalf, go with the flow and you never know if you don’t give it a go.
Our biggest problem was finding a non-graphic t-shirt for Braeden to wear. All participants were asked not to wear clothing with logos and no graphic tees were allowed! Braeden is known for his colourful array of Disney, Simpsons and SpongeBob t-shirts. His shirts are conversation starters, say a lot about his personality and offer him the opportunity to have choice and control over his wardrobe. Finding something plain was a tough gig. Choosing something for both of us in similar tones that would look good on camera was even harder. We of course respected the brief and found a lovely bright shirt.
International Day of People with Disability video shoot
We arrived and some of the other ambassadors were still doing their videos so we waited. We were last on the day because we’d mentioned that Braeden might need time to settle into the shoot. The team allowed lots of extra time for this reason.
Braeden often watches Amelia doing her make up and never objects to a dab of foundation or a touch of blush. Anything to be a part of things and be pampered. So it was no surprise he enjoyed having a hair and makeup lady paying him lots of attention.
When it was time to head on set Braeden was enthused. We chatted to the production team about Braeden and nothing seemed a problem. I made suggestions around how we might best work with Braeden and they were accommodating in every way. I immediately had the feeling we were in safe hands. Braeden found it hard to keep still (what’s new) but when it came time for him to use his iPad he was focused and determined.
Video shoots require patience and some repetition from both the crew and the participants but everyone worked like a well oiled machine. We even finished up ahead of schedule it went so well.
We are yet to see the video. I hope it shows Braeden’s joy and determination. He was so proud of being a part of the shoot and the guys from The Being Group are amazing. It was such a positive day for us all.
When Braeden was little I knew that Hubby and I would have an abundance of love for him. I knew that we would do everything possible to ensure he had every opportunity to be a part of this world. My biggest fear was that Braeden wouldn’t be embraced by the community and he’d find it hard to find a place in people’s hearts and in the world. While he still faces challenges every day, I am pleased to say that with every passing year we feel the world’s embrace and we know that he is a happy guy because of it.
Here comes the Oscars-like speech – a big thank you to our speech pathologist Alana who always finds a way for Braeden to be a part of things, to the team at International Day of People with Disability for choosing someone who is non-verbal to be an ambassador and providing him with questions so he was included like everyone else. And finally, thanks to the team at The Being Group, you were all champions and so invested in showcasing Braeden’s assistive technology.
Secrets from the shoot
After finally finding a plain shirt it wasn’t until Braeden was in front of the camera that I found a big old hole in the cuff of his shirt. I was horrified but the team from The Being Group assured me it wouldn’t be noticed.
And when I did a piece to camera by myself I was astounded at how quiet Braeden was. It wasn’t until I finished that Hubby told me the reason for that was that Braeden had found the catering tray, full of lovely cheese. That’s my guy!