HELP And BBDO/Proximity Malaysia: Wheelchair Drunk Driving Campaign

HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia: Wheelchair Drunk Driving campaign poster
HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia: Wheelchair Drunk Driving campaign poster.
Click on image to enlarge.

While searching for information on wheelchair companies in Malaysia, I came across a campaign against drunk driving by HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia. This poster won the 2008 Golden Kancil Award. Although that poster appeared two years ago, I need to say something that had weighed heavily in my mind since I discovered it.

Having used a wheelchair for more than half of my life, I thought I have gone through enough to not be deeply affected by discrimination, oppression and ignorance of the general public regarding the endless issues faced disabled people. But the people at HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia proved me wrong. I was deeply insulted by that campaign poster against drunk driving.

The main image in the poster showed a wheelchair assembled from parts of a wrecked car driven by a supposedly drunk driver. The text stated that “Drink driving is a problem among youths” and that “HELP wanted to change this attitude by reminding youths of a fate worse than death.” Another message written on a car door says: “Drink and drive and you might live to suffer the consequences”.

Being in a wheelchair is a fate worse than death
Being in a wheelchair is a fate worse than death.

What? Being in a wheelchair is a fate worse than death? Wheelchair users are all suffering the consequences? This is proof of how deeply ingrained the perceptions of disabled people still are in the mind of the general public who think that our life is not worth living anymore. We are still being viewed through lenses tinted with great prejudices.

In one fell swoop, not only are wheelchair users stereotyped as drunk drivers suffering the consequences of inebriety. Wheelchair users are also portrayed as having a fate worse than death. To you people at HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia, thank you so much for enlightening me that my life in a wheelchair has little value and meaning. I truly did not realise that I would have been better off dead.

Drink and drive and you might live to suffer the consequences
Drink and drive and you might live to suffer the consequences.

I am not against campaigns against drunk driving. We certainly need to put the message across that drunk driving kills and maims, not only the driver but innocent people as well. However, I take offense that wheelchair users are portrayed in such a negative manner, especially in an era when disabled people still face hardship and inequality in society. Moreover, the impairments of most wheelchair users are due to diseases, accidents unrelated to drunk driving or congenital.

Shame on all the people at HELP and BBDO/Proximity Malaysia involved in this campaign. You have done a great injustice to wheelchair users, not only in Malaysia but all over the world, who despite the barriers that we face every day, have moved on in life. If only all of you had bothered to get to know disabled people, you would have discovered that we are determined to make the most out of our lives just like everyone else.

And NO, being in a wheelchair is NOT a fate worse than death. Although we cannot say we are enjoying it, this is who we are. We cannot change that. But what we can and want to change are all the negative perceptions surrounding disabled people. Advertising agencies, with their ability to move public opinion, should work with disabled people to dispel those myths and perceptions instead of using us as objects of bad examples.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

8 thoughts on “HELP And BBDO/Proximity Malaysia: Wheelchair Drunk Driving Campaign”

  1. Fully agree, Peter.
    Sometimes you have to wake these people up … ads not given enough thought and convveying wrong messages.

    1. We need to promote Disability Equality Training more in Malaysia. The public understands so little about disabled people and disability.

  2. Ugh, this is one of those times where people fight one ignorance only to replace it with another.

  3. Although I agree that the poster is definitely sending discriminating thoughts about people who use a wheelchair for mobility, they are trying to sock it to the young. You remember, those kids who think they’re immortal. And I remember when I was in the rehab center at first. I kept on praying to God to let me die. How did you handle things when you became disabled?

    1. All that I had in my mind then was to get better, and walk again. It never occured to me that death was a better option. We all go through it differently anyway. But to generalise wheelchair users like this is so wrong. Are wheelchair users better off dead?

  4. I’m not in a wheelchair anymore. I use a cane. You’d be better off asking a vet from the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War, or the one we’re still trying to get out of in Iraq. It’s different when it first happens. No wheelchair users are NOT better off dead. I just want people to realize how hopeless a person with a disability can feel.

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