Lifestyle

Capable of More: a film breaking down stereotypes around disability and epilepsy

So many misconceptions exist around epilepsy. The Meath Epilepsy Charity, which supports adults who live with complex epilepsy and disabilities to live as independently as possible, wants to change that.

Having teamed up with inclusive production company Born This Way Media, co-founded by actor and activist Sam Renke, it created a short film that blows myths and stereotypes out of the water. Today, on Purple Day (26th March), which raises awareness of the condition, The Meath explains how the film came about and how it was powered by the people it supports.

At Meath, we exist to enable disabled people with complex epilepsy to live life to the fullest. We do so by providing specialist residential care, offering supported living in the local community, and welcoming day clients to our dedicated ‘skills centre’.

Also key to what we do and our ethos is changing people’s perceptions. We want to increase awareness of epilepsy and all the forms it takes, and change the view that a ‘care home’ is synonymous with people sitting silently in old-fashioned and dusty armchairs.

To do this, we decided to enlist the pro bono support of two advertising executives and an innovative and inclusive production company to create our very own short but oh so punchy little film.

Capable of More

In under one minute, our joyously life-affirming film sees Meath resident Sean shrug off (and destroy) some of the stereotypes that come with living with complex epilepsy and disabilities in a care home, and empowers him to grab life’s steering wheel. Take a look for yourself…

We created the film a year ago, but the release was put on hold due to the unexpected and unwelcome arrival of Covid-19. One very strange and tragic year on, we feel that the film is all the more pertinent to today’s viewer.

It’s also now well-timed for an important day for us and epilepsy awareness – Purple Day. Tania Cantoni, Head of Fundraising and Marketing at The Meath, explained:

“We’re thrilled to have rolled out our film in time for Purple Day on 26th March. In general, despite our best efforts, epilepsy still has a low profile, but Purple Day goes some way to making the unseen neurological condition, visible.

We cannot see epilepsy, only some of its symptoms and these are just the very tip of the iceberg. Hopefully, our short film will grab lots of attention this Purple Day.”

We are also thrilled to have worked with the inclusive production company Born This Way Media, co-founded by disability activist Sam Renke, to create a video that really reminds people to look beyond a disability.

Sam herself has said she is proud to have worked with us on this project – a real accolade from someone who herself challenges preconceptions and works to create a change.

Disability activist and actor Sam Renke next to quote saying 'Don't miss the uplifting little film with a big (and bold) message!'

Star of the film Sean loves having played a central role in the film, really showing that people who have epilepsy and a disability can exceed expectations.

Momentarily casting aside his role in this important messaging, he could not quite resist adding: “I also love how cool I look driving the roller, I can’t wait for my girlfriend to see it!”

Rather fittingly, the filmmaking process, which is skillfully captured in our ‘behind the scenes’ film, is the perfect showcase for the ability and determination that exists within The Meath community.

Fortunately, Sean is an able and confident climber due to his experience of rock climbing in Meath activity sessions, therefore the 8ft high climb into the road roller was not too daunting for him.

On hand to enable Sean, who is non-verbal, to safely climb into the cabin, while also assisting with communication with the production team, was Meath Physio Assistant Robbie. He explained: “With the right support Sean was alternatively abled to achieve the perfect take that we see in the final cut. Sean simply had to do things in an alternative way.”

Our behind the scenes video also gives a real glimpse into not only how we achieved it, but how the disabled people we work with helped to drive this project.

The Meath Charity – how we are different

Based in Surrey, our support enables people with varying disabilities to access a broad range of daily, life-enriching activity sessions, both at our skills centre and popular furniture up-cycling and social enterprise cafe and shop Changing Perceptions.

The people we support benefit hugely from these sessions, gaining a greater sense of achievement, purpose, pride and belonging.

The need to live a fulfilled life is one that is universally shared, regardless of living with epilepsy, a disability and whether one lives at a care home or not.

Yet, we find that often, people are surprised to learn that the people we support are enabled to achieve so much, as Helen Jackson, Marketing Manager explains:

“All too often when I say to people that The Meath is a care home, they imagine the people we support sitting in winged back chairs and watching daytime television.

While, for some people who are elderly, that might be a comfortable scenario, but The Meath is a care home for adults of all ages and the people we support are keen to embrace the many opportunities they have to create, discover, learn and challenge themselves every day.

Residents from The Meath care home doing exercises

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must seize life’s opportunities and remind ourselves that we are capable of more!”

Indeed, clearly, the people we support have a lot to contend with, such as frequent seizures, living with physical or learning disabilities, attending many medical appointments, medication, diet changes and pain management.

But these experiences serve to make the people we support all the more determined to have the best day possible and to embrace the many opportunities they have.

We offer sessions that enable the people we support to experience the personal satisfaction of honing a skill, achieving an individual goal, or simply trying something new.

Despite these sessions being so vital for the people we support, statutory care packages cover only the basic requirements of life and do not stretch to the full cost of daily activity sessions, social events and outings. Our film, therefore, was also a way for us to sustain these vital and life-enriching services.

But, above all else, our short film has the power to show that, regardless of a persons (dis)ability, with the right support, we are all Capable of More.

To see find out more about The Meath Epilepsy Charity, the work it does and how you can support it, visit its website. 

The Meath Epilepsy Charity

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