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Sportscaster Jason Benetti Faces the 'Awkward Moments' Surrounding Disability in New Animated Series

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Ever had one of those awkward moments when someone did or said something with good intentions, but it didn’t come out right? Or when someone just couldn’t quite understand what it’s like to be in your shoes? For people with disabilities, these misunderstandings can be a daily occurrence. They can also be challenging to talk about for those on both sides of the conversation. A new animated web series starring one of baseball’s most famous voices aims to change that.

“Awkward Moments,” created by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and featuring the voice and cartoon likeness of Chicago White Sox announcer Jason Benetti, uses humor to turn potentially cringe-worthy moments into opportunities for connection. The animated shorts point out everyday misunderstandings people with disabilities face and show how they can be transformed. In the debut episode “The Disability Blurt-Out,” an animated Benetti is waiting in line for popcorn at the movies when a child behind him exclaims, “What’s wrong with that man?” The boy’s embarrassed mother scolds him, but Benetti explains that he walks differently because he has cerebral palsy, and it’s OK because he likes who he is. Cartoon Benetti goes on to say it’s important for kids to ask questions so they can learn about and accept people with disabilities.

Acceptance and communication are the goals of the campaign and video series, according to Benetti and Richard Ellenson, CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Benetti and Ellenson, a former advertising creative director, realized they could use Benetti’s talents as a sportscaster to start a dialogue surrounding disability. They worked with co-creator Adam Quinn and animator Peaches Goodrich to bring the series to life. Ellenson told The Mighty:

“The idea started with a vague idea of his being a play-by-play announcer for these awkward moments. We then evolved into this wonderful animated style which allowed us to add another level of humor. And then we started giving the moments names.”

Each episode depicts an awkward moment commonly experienced between people with and without disabilities and gives it a relatable, catchy name. As Ellenson explained, “Once you give something a name, you can have a conversation about it. And once people start talking, we can better find the many things that we share.”

Ellenson pointed out that many awkward moments occur when someone first meets a person with a disability:

“They just don’t want to do or say anything wrong. And when they catch themselves being awkward, they want to hide. We need to change that. To acknowledge that we’re all the same, but some people may take a minute to get to that understanding.”

The project strives to foster conversations using humor and kindness, not judgment, with those on both sides of the conversation recognizing each other’s humanity.

“There’s so much out there which is left unsaid,” Benetti told The Mighty. “And those things which are left unsaid are left without understanding, too. The goal here, I think, is to realize that these situations are extremely human, often endearing and easily made smooth, positive and enriching.”

While the specifics differ, the experience of awkward moments is universal. “Every single one of us on this Earth has had a moment like these. There’s no blame to be assigned,” Benetti explained.

Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights legislation, people with disabilities are becoming increasingly visible and active in society. People with disabilities are coworkers, customers, neighbors and friends. This increases the likelihood awkward moments will occur but also increases the opportunity for people with and without disabilities to form deeper connections. “It’s fear of communicating our vulnerability as humans that is the cause of so many problems — both personally and globally,” Ellenson said. He and Benetti believe “Awkward Moments” can foster this communication and help people find a common language.

The first episode of “Awkward Moments” was released on May 17, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and the second will be available June 1, with new episodes added monthly thereafter. You can find them on the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s Facebook and YouTube pages, and the Disability on The Mighty Facebook page.

Have you experienced an awkward moment surrounding disability? How did you handle it, or wish you had handled it? How can society promote more understanding about disabilities? Let us know in the comments, or share your story on The Mighty!

Originally published: May 18, 2018
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