Written by By Cate Meighan, CNN
“I’d say ‘everyone is happy to see you but it’s a drag’,” says designer Beth Sargent.
“Don’t drink and drive. When it’s 8-20 degrees outside, drive slow. Do not drink and drive.”
She is no stranger to public awareness campaigns; Sargent co-founded the Society for the Protection of Responsible Drivers (SPROD) in 1968.
Two years later, the group set out to combat the discrimination faced by white drivers who were pulled over by police officers due to their race.
The current sit outSPROD’s Awareness to Do Campaign in Chicago — running from November 15 – December 17. Credit: Beth Sargent
The organization’s name, the O.E.C.D. Movement (Overcoming Oppression & Caring for People with Disabilities), reflects its aims. Sargent says there is often little recognition of the existence of the millions of people who identify as disabled.
“I think there is a tendency to isolate the disabled when you talk about the rights they have and don’t have, or how disabled people experience exclusion,” says Sargent.
“But to see that even though it seems like they are all on the same boat, and by the same wheel, they’re not, there’s a big difference in what happens to them when they are in that boat,” she adds.
As founder of SPROD and regular contributor to the counter-culture magazine The Objectivist Quarterly , Sargent was one of the first people to recognize the promise and dangers of the counterculture.
Lloyd Laing designed the visual identity of the O.E.C.D. Movement. Credit: Orrin Chiappetta/SPROD
She was instrumental in the production of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, eventually donating all the memorabilia on display to the National Museum of American History (NMAAH).
“I understood what it was like to be a generation – as was later realized – that came in with an enormous sensitivity, an enormous awareness of the world and a really powerful sense of sharing and community and creativity, and then leaving, mostly without a support structure for their identity. So we had to create it for them,” says Sargent.
All that creativity continued to grow over the decades and in 1989 she retired to work on other projects.
That is when Sargent was approached to start the SPROD Awareness to Do Campaign, which aims to draw attention to the discrimination disabled people face.
Sargent, who now spends her time between California and Arkansas, states: “We need more focus on those people that have forgotten and those people that we never knew existed.”
Sargent remembers the unveiling of the name of the campaign as an emotional experience. “It was the first time I had sat down with anybody and I was weeping,” she says.
But the campaign also achieved its goal of identifying a specific, often hidden trait within disabled people.
An illustration of the campaign highlights how a disability often leads to a lack of ability.
“Unconscious prejudice is a big problem — and it’s just as much a problem when people like myself don’t know where to start, that we can’t begin to change the way we see,” says Sargent.
After Sargent retired from SPROD, the fundraising for the awareness campaign continued to progress.
Sargent said that the campaign had been “a great vehicle for organization building.”
After 41 years, Beth Sargent is retiring. Credit: Courtesy Beth Sargent
Since then it has raised close to $1 million, although Sargent felt the organization still needed a further leg up.
“I got kind of curious and thought, ‘well there’s something wrong in the way we are putting this campaign together. There is not enough creativity.”
So Sargent began to feel the vibrations of the O.E.C.D. Movement, so to speak.
“It felt like my ideas were being squashed. I would try to be inventive and realize there was a lot of grief and disappointment that we didn’t do it differently. So I took it upon myself to take it to a different level.”
“So that’s where the cr came from.”