Feb. 22, 2011 -- Her submission was one of nearly 12,000, but her personal story left a lasting impression.
"I loved your feature on handicapped parking and would love to do something else on disabilities," was how Amy Saffell, of Franklin, Tenn., began her submission.
Using her idea, we set up a scene where a disabled shopper is met by a well-intentioned woman whose excessive acts of kindness border on harassment. It is a scenario that resonated with Amy since she, herself, has been bound to a wheelchair since birth.
When we selected Amy's idea from the "How Would You Do It?" contest entries, we decided to hire Shannon DeVido, the same actress from a past WWYD scenario, in which Shannon played a woman who lost out on a handicapped parking spot because a non-disabled person had taken it.
We flew Amy and her mother to New York City to experience a "What Would You Do?" shoot from start to finish. While on set, she got a chance to chat with Shannon.
"I really identified with you as a woman who was ready to enjoy life," Amy told her. "It is something that I pride myself on too; that I want to be out there and be in regular society and do things and just be a really independent person."
"One of the biggest issues that I face is attitude," Amy said. "People often pity me, petting on my head in public. I am a grown woman with a college degree. What are people thinking? My life is actually pretty great, and I wish that they knew that."
In our short time with Amy, we learned that she currently works for a Nashville record label, EMI; coaches a wheelchair basketball team; and enjoys waterskiing among other activities. She is also Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2007.
"That's what I try to let people see, that I'm just a normal person," Amy said. "I get around a little differently, but that's really all it is."
Behind the Scenes of 'WWYD' Scenario
Amy got a chance to watch her idea play out several times throughout the day at the Old World Food Market in Nyack, N.Y. We had our actors reenact some of the offenses she mentioned in her contest entry. She wrote:
[A] thing that happens all too frequently would be when someone asks if I need help, and I say that I don't, they try to help anyway. And it instead often gets in the way of what I am doing, or it limits my independence. I once had someone just come up to me and start pushing me without even asking.
After the shoot, Amy told John Quinones that she was surprised by some of the reactions we caught on tape.
"Things like that happen to me a lot," Amy said. "Sometimes people don't take the opportunity to step up. It was great to shed some light on that."
At the end of a long day, Tom Kelley came to the defense of Shannon from our overly helpful actor, Traci.
Kelley explained to Traci that Shannon was capable of taking care of herself.
Amy was impressed with what Kelley had to say.
"He was incredible. Him saying that it's about empowering people, it's not about trying to help them. That people with disabilities are already people who are capable enough," she said. "I really appreciated what he had to say."