Manitoba disability awareness 

campaign gains global recognition at the Shorty Impact Awards

2023-Nov-ShortyAward.jpg (885 KB)


Winnipeg, November 16, 2023 – There are Barriers in place preventing people, everywhere, from fully accessing and engaging with organizations and businesses. On November 13, in Los Angeles, it was announced that UpHouse, a Winnipeg-based marketing and public relations agency, and Abilities Manitoba’s campaign, Barrier Town, won gold at the Shorty Impact Awards in the Disability Awareness category. 

The gold-winning ad campaign’s objective was to bring awareness to the Accessibility for Manitobans Act and encourage Manitoban organizations to remove barriers in a way that would leave a lasting mark on the audience. Developed by UpHouse, the campaign was up against competitors such as the Oscars, Starbucks and the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts.  

Designed to honour purpose-driven work, the Shorty Impact Awards is an international awards program for campaigns and projects that make the world a better place. Based in Los Angeles, previous recipients of the awards include Michelle Obama, HBO and UNICEF.  

“We’re thrilled to have won gold at this year’s Shorty Impact Awards and to see this work recognized on a global stage. Barrier Town deserves this recognition because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to break down the barriers that people with disabilities experience around the world,” said Brenlee Coates, Creative Director of UpHouse. “We wanted this campaign to show people how difficult life can be for others in a way that’s so obvious, it’s impossible not to see the flaws in the system. Using satirical delivery makes it hard to forget those flaws and highlights why it’s important for organizations to leave Barrier Town behind and commit to creating a more accessible world. We couldn’t be prouder of this message and everyone who contributed to the project.” 

Abilities Manitoba connected UpHouse to people with intellectual disabilities so that representation was present at every stage of the project. Through the lived experiences they shared, the concept of Barrier Town was developed. With Abilities Manitoba’s collaboration and consent, the campaign uses humour, creating a farcical, fictional town that invited people to an uncomfortable and hostile world — a world that people with disabilities experience every day.  

The campaign focused on three common barriers that people with disabilities face when interacting with organizations in Manitoba: customer service, information and communications, and employment. 

“Removing the barriers that people with intellectual disabilities face starts with the awareness that they exist in organizations. People go about their days without knowing how easy they have it; all it takes is a slightly different perspective to see what’s in front of them. Barrier Town is that perspective these organizations might be missing. And the beautiful thing about the video is that it’s ridiculous, outrageous and infuriating, so it’s memorable,” said Margo Powell, Executive Director of Abilities Manitoba. “No one wants to be a part of Barrier Town, but that’s the world so many people live in. This campaign seeks to change that, and winning gold on a global scale shows how universal the desire is to change this.” 

The Disability Awareness category overall winner was the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, followed by UpHouse and Abilities Manitoba who received gold. Starbucks and JanSport won silver and bronze, respectively.   
Funding for the campaign was provided by the Manitoba Government through the Manitoba Accessibility Fund. For more information on Welcome to Barrier Town and to view the award-winning campaign, visit

Click here for the downloadable campaign video. 

About UpHouse Inc. 

UpHouse is an award-winning, diverse-owned marketing and public relations agency. It is a certified diverse supplier through Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce and is B-Corp Certified. With the purpose to inspire the social consciousness of brands, UpHouse works with organizations to develop their supplier diversity stories and elevate messages that needs to be heard. We work to make communications authentic, accessible and diverse. 

About Abilities Manitoba 

Abilities Manitoba is the recognized megaphone for issues that affect persons with intellectual disabilities in the province. The not-for-profit organization champions equity, access, participation and rights for Manitobans with intellectual disabilities, as well as promote the quality standards for member organizations that support people with disabilities. Abilities Manitoba is your source for current information on issues and accomplishments in the field.