Ever wonder why “the disability community,” of which you, dear reader, are a member or fellow traveler, is rarely mentioned in public discourse? Compare it to LGBT, an acronym that is now part of the English language but one that people couldn’t remember only a few years back. And maybe that’s no longer even correct — I’ve seen LGBTQ thrown around recently. In any case, LGBT is not even that easy to say, has no vowels, rhythm or snap to it, like NAACP or AARP. AARP sounds like an old dog with gum problems, just like many of its members.
The disability community is not a community in the sense that everyone identifies with one single definition of “community.” If you are a member of AARP, for instance, you are old, period. It’s tattooed on your forehead. If you belong to MADD, you can’t be a dad or a swinging single. The disability collective is a loose, sometimes quarrelsome confederation of cliques where one clique — say, active wheelchair users — is seldom invited to a party thrown by the deaf clique or the autism clique or the Downs clique. Nor does the little people clique often sit around and worry about people with MS because they’re pretty sure the MS people aren’t sitting around and worrying about them. You get the point. So many disability groups are so completely different from each other that all they have in common is the catch-all term, “disability.” Of course, they do have the common experience of being ignored or devalued in the nondisabled world at large, but because each has its own little financial and cultural fiefdom, it will take someone of the stature of Otto von Bismarck to transform them into a single, unified brotherhood (or brother/sisterhood.)
The Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts don’t have this problem. They see themselves as a single force with a common political agenda. Individually, they are probably as different as you and your obnoxious brother-in-law, not to mention as different as anyone of the other 56 gender options listed by Facebook — androgynous, pan gender, gender fluid, two-spirit, et al. To my knowledge, Facebook has yet to list 56 disability options.
Even if we’re not a real community, we could pretend we’re all one big happy tribe if we had a collective acronym — a brand name — that stuck in people’s heads. Unlike LGBT or MADD or the PTA, we can’t just use the first letters of participating subgroups or you’d end up with an absurd acronym like … BDCPMSPQAADATBI.* And even then, someone would feel left out — “Wait a minute, I don’t see an MD in there! What, we’re not good enough for the BDCPMSPQAADATBI? Well, we’ll just hook up with the chronic traumatic encephalopathy crowd and create the MDCTE! How do you like that?!”
All right, let’s all take a deep breath and come up with a catchy acronym to get our collective brand out there. I am open to submissions here, but the best I could come up with is “Bunch of Disabled-Somethings,” better known as the BOD. You can just hear that rolling off the tongue of the next president of the United States:
“My fellow Americans, it is time that we invite the BOD community into mainstream America, so today I am announcing a new cabinet position — Secretary of BOD Affairs — who will oversee all BOD outreach programs in this administration.”
BOD will get us headlines like “BOD Voting Bloc Could Swing Election” or “BOD Stages Annual BOD Pride Parade.” People will soon be sick of hearing about “those damn BODS all the time” — as Donald Trump has abundantly shown, constantly irritating people is a sure path to massive media coverage.
An expensive Madison Avenue branding expert could probably do better — hey, brand names like Skype or IKEA didn’t just appear out of thin air — but I’m not sure. I kind of like being part of the BOD community. It sounds vigorous and healthy, doesn’t it? “I saw two great BODS today, one blind, the other in a wheelchair … they really stick together, those BODS.”
See you at next year’s BOD pride parade.
* BDCPMSPQAADATBI Blind/deaf/CP/MS/paraplegic/quadriplegic/autism/Alzheimers/double amputee, traumatic brain injury … (add your own letters; it’s a work in progress).