MS Awareness Month: Making Disability "Sexy"
It always begins simply enough. A day like all other days. Wake up. Make coffee. Eat breakfast. Feed the cats. Check social media. Write an article. Research submission guidelines. Submit articles. Hope for the best.
But when that day ends another one replaces it. And another, and another, and another. And then I begin to notice a pattern, something unexpected yet in a strange way it’s also expected.
Rejections from websites. Being passed over for others to speak at events. It finally occurred to me that disability isn’t a sexy subject. It doesn’t sell, it makes people nervous, putting them on the edge because they think we’re a little different.
We cannot publish your piece at this time. We are not interested in this subject. We are not planning on having speakers for your subject at this time. Perhaps you might find another publication, another event, another website that is more suitable for your story.
More suitable? Are they kidding me? Is that what they’re thinking? If I were Irish I could say I’m getting my Irish up!
According to data from the April 2014 Census Bureau there are 7.6 million baby boomers in the United States, people like me who were born between 1949 and 1964. In addition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation of 1992, an estimated 48.9 people have a severe disability and 34.2 million have a functional limitation.
So I wonder what exactly is more suitable than talking about either disability, ability and aging, the topics I write and speak about, to a growing population that’s either disabled or aging or both? I’m asking you because I’d really like to know. Please educate me.
Talking about what it’s like to live with multiple sclerosis, and all the issues that follow it - diet, exercise, health insurance, support systems, financial aid, medications, medical support, a sense of community and complementary medicine are all issues that are applicable to every disease and to the general population.
Take the word multiple sclerosis out of the last sentence and replace it with cancer, arthritis, heart disease or aging and every subject from diet right on down to complementary medicine is necessary when discussing any wellness plan.
We can’t escape aging or illness. So let’s face it head-on by preparing ourselves as best as we can. And how can we prepare ourselves? By doing research, consulting with professionals and talking about it.
So please, again, tell me why disability isn’t sexy enough to matter? Why is this subject being passed over for more popular (and sometimes, let's be honest, absolutely ridiculous) subjects?
The bottom line is that disability doesn’t sell. It doesn’t gather large audiences. It doesn't grab ratings. It doesn’t get media attention and it garners the kind of sympathy we don’t want or need.
Other than health-related events, event planners shy away from speakers discussing disability.
But here’s what I can’t figure out. If what I say here is true then why are the most popular posts I’ve written for my blog and The Huffington Post all about MS? One of my posts received 2.6K views in 3 days! Someone, somewhere, somehow is very interested in what I (and we) have to say about our MS community.
So what’s going on? Is disability sexy? I can only deduce the following:
- There must be some interest in what we have to say about living with adversity.
- There must be some interest in what it’s like for someone to live with a disability.
- Communication is necessary to create a clearer understanding about disability.
- Aging and disability are two subjects that need to be discussed.
No matter how many rejections I get or how many event planners turn their backs on me I’ll continue pitching my expertise and ideas about MS until more doors open.
Being rejected only strengthens my resolve to keep on trying.
There are so many MS advocates breaking barriers today. Together we are showing the world that the MS community is the same as every other community, except that a few lesions have gotten in our way. We are loving, compassionate, intelligent and courageous people. Having MS has not changed that.
This is MS Awareness Month and I’m doing all I can to let the public know what MS is and what it isn’t. I won't allow any rejections to stop me from doing what I love to do. I want to make disability sexy. One word at a time.
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