The Gift of Disability Inclusion

The galaxy swirling colored purple.

On July 9th (in most time zones) musicians BTS released their new song, Permission to Dance, and accompanying music video. However, upon premiere, disabled BTS ARMY (the fandom that supports BTS) were left with an extra unexpected gift — a gift that has the potential to have far reaching impact. And this gift not only fell on the anniversary of the founding of ARMY, but also during Disability Pride Month.

In the choreography for the dance to Permission to Dance, BTS is seen using sign language. Specifically, for example, the sign for “dance” in ASL can be seen throughout the music video, as well as the live choreographed performance.

BTS with Suga in the center marching in place while making the sign for “dance” with their hands.
BTS making the ASL sign for “dance” during Permission to Dance music video.

I, myself, am not a member of the D/deaf community. But I am disabled. So, when I recognized ASL being used, I felt the validation, nonetheless. As someone who has been fighting for any kind of disability recognition, this felt huge.

BTS’s company confirms the choreography for Permission to Dance intentionally included “international sign.”

It feels huge because, to me, this isn’t just disability representation. This is not the same as the tokenizing you might see in other performative media. It’s not just throwing a wheelchair user into a group of people and saying “See? We included you.” BTS having sign language built into their choreography is a tangible acknowledgment of access needs for disabled ARMY.

Disabled ARMY are not just represented, our access needs are literally put front and center.

Disabled ARMY are not just visible, we’re incorporated.

Disabled ARMY are not just edge cases, we are valuable.

The choreography for the chorus of the song is beautifully simple. In the simplicity of the moves also lies the dance’s accessibility. People of all ages with a full range of (dis)abilities can learn the dance and participate. For example, the dance moves can be done sitting. Add in the elements of the international signs and you have a wonderfully accessible BTS dance that we all be a part of. Not just participate in the dance, but feel intentionally included in it.

Just think of all the potential dance cover videos in the future that are now going to be incorporating sign language into them because BTS used it in their official choreography. Then imagine those videos being viewed by people who may not know who BTS is yet, but can see themselves somewhere in the song and in the dance. I honestly can’t stop smiling about it.

I’m not even sure I can guess yet what the full impact of this might be. However, I do hope it’s a trend and that we keep seeing more moments like this in the future.

Is there still tons more work to be done? Yes. Is this only the beginning? Yes. But I am going to enjoy this new release and enjoy the small victories we have won. Progress may feel slow at times, but we keep fighting our way into the mainstream and this is a glimmer of that. Happy Disability Pride Month!

BTS dancing in the music video for Permission to Dance. They are making various signs while dancing. J-Hope is lifting his thumbs up and down at his chest. BTS with Suga in the middle are making sign for “dance” in ASL. RM and V are dancing with hands in the air making peace signs. BTS with Suga in the middle are making sign for “walk”.
Various signs found in BTS’s Permission to Dance

You can watch the music video for yourself here:

You can find the original twitter thread that inspired this post on my Disability Advocacy Account for BTS ARMY.

I’ll be adding to this list of more articles written by Disabled ARMY on the topic of BTS & Disability Inclusion.

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