DisabledSOS is an incredible project created by a group of 5 Seconds of Summer fans back in 2016 with the goal of giving music fans with disabilities and chronic illnesses a voice. Since then, the project has accomplished massive goals and brought hundreds of people together for an amazing cause. We caught up with one of the co-founders of the project on all things DisabledSOS has to offer.
NOTE: Due to the pandemic and the current state of the music industry, many of the DisabledSOS projects have been put to a halt. This interview contains information about many discontinued events that have been postponed for later times. An official statement has been put out by the DisabledSOS team here:
— DisabledSOS Project (@disabledsos) February 23, 2021
1. When did this all begin?
DisabledSOS began back in September 2016. I had earlier that year sort of “rejoined” stan Twitter and fully entered the 5SOS fandom. I had seen some fan-created hashtags for minorities in the fandom (such as fans of color and LGBTQ+ fans) but hadn’t really seen one created for disabled fans. A group chat was actually created with myself and a few other disabled fans that were also interested in making a hashtag happen (unfortunately I only have contact with one of them now). We had typed up a little explanation of what the hashtag was and sent it out.
We just began to see an outpouring of love for #disabledsos, people sharing their stories and encouraging support. It ended up trending at No. 5 in the US and No. 3 in the UK on September 19, 2016. I honestly credit the people in that chat for getting me where I am today. If that hashtag hadn’t existed, this project might not either.
2. What were your main inspirations to start this project? Was there a certain person or event that led you to come up with this idea?
I didn’t really do anything with it in 2017 as 5SOS took a bit of a hiatus, but once I saw projects pop up for their Meet You There Tour (such as PrideSOS), it inspired me to bring it back as a tour project. I also just felt like while those projects are meaningful and important to people, disabled fans were being forgotten about. The conversation had to start somewhere, and I really wasn’t afraid to be the one to start it.
3. What are some major events you’ve been able to show support at?
Meet You There was sort of.. a mixed bag if that makes sense. I started working on it I think less than a month before the tour started, and I quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to get an entire tour’s worth of “successful” projects. The Nashville show of that tour was a pretty notable one, though, and that tour allowed me to kind of learn from my mistakes and be more prepared for the next tour. Last year, before 5SOS went on their tour with the Chainsmokers, I’d decided to make a huge book of stories from disabled fans to give to the boys.
When I first posted the information I had made a promise to try to get it to them before the first show of the tour, as it started in one of the cities in my state. What ended up happening was: the boys had flown into the city a night earlier than my friends and I originally thought. My mom didn’t want to drive down there two nights in a row, which was a little disappointing, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was actually still working on putting together the book that night (and STILL was the next day on the way to the city to queue the night before!). I had started to sort of lose hope about making what I had promised to happen.
At around 10pm, I was chilling in the queue when we suddenly heard someone ask, “Hey, you guys here for the Chainsmokers?” And sure enough, it was Ashton! Being able to get the stories of so many people who had been waiting was honestly amazing. I’ll never forget people telling me they were in tears over it. That’ll always be so meaningful to me. Feels like I’ve told that story a million times, but it’s still extremely important. Reminds me exactly why I do what I do.
4. How has the reaction been/felt?
I’d say it’s been mixed as well. While I am so grateful for the people that do support us and appreciate what we do, I often find myself wishing there was more. Sometimes success comes to fan projects so easily (especially if the artist has acknowledged it). A certain project for an artist could get all of the support in the world while another is not nearly getting as much. It also goes back to some people being indifferent to things that don’t affect them or things they can’t relate to.
While I understand that, it’s also important to support those who are doing things for people who ARE affected by it. For example, not every fan will be able to relate to DisabledSOS and the mission, but every fan that even so much as shares it can play a part in it getting to the fans that can relate. It does get very frustrating at times, but I do my best to stay optimistic. Burnout is something that I’ve faced as a result of not really feeling “fulfilled,” I guess. It’s sometimes felt like my work is pointless or like myself and others are putting in so much time to not get much back, but again, I really have to at least try to look at the present and what I do have rather than what I don’t.
5. Was there a certain person or occasion that led you to come up with this idea?
Definitely the hashtag I mentioned earlier. I also wanna give credit to the original creators (whoever they may be, as well as the present participants) of the #lgbtqsos and #pocsos hashtags for the inspiration for the hashtag and PrideSOS Project for the inspiration to start the full-fledged fan project.
6. What are some difficulties or challenges you’ve had to face to get this project to where it is today?
I tend to bite off a lot more than I can chew and start a few different activities at once, especially during the pandemic when the band really isn’t doing anything and I’m wanting to use that sort of “downtime” to do more. I’ve realized that my energy is better put in a single thing to make it the best it can be rather than multiple things. Trying to get those things even out there is an exhausting process; spending hours sending DMs only to get merely a fraction of a response.
It’s also just a matter of making sure that all fan projects that fans may be planning – and it may be two or three at a single show – can happen and get as equal participation as possible, and that can get tough as well.
7. Are there any specific activities/events that you have planned in the near future?
Yes! We are currently working on a documentary about the impact of music on disabled fans. This will expand beyond the 5SOS fandom and will discuss topics such as venue accessibility, inclusivity, and what artists themselves want to see in the industry.
We are still accepting interviews for this, and anyone interested can find more information on our website: www.disabledsos.wixsite.com/project! We don’t know when this will be released, as we want more of a variety than we have now. We’ll also be doing projects for 5SOS’s tour whenever it can safely happen.
8. Where else can people find/support you?
[NOTE: not all events/projects are currently running]
Our website isn’t as updated as our social media (link above), but our Linktree @disabledsos is a more condensed version that includes things such as previous interviews and Google Forms for getting involved. We can be found @disabledsos on most social media platforms!
We also have a Discord server that community members can join and a YouTube channel that we hope to use to discuss disability-related topics in the future! People can also financially support us and the charities we love by donating via PayPal or purchasing merch from our Redbubble store. The proceeds go to making our tour projects happen and to organizations that are doing work to support the disabled community.
As far as concerts go, our reps usually are passing out pieces of blue paper at 5SOS shows, but we recommend following our social media to get updated while the tour is happening.