phineasfrogg: Various books arranged on a shelf. (Default)
The original article doesn't appear to be on the Tufts Daily website any more since the redesign, but here it is, duplicated as it appeared on in the paper:

(From here.)

Recently, I have seen signs on campus for a fundraiser for the Autism Speaks charity, run by a campus group called “Voices for Autism.” While I respect the desire of the campus group’s founders to advocate for and help autistic people, as an autistic student here at Tufts, I am deeply uncomfortable with their support for Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks is an organization that ostensibly advocates for autistic people’s needs. Their focus, however, is on treatments and cures for autism, rather than accommodation or support. It has been criticized throughout many parts of the autism community for the demonization and mischaracterization of autistic people. Autism Speaks performs a sort of third-person activism: it claims to advocate for autistics without inviting us to speak or challenge their ideas about disability, accommodation and identity. Many of us, even those of us who are considered more “severely” autistic, are able to define what our own community needs without non-autistic people defining the entire narrative on autism and the autistic experience. The attitude they adopt towards autistic people is paternalistic, and assumes that they, as “normal” people, know what is best for us, without consulting any autistic people for their opinions on their policy.

However, what is most galling about Autism Speaks is that they have given support to parents who describe their fantasies about murdering their autistic children because of the difficulty of raising them. This is morally reprehensible and should be utterly repudiated by anyone who purports to actually advocate for autistic people’s needs. Autism Speaks gives a voice to disgruntled parents who are uncomfortable with raising a neurologically variant child, rather than those of us who are autistic ourselves. I was brought up in a family that expressed tacit resentment over having an autistic child, and constantly felt inferior to those who were not autistic. It took me until I was in my early twenties to discover that one could exist as an autistic person without the shame, self-hatred, and frustration that I endured throughout my childhood and adolescence.

My existence is not tragic. I do not deserve people’s pity. I am not merely a burden on society, and I do not necessarily seek a “cure.” I don’t claim that my life is perfect, but I do think that there are both benefits and drawbacks to being autistic, and to “cure” me would be to fundamentally alter my psyche to the point that I would no longer exist in any recognizable fashion. All I ask for is equitable treatment and the right to access the services I need in order to live the best life possible.

If the Voices for Autism group supports an organization like Autism Speaks, I cannot recognize it as a voice that truly advocates for me, and for my autistic brothers and sisters. Autism Speaks does not speak for me, and there are many others for whom it does not speak. I urge Voices for Autism to reconsider their support of this organization, and I encourage them to support organizations like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network that take a more active role in fighting for autistic self-determination and recognition, rather than using infantilization and misplaced hatred.
phineasfrogg: A bird flying away with the caption 'free at last'. (free @ last)
I was helping my local ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network) chapter organise to get the city government to approve a transitional living programme for people with developmental disabilities (despite a bunch of really ableist people trying to persuade the government it was a bad idea) and... they decided to give it the go-ahead! I wasn't the main organiser, but I did send a written testimony for people to read at one of the hearings they had.

Here's my testimony:

As a person on the autistic spectrum, I am saddened by the hostility expressed towards the 3L Place facility for adults with developmental disabilities.

Nowadays people wouldn’t see me as anything other than a productive member of my community - I am about to graduate from Tufts University and have been doing work for non-profit and governmental organisations for the past several years. However, when I was younger, I lived in a San Francisco facility somewhat like 3L Place, although it wasn’t specifically for people with developmental disabilities it was designed for homeless and former runaway youth, another group of marginalised people who might be accused of ‘lowering property values’. This was despite the fact that the facility was monitored by staff, and residents living there didn’t actually cause any trouble for the local community.

The students at 3L Place will have the opportunity to learn important life skills and contribute to the community around them through their training. The idea that allowing developmentally disabled people to move into a house in their community would somehow ‘endanger their children’ or ‘lower property values’ seems to come from deep-set bigotry against people with developmental disabilities, rather than concern for the community at large. Our city is for everyone, not just the able-bodied or ‘neurotypical’. Allowing 3L Place to exist in the local community will not hurt it; rather, it will emphasise Somerville’s commitment to equality and inclusion for all, regardless of ability.

The hostility directed towards 3L Place is NIMBYism at its worst, and not in keeping with the spirit of community.

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Phineas

June 2014

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