29 September 2010
2010 ASAN-PDX Protest Against Autism Speaks
[A special thank you to Kassiane Sibley, who led the protest in my absence, as I was at the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) conference in Kansas City. Founded in 1990, SABE works for the full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities throughout the States.]
Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) aims to advance the principles of the disability rights movement, as well as to ensure equal access, opportunities, and rights in society for individuals on the autistic spectrum. The 2010 ASAN-PDX protest against Autism Speaks in Portland, Oregon comes on the heels of larger advocacy efforts being undertaken by Autistic people and cross-disability allies throughout the nation. In addition to the Portland protest, further protests are being organized for Saturday, October 23 in Dallas/Fort Worth, as well as Saturday, November 6 in Washington, D.C.
ASAN-PDX asserts that Autistic adults will not be bullied, and that they will raise their voices. If Autism Speaks is to continue speaking for autistic individuals, they must include them in their leadership, and not only in token ways. They have zero Board members who are on the spectrum. And it is unfortunate that only one autistic is in an advisory position with their organization. Allowing only one autistic person in an upper-level position is simply another form of exclusion. Autism Speaks solicits monies from communities and puts little back in. Only four cents of every dollar goes toward services to help autistic people in the here and now.
"I share ASAN's concerns around the use of biomedical research to eradicate autism," says Dominic Le Fave in a blog post which includes a photo of the protest, "...the eugenic potential of genetics research is something that has already outstripped the capacity of our current ethics." To read more, click here.
When Wired.com asked ASAN President, Ari Ne'eman, what non-autistic people can do to become effective allies of the Autistic community, Ne'eman replied: At the political level, watch where your money is going. There are a lot of well-meaning people who think they're helping us by donating to Autism Speaks or other groups looking for a cure. It would be better for people to get involved in their local communities, and ask tough questions like, "Is my school inclusive? Is my workplace willing to hire autistic people and other people with disabilities?" To catch the full article, click here.
The actions of ASAN-PDX supporters were met with a measure of glares and hostility from some Autism Speaks proponents, a percentage of whom resorted to verbal attacks during the protest. Autism Speaks' booing of ASAN-PDX supporters ceased when Jim Sinclair's Don't Mourn For Us was recited in a dramatic reading. People began to ask for copies of the article, and some tension ceased.
To the Autism Speaks hecklers who yelled, "You aren't a parent, you have no right to say that," take note that three of ASAN's Board members, as well as several ASAN supporters are Autistic individuals who also happen to be parents of autistic children. And those who uttered such statements as, "This is why we need a cure," and "You aren't really autistic," please refer to A Handbook for Disempowering Advocates. When your autistic children grow up and decide to become self-advocates themselves, will you seek to disempower them too?
Now, not all of the Autism Speaks proponents responded to ASAN-PDX negatively. To the few Autism Speaks allies who brought cookies and water bottles to protesting ASAN-PDXers, thank you. Thank you.
Last year's local protest coverage:
ASAN's Elesia Ashkenazy Interviewed
Protest Against Autism Speaks