We’ve been busy since January’s Quarterly Report! Here is some of what’s new:
Making History in our Province
In March, for the first time in history, autistic people were invited to Queen’s Park to discuss autism policy. MPP Amy Fee welcomed us in this first conversation and it was a moment that none of us will ever forget. In April, we were invited to serve on Ontario’s autism policy consultation committee–the first time that autistic people have consulted about autism policy in our province and that an Ontario government has sought meaningful data on our community. We are very glad to now have a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect our lives.
Outreach and Education
This spring, we rolled out our partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and University of Toronto professors to develop materials and present to medical schools in Ontario on the topic of autistic patient experiences and communication. In March and April our members presented to two CAMH teams and a group of Psychiatry Residents from University of Toronto. We’ve also been consulting with a range of service providers on how their services can be improved for autistic clients. We are thankful to all our community partners for inviting us to be a part of these wonderful projects!
Disability Day of Mourning
Every year on March 1st, the disability community comes together to remember the victims of filicide – people with disabilities murdered by their family members. Vigils are held on the Day of Mourning in cities around the world. This year’s Toronto vigil was organized by Rishav Banerjee, Kim Crawley, Sarah McFadyen, Raya Shields and Cathy Wright, at Ryerson University. It is a difficult but important day. Thank you to everyone who came out to remember and to say: never again.
Accessibility Town Hall
In April, two of our members (Anne Borden and Cathy Wright) attended the Accessibility Town Hall at Queen’s Park, organized by MPP Joel Harden. Each spoke about the right to communicate and the need for access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)–communication methods used by non-verbal autistics. Anne and Cathy pointed out that AAC is often denied to people out of ignorance or in the name of “therapy.” They also advocated for broader community education to improve access to employment, medical care and other aspects of daily life for AAC users in our province.
Human Rights in Schools Initiative
We are working with community partners on a committee for collecting data about school exclusions of disabled children and the use of restraint and isolation in schools. Currently, the committee is researching best practices and getting input from groups who have made meaningful change in other jurisdictions such as in Alberta, which recently banned the use of isolation rooms in schools. We are looking forward to working to ensure Ontario school districts collect data on every incident, make their classrooms transparent and have systems for accountability to stop abuse.
Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane
In February, we met with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to talk about human rights issues for autistics in our province, with a focus on our province’s education and special education systems. We are honoured that Commissioner Mandhane met with us and we learned so much from our meeting. We hope to meet again soon around advocacy matters and human rights for autistics in our province.
We are now in a network with all regional chapters of Autistics United Canada and London Autistics Standing Together, as well as self-advocates in western provinces, around national autism policy advocacy. We are united on advocating for fair representation in policy consultation. On April 8 and 9, members of our group met with members of the federal government on Parliament Hill for initial conversations on consulting about autism policy. The meetings went very well and we will keep you informed with follow-up!
Neurodiversity Flag Raising
On April 15, we will raise the Neurodiversity Flag at Toronto City Hall. It will be the first time it has been raised in Ontario. Flag raisings are also taking place in Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Neurodiversity means that all of us have a role to play in society and we should be included and valued for who we are. In addition to speeches, we will observe a moment of silence for Ontario’s residential institution victims and survivors. The Neurodiversity Flag will fly for 24 hours.
We are now accepting donations! We use donations for making our events accessible with ASL interpreters, for printing information flyers, for materials such as our Neurodiversity Flag and table banners and more. Want to donate? Click the Donate button on the menu.