We are blogging our report and recommendations to the Government of Canada, by section. Below is our summary of national goals.
Full report: A4A National Policy Report & Recommendations, 2019
The role of autistic self-advocates in policy reform
When it comes to autism policy, it does seem that some policymakers just can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. As systems thinkers, autistic people are uniquely positioned to discuss and map the forest–and we are doing that. In addition to system thinking, there are other advantages to working with us, such as: non-partisanship, lack of transactional economic political ties; honesty; and lived experience. We also have experience consulting with provincial governments and have built relationships with experts in other jurisdictions in the areas that need reform.
We are asking the government to consider an alternative to the current broken system: inclusion, a sustainable approach that values our dignity. It is time for governments to listen to us—not just “tell your life story,” but “what are your ideas?”–and to the inclusion experts who have implemented programs that work.
There are better ways. Our government needs to study other jurisdictions, listen to us and launch its own initiatives towards a reform of autism services that reflects an ethos of integration and finally puts to rest the ghosts of the residential institution era.And the Government of Canada must include autistic groups front and centre in this process.
Our vision, by 2022:
- A Communication Charter of Rights for non-verbal and semi-verbal individuals, for fair access and accommodations in all aspects of Canadian life, including specific educational mandates for teachers, health care providers and first responders.
- Community inclusion for autistic toddlers and preschoolers. Ban segregated IBI “behaviour mills.” Include autistic preschoolers in everyday life and the world of play with their peers.
- Inclusion in schools for autistic children. Meaningfully engage universal design experts to share best practices and models. Incentivize their use across Canada, with the goal of phasing out segregated classrooms.
- Independent supported living (ISL) for autistic and/or IDD adults, with priority government funding to existing ISL projects and new ideas. A government commitment not to fund new segregated housing projects.
- Employment access for autistic adults. Train employers on making their interview processes and workplaces accessible, based on models (e.g., Microsoft). Close all sheltered workshops. Focus on training or employing autistic people in all career fields and not just jobs that stereotypically employ autistic people (e.g., IT and banking).
- Community education about autistic communication/AAC and accessibility, developed with autistic self-advocates as project leaders. Launch programs for: First Responders; medical professionals; teachers; transit workers; and others.
- Independent financial audit and service evaluation of all autism-related services, charities, and programs that receive government funding. Root out the bad players and create better systems of sustainability and accountability.
- An autistic “census”, either creating a category in the existing census or through community consultations to determine our needs. Government gathers its own data (not relying on provider “data”) to make informed funding decisions.