Our statement on Toronto’s 30-year plan: City must prioritize supported independent living for autistic & intellectually disabled residents

On February 24, 2022, one of our members spoke to the accessibility-focused meeting of the City of Toronto’s Our Plan team–the City’s new 30-year plan for urban planning, sustainability and quality of life in the Six. Here is her statement:

I’m Anne Borden King from Autistics for Autistics Ontario, the autistic-led advocacy group. We are not a parent group, we’re a group that’s led by and run completely by autistic people. We’re thankful to the city for recognizing the importance of neurodiversity and inclusion. I’m going to talk today about housing access, since segregated housing approaches really circumscribe the entire lifetimes of many autistic and intellectually disabled people in Toronto.

When inclusion committees talk about accessible housing, they pretty much almost always forget or leave out intellectually disabled people. In fact, the Ontario Auditor General found that 89 percent of housing funds in this sector go towards segregated housing, where developers get funds to build things like houses on remote streets where autistic and intellectually disabled people are grouped, segregated from regular community life.

These residents have no choices about even basic daily decisions. Families place their adult children in these group homes not because they want to, but because they’re told it’s their only choice. These spaces are not regulated or meaningfully inspected–and a lot of abuse happens there, including by the people who work there, since security background checks of staffers are not required by law. Sometimes people who work there end up being jailed for violence against the residents.

This is not safe, accessible housing. This is institutional living and it has no place in Toronto in 2022.

We know there is another way because programs in other cities are doing it, where autistic and intellectually disabled people have their own apartment, choose their own roommate and have their own support workers, as many people with other disabilities can. Programs in Ottawa and in the US, for example, have been shown to work well and benefit intellectually disabled people because they can live in the community instead of being segregated. This also benefits the community!

Toronto’s government can do something. Our City can make its commitment clear: that institutions and group homes are not the answer, and commit to replacing them with supported independent living, with a clear deadline for doing so. It can develop pilot programs based on best practices, where intellectually disabled people can have the choices they deserve. The City can, in its inclusion documents, make it a mandate–instead of segregated units being built, to prioritize supported independent living– for people with intellectual disabilities.

Please consider this and we hope you’ll reach out to Autistics for Autistics to access our inclusion reports and recommendations. Thank you.

 

“This is our lane”: Autistics speak out against antivax rallies in Ottawa, Toronto

Image by Glacier Medical Associates

Autistics for Autistics unequivocally condemns the antivaccine convoy rallies in Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada. The convoys, organized by Canada’s white supremacy movement and largely funded by big money from outside of Canada, are designed to create chaos and spread hate.

We have members who are Black, Indigenous and/or People of Colour who are targets of the racist terrorism that drives the rallies. Our members who live in downtown Ottawa and Toronto are afraid to leave their houses because they could be assaulted and harassed by racist ralliers. No, it’s not a few “bad apples” waving nazi flags—the entire protest is predicated on white supremacist ideology.

The modern antivax movement is fueled by the lie that “vaccines cause autism.” For the past 2 decades, antivaxxers have been arguing it’s better to revive deadly, vaccine-preventable illnesses than to have an autistic child. This ideology leads to the eugenics belief that autistic people should not even be born. It also relates to the antivax view that during pandemics disabled people and elders should be forced into isolation and left to die, rather than being cared for through simple public health measures like vaccines.

Vaccine mandates are the Trojan horse of the truckers’ rallies. Rally leaders are using the rhetoric of “freedom, rights and liberties” to normalize ideologies that dehumanize disabled people and elders—and to advance their agenda of racism and authoritarian ideology.

We condemn the federal and provincial politicians who have been cynically courting votes from the rally-goers. Equally complicit are the politicians and law enforcement officials who have been chillingly silent–refusing to take basic actions such as towing trucks and making arrests.

While we’ve been told we should “see the many sides” of the rallies, be quiet and “stay in our lane,” we disagree. As autistic people, this is our lane.

Vaccines save lives. Vaccines do not cause autism.

Autistics advocates unite to stop 11 Alive TV’s unethical use of “meltdown videos”


December 10, 2021.
Autistics for Autistics and other disability advocacy groups and individuals were shocked to see that 11Alive, a news station in Atlanta, broadcast intimate footage of disabled children at their most vulnerable and emotional–crying and in agony–without their consent.

11 Alive’s broadcasting of these moments (meltdown videos) goes against established journalistic ethics. Other news stations, as well as YouTube, have committed to stopping “meltdown videos” based on minors’ privacy concerns and the dehumanizing nature of the videos. Yet 11 Alive did not respond when advocates reached out to the station on social media—nor to a petition, which garnered hundreds of signatures within hours.

“For some reason, 11Alive has not responded to the concerns of disabled viewers,” says Anne Borden King, a co-founder of Autistics for Autistics. “Instead of learning from a marginalized community, they have ignored the community. It is shocking.”

It is not too late for 11Alive to do the right thing. 11Alive News Director Jennifer Rigby (on Twitter @jorigby) has the power to take the footage down right now—and to reach out to the autistic community to learn about why it was wrong to broadcast it. Reporter Rebecca Lindstrom (on Twitter @LindstromNews) has a responsibility to the community to respond to our concerns as well.

Below is a letter to Ms. Lindstrom from Ira Eidle. Ira is a Georgia-based archivist and founder of Autistic Archive. Ira participated in ASAN’s Autism Campus Inclusion program in 2020 and formed a neurodiversity student organization before launching the Autistic Archive.

To: Rebecca Lindstrom, RLindstrom@11alive.com

Greetings,

I am writing to you as an autistic person who lives in Metro Atlanta. I watched the story about autism insurance laws, particularly Ava’s Law, and have some concerns. I am concerned by the portrayal of autistic people as emotionally disturbed people in need of fixing with Applied Behavior Analysis, which is a method many autistic people are opposed to for its focus on compliance and fixing outward behaviors when autism is not a behavioral issue.

My main concern, however, is the decision to include footage of autistic people having meltdowns as a way of justifying insurance mandates for ABA. Publicly broadcasting autistic people in some of their most vulnerable moments is not only dehumanizing, but is a violation of our privacy. I ask that you do whatever you can to remove the footage from the report. Hundreds of people are asking you to do so [Link to the petition here].

I understand that you were doing your job and perhaps were not expecting this kind of reaction. However, that is what happens when you fail to meaningfully include autistic people in the development of stories about autistic people. We are asking you to do better. You are journalists for a reputable news station for the city of Atlanta, and with that comes the responsibility of journalistic integrity. When you fail to uphold what you are tasked with, you should expect to be held accountable for it.

Even though I am being critical of you and your station for a story you produced, I am also willing to collaborate on a new story that is more accurate and one that involves the input of autistic people about appropriate services that receive less funding from insurance than ABA. I hope you enjoy your holidays and am willing to discuss this further.

Take care,

Ira Eidle