The past year has been exciting, as we returned to in-person events and continue to grow, with new projects and connections across Canada!
- We raised the neurodiversity flag at Toronto City Hall, after 2 years of virtual observances. It was incredible to be together again in real life and to break bread (well, cake) and feel so welcomed by the protocols staff at Toronto City Hall. Thank you to all who attended.
- We provided info & spoke before the Senate of Canada, together with Autistics United Canada (AUC), about the need for federal policymakers to move from a charity perspective to a rights perspective. Canadian policymakers need to begin to study best practices in disability policy and consult with autistic-led groups.
- We continued to partner with the Centre for Independent Living Toronto (CILT) to improve vaccine access for autistic/disabled people through the Disability Vaccine Outreach Initiative, including our vaccine info webinar, social media outreach and one-to-one outreach by our amazing Vaccine Ambassadors, Gaby and Sam, to ensure access for autistic Torontonians with support needs. We are so glad that CILT included us in this important project!
- We led the annual Disability Day of Mourning in Ontario, remembering those who were murdered by their parents/caregivers and saying: Never Again. Our members read names, gave speeches and provided support through a virtual vigil on March 2. Thank you to everyone who made this important vigil happen.
- A4A members presented to the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers and to University of Waterloo about inclusion, student life and new research on autistic students in college and university. We have more invitations to present on this topic early in the new year!
- We continued our groundbreaking Autistic Health Outreach Project, educating Canadian medical students about autistic health access needs at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University medical schools.
- We continued to support and collaborate with Community Living Ontario to work towards ending abusive long-term care and institutional housing in our province, through the Alliance on Aging and Disability. Thank you to all partners for all their hard work on this issue, to our rep Taryn and to Shawn from Community Living for inviting us.
- A4A was an organizing partner in the online annual Canadian national conference on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (United Nations), which was hosted by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, streamed on Accessible Media International and featured speakers and participants from around the world.
- We were contacted by media for stories about ABA, restraint and seclusion in schools, media portrayals of autism and other topics. It was especially awesome to be contacted by OWL magazine for their neurodiversity feature!
- We consulted with a community coalition about the need to modify the existing Accessibility for Ontarians Act. At present, autistics are not included among the disabled groups protected by this legislation, creating a barrier when we try to seek inclusion and pursue human rights complaints.
- We attempted to consult with the Public Health Agency of Canada about priorities in federal autism appropriations. Unfortunately, PHAC continued its pattern of devaluing autistic people’s input and time, so for the well-being of our reps we left the conversation. We will continue to connect with MPs, Senators and other federal agencies instead.
- We continued to educate employers on inclusive supports and communication access for autistic people through our Autistic At Work presentation, and to present to mental health organizations about access and inclusion.
- We began to plan for 2023, including launching our Neurodiversity Library with support from the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network; joining a new, national coalition project to work for regulating legislation on restraint and seclusion in schools; taking action to promote supported independent living options for autistic and intellectually disabled people; new advocacy to protect people with epilepsy from cyber attacks; policy work, education initiatives and much more.
I feel so honoured to work with the Board and volunteers, who are the most incredible people. Any policymaker, parent, educator or organization is lucky to have access to their time, perspective and ideas. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for autistic rights in 2023.
-Anne Borden King