Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meeting & Protest against Autism Speaks

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) - Ohio State/Central Ohio chapter will be meeting on Thursday, October 1st at 5:45pm at the campus Barnes & Noble (1598 N. High St.). We'll be meeting in the coffee shop area. This will be our first meeting of fall quarter, and we're hoping to see some new faces! Among the things we'll be discussing: our upcoming protest of the autism walk, generating more signatures for our petition to President Gee, planning for the year, and proposing a session on autism, employment, and/or education for the Multiple Perspectives conference. OSU students, faculty, staff, and community members are welcome to attend!

Protest against Autism Speaks
Additionally, ASAN will be protesting the Autism Speaks walk for autism on Sunday, October 11 from 8:30am to 12:00pm. We'll be meeting at the corner of Fred Taylor and Borror Drive, right by the 4-H Center, and this is where we'll carry out our protest. We are actively looking for volunteers and fellow protesters. Our protest has been sparked by, among other things, Autism Speaks' recent PSA, titled "I Am Autism," which presents autistic individuals as kidnap victims, burdens, and inhuman. In the video, autism is presented as a soul-stealing entity that ruins marriages, causes bankruptcy, triggers embarrassment, and erodes morality. Please join us (even if only for a short while) as we speak back to Autism Speaks and the discrimination that such a campaign perpetuates.

Please contact us at asan.ohiostate@gmail.com with questions.

Petition to President Gee
Finally, ASAN-OSU has drafted a petition to President Gee, who is co-chairing the walk, asking him to withdraw his support from Autism Speaks. The petition describes Autism Speaks' unrepresentative leadership, its eugenic aims, and its harmful advertising. The petition is pasted at the end of this blog post. We're hoping to gather as many signatures from students, faculty, staff, and community members as possible. If you are an Ohio resident and would be willing to attach your name to the petition, please email us at asan.ohiostate@gmail.com with your name, email (we won't spam you), and position (e.g., student, staff, faculty, parent, Ohio resident, etc.).

Email contact: asan.ohiostate@gmail.com

ASAN-Central Ohio blog: http://asancentralohio.blogspot.com/

Why Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Us: http://asancentralohio.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-autism-speaks-does-not-speak-for-us.html

ASAN's response to "I Am Autism": http://asancentralohio.blogspot.com/2009/09/autistic-community-condemns-autism.html

Dear President Gee and the Board of Trustees:

We, the undersigned students, faculty, staff, and community members, urge you to reconsider your support of Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is an organization that does more damage to the lives of autistic people than good through its unethical advertising, support for eugenic research, and unrepresentative leadership. We here pledge to refrain from supporting Autism Speaks, and we encourage you do to so as well, for the following reasons:
  1. Autism Speaks claims to speak for autistic people without a single autistic person on its board of directors or leadership committees. This is far out of line with the mainstream of the disability community, where individuals with disabilities work side by side with family members, professionals, and others to achieve quality of life and equality of opportunity. Moreover, those who do make decisions in Autism Speaks are far removed from the realities of our lives. It is worth noting that Autism Speaks’ highest paid employee, Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, has an annual salary in excess of $600,000, more than the fundraising total of last year’s walk in Columbus.

  2. Many autistic people and their families find Autism Speaks’ advertising to be offensive. Their ads compare a life on the autism spectrum to a car accident, being struck by lightning, a terminal illness, and other fatal situations. Rather than work to decrease stigma and increase respect for autistic people, Autism Speaks’ advertising fosters pity, shame, and fear, suggesting that our very lives are mistakes and burdens.

  3. Autism Speaks’ fundraising goes toward genetic research aimed at developing a prenatal test with potentially eugenic applications. Given the fact that 92% of fetuses that test positive for Down Syndrome are selectively aborted prior to birth, we are concerned by the prospect of a similar result with respect to the autism spectrum. This is an issue of ethics and discrimination, wholly separate from typical abortion politics. We believe that money raised in the name of autistic people should go toward opportunities for quality of life, not toward our elimination. Autism Speaks’ research agenda is overwhelmingly focused on causation and prevention rather than research initiatives that might support quality of life for all autistic people.

  4. As the president of the largest university in the country, your support of Autism Speaks sets precedent for other colleges and universities. We worry that other universities and other university leaders will follow suit and continue support for an organization that seeks to “eradicate,” in the words of Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright, autism and autistic people. While we applaud your desire to help autistic individuals and their families lead productive and fulfilling lives, supporting Autism Speaks does no such thing.
We recognize that your desire to make Ohio State a center for autism excellence is well intentioned. However, supporting Autism Speaks will not make our university a leader in disability rights or equality of opportunity, but rather a leader in unequal representation, eugenics research, and flagrant ableism. In signing this petition, we announce that we will not participate in the Autism Speaks walk for the aforementioned reasons. We call upon you to heed our concerns and those of many other people with disabilities, family members, professionals, and countless others. Simply put, we call upon you to end your affiliation with Autism Speaks.

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