Fighting For Inclusion
Deej has joined forces with a number of neurodiversity advocates to create a community engagement campaign. Our partners have helped us identify several core and interrelated messages that are critical to autistics’ hopes for a fulfilling future:
1. Inclusion shouldn’t be a lottery.
DJ was born into poverty. Only through the miracle of adoption and his new parents’ insistence that he be included in mainstream classes was he able to be included. To claim a place in mainstream society should be everyone’s right, and access must begin with education.
2. Communication is a basic right.
Every child deserves the chance to achieve literacy and become fully educated. Competence must be presumed. Whenever possible, autistic children should be included in regular classes and not, as DJ has put it, in “segregated in classes of easy lessons.”
3. Redefining “normal."
Cultural perceptions shape reality; pity hurts, not helps. We must end old myths and stereotypes that often lead to discrimination and abuse. Even “low- and high-functioning” labels are misguided and can restrict an individual’s rights. Neurological diversity should not just be accepted; it should be celebrated.
4) “Nothing about us without us.”
Self-advocacy is essential in the fight for accommodation and acceptance. While the contributions of non-autistic people are important and appreciated, the meaningful involvement of autistics remains critical. The making of Deej as well as the shaping and execution of its engagement campaign embody this principle.
5) Interdependence, not independence.
We all need support of one kind or another and we all have something to offer in turn. Creating adequate community services and supports should be seen in this light. Society will benefit with a shift away from the culturally loaded concept of independence to that of self-determination, respect and interdependence.
Deej is partnering with many advocacy organizations and educational institutions as part of the Deej Inclusion Tour, a nationwide series of community-and campus-based screenings in conjunction with its America ReFramed broadcast.
A key partner is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), the leading self-advocacy organization working on autistic rights in this country. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the Autistic community run by and for Autistic Americans, advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of Autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power. Its staff works to educate communities, support self-advocacy in all its forms, and improve public perceptions of autism. http://autisticadvocacy.org.