Sunday, November 26, 2006

The jurisprudence for autistics and non-autistics

Based on the arguments and testimony of autism advocates (parents, professionals, government officials, etc.), the jurisprudence for autistics in Canada is premised on the assumption that autistics are inherently doomed, and that we destroy ourselves, our families, our communities, and of course the economy. Our essential differences are judged to be bizarre, unwanted, dreaded, repugnant, and harmful to ourselves and others. We are judged to have nothing at all to contribute to society, instead being a vast drain on personal and public resources. Our jurisprudence says we just naturally belong in institutions, allowing our autism advocates to elaborate that terrible things must be done to us in these institutions, this being just how autistics should be treated. Because of how horrible and less-than-human we are. The jurisprudence says so.

Legal decisions--the lower court Auton decisions and the Wynberg trial decision--that grossly dehumanize autistics have been overturned. This has resulted in extreme protests from autism advocates, who cannot tolerate even the possibility that autistics might be human, might have personhood, might merit basic human rights as autistic people. Autism advocates insist that autistics have humanity and are persons and have basic human rights only if and when we are intensively trained via ABA to be less autistic or not autistic at all. Once we can suffiently pass for normal, then and only then may we be considered to be human and treated as such.

The overturned decisions remain, regardless, in our jurisprudence, being quoted in the House of Commons and the Senate and in other legal decisions, and otherwise governing the lives of autistics in Canada.

In contrast, here is some jurisprudence for non-autistic Canadians (I've taken out the citations):

It is an unfortunate truth that the history of disabled persons in Canada is largely one of exclusion and marginalization. Persons with disabilities have too often been excluded from the labour force, denied access to opportunities for social interaction and advancement, subjected to invidious stereotyping and relegated to institutions [...] This historical disadvantage has to a great extent been shaped and perpetuated by the notion that disability is an abnormality or flaw. As a result, disabled persons have not generally been afforded the “equal concern, respect and consideration” that s. 15(1) of the Charter demands. Instead, they have been subjected to paternalistic attitudes of pity and charity, and their entrance into the social mainstream has been conditional upon their emulation of ablebodied
norms [...] One consequence of these attitudes is the persistent social and economic disadvantage faced by the disabled.

Our powerful and influential autism advocates have ensured that it is now inconceivable that autistics would fall under this kind of jurisprudence. Instead, they have demanded and ensured that emulation of the norm is our only avenue to obtain even the most basic human rights. That would include the right not to be abused in institutions, this institutionalization and this abuse being not only condoned but promoted by our autism advocates and our national media as what we deserve--unless we undergo unlimited medically necessary ABA and become sufficiently normal.

The legal decision above continues:

Deaf persons have not escaped this general predicament. Although many of them resist the notion that deafness is an impairment and identify themselves as members of a distinct community with its own language and culture, this does not justify their compelled exclusion from the opportunities and services designed for and otherwise available to the hearing population. For many hearing persons, the dominant perception of deafness is one of silence. This perception has perpetuated ignorance of the needs of deaf persons and has resulted in a society that is for the most part organized as though everyone can hear [...]

This legal decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada almost 10 years ago (Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624). This year, in another legal battle (argued by a Deaf lawyer), sign language has become a de facto official language in Canada. The judge in this case wrote: "It is fundamental to an inclusive society that those with disabilities be accommodated when interacting with the institutions of government."

Nearly 10 years after Auton started its way through the courts, autistics are as far from achieving inclusion or accommodation as is possible. We are considered not only to be abnormal and flawed, but sick, diseased, less than human, and doomed. This is consequent to the work of autism advocates. We are subject not only to pity and charity, but to constant messages that we are unwanted and ghastly burdens, and dreaded and feared inhuman collections of senseless, useless, repulsive and dangerous behaviours. And we are frequently treated as such. This too is the work of autism advocates. We daily live the consequences of "invidious stereotypes" and multiple other forms of denigration, all aggressively promoted by those who claim to represent us and who demand that our dehumanization and denigration be enshrined in our law once and for all.