Monday, April 06, 2009

Definitely not autism advocacy: the People First ribbon

People First attended the recent autism conference in Halifax, where their work was featured in my presentation. Here is the information People First provides with their black and yellow ribbon pins:

We wear these ribbons to let Canadians know that too many people are still locked in institutions.

We are horrified that Canadians keep institutions open. We are angry that new kinds of institutions are being built.

The black ribbon is because people in institutions are not safe. Many have died. We mourn their deaths.

The yellow ribbon is for liberation--we want all people in institutions to step into freedom.

All people regardless of the severity of their disabilities should live in the community with the support they need.
Here is how People First defines institutions:

An institution is any place in which people who have been labelled as having an intellectual disability are isolated, segregated and/or congregated. An institution is any place in which people do not have, or are not allowed to exercise control over their lives and their day to day decisions. An institution is not defined merely by its size.
Meanwhile, autism advocacy leaders in Canada have long insisted that autistics just naturally belong in institutions, a view which in consequence is enshrined in Canadian jurisprudence, under Canada's highest law:

Unless their condition is successfully treated, almost all autistic children are doomed to a life of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual isolation and eventual institutionalization - a tragic outcome for the children, their families, and society.
Here "successfully treated" means undergoing unlimited ABA-based autism interventions starting very early in life. Most autistics in Canada cannot meet this requirement, ergo autism advocates claim there is no choice except to lock us in institutions for our own good and the good of society. Canada's most powerful autism advocacy organization, FEAT (also known as "Medicare for Autism Now!"), adds that we must live in restraints and have our teeth pulled.

Canadian Senator Jim Munson, who has publicly supported FEAT, has used his power and influence to make it widely known that autistics' natural place is not in society or communities or families or the workplace but in institutions. Like other leading autism advocacy organizations and individuals, Senator Munson is insulting and undermining the very important hard work and achievements of People First.