One of Saved By Typing’s main tenets is that autistic individualss, both verbal and nonverbal, have the same rights to a good education and social services as anyone else, that school systems need to act from a principle of presumed competence, and that, in order to achieve these goals, they may need to approach and confront the Powers-That-Be, the politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, school boards, educators, and other social services officials, in order to attain these rights.This form of Self-Advocacy has been an effective way for disabled people to achieve their goals, as in the case of Sara Wolff, a young women with Downs Syndrome who virtually single-handedly fought for the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 313/H.R. 647), and won! She accomplished this amazing feat through a combination of posting a petition on Change.org (which acquired 269,937 supporters!) and actively lobbying members of Congress. The bill was passed, with unprecedented support by members of both houses, in December, 2014. This is a clear illustration that one voice can make a difference.
While self-advocacy is not something that comes easily to most people, organizations exist to help disabled individuals accomplish their goals. One of the more effective groups is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people. ASAN was founded in 2006 in response to the lack of representation of autistic voices in the national dialogue on autism. Their activities include public policy advocacy, the development of Autistic cultural activities, and leadership training for autistic self-advocates. They provide information about autism, disability rights, and systems change to the public through a number of different educational, cultural, and advocacy related projects.ASAN also plays a critical role in the broader disability rights movement. While the organization is run by and for autistic people, they strongly believe in cross-disability advocacy and organizing. As a result, most of their policy work, and a significant percentage of their organizing and technical assistance activities, are focused more broadly on people with disabilities in general.
ASAN advocates specific policy positions on issues of importance to autistic people and others with disabilities. In so doing, we seek to ensure the meaningful involvement of autistic individuals in making policy at all levels, to promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all, to enforce the rights of autistic people to equal opportunity at school and at work, and to improve funding for community services and supports along with research into how they can best be provided. Read ASAN’s position statements here.
Publications to Aid Your Self-Advocacy Efforts
ASAN’s publications available through their website include books on self-advocacy, autistic culture, and related topics, as well as reports and brief materials. Their reports and policy briefs discuss social issues of importance to the autistic and disability communities, such as access to services and community living, while their books share self-advocate perspectives on a variety of issues and experiences.
ASAN has chapters across the country and around the world. All local chapters engage in advocacy work around the collective concept of self-advocacy, while also addressing individual forms of self-advocacy and building a community of autistic adults in their local communities.
Different ASAN chapters are formed under different conditions. Some may be formed by autistics who are already part of an existing self-advocate run social group but wish to engage in advocacy activities as well. Others may be formed by autistics who lack any social group in their local area, or who lack any self-advocate run groups.
If you are interested in joining ASAN, you can check their directory of chapters to find out if there is a chapter or affiliate that meets in your area. If you would like to start one in your area, and feel that you have time to lead a new ASAN chapter, you can write to email@example.com to learn more.