The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) is keenly aware of the privilege we hold as an organization with a large platform and more resources than individual advocates, especially Autistic Black, Indigenous and People of Color who experience chronic underfunding and lack of institutional and organizational support for their work.
Recently autistic community members pointed out similarities between Autistic, Typing’s resource #AutismMoon and the new booklet, Start Here: a guide for parents of autistic kids. This booklet was produced by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) with editorial feedback provided by AWN before it was published. Autistic, Typing is an Indigenous Autistic mother of three Autistic children whose critical work, including the resource #AutismMoon, deserves recognition and support.
The similarities that community members are pointing out is specific to the phrasing and structure of Start Here’s text which includes ideas that appear in Autistic, Typing’s work, as well as that of many other Autistic advocates, who have come before them who also created autism content over the years. This work personally includes our own AWN publications, as well as work ASAN has previously produced.
AWN has a longstanding and trusted relationship with ASAN. Both of our organizations have supported each other in our unique roles in the Neurodiversity Movement for more than a decade, even when we diverge. Based on our trusted relationship, we do not believe that ASAN stole or took credit for anyone else's work and ideas with Start Here. AWN worked alongside ASAN for over a year on this specific resource, and we are confident that ASAN’s work ethic was authentic and honorable.
AWN also recognizes that intent does not erase impact. We appreciate that it is our organization’s responsibility to do better when we discover new ways that we can. We have learned so much after witnessing the pain of erasure expressed by Autistic BIPoC advocates. During our review of Start Here, AWN regrets not having thought about acknowledging similarities and common phrasing the greater community of Autistic BIPoC advocates contributed over the years that the booklet builds upon. In the future, we commit to being deliberate and intentional by naming and honoring community contributions, especially Autistic BIPoC work.
Therefore, we are committed to uplifting Autistic BIPoC advocates and the most marginalized members of our communities, and in this vein, we are planning to undertake the following actions:
- Ensure moving forward that AWN’s publications explicitly name and credit any contributors whose work we are inspired by or have learned from, with a focus on elevating BIPoC contributors. Additionally, we will strive to name the importance of community knowledge and information sharing in shaping the Autistic community’s advocacy strategies, frameworks, and campaigns.
- Curate and pay for additional written work by Autistic Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color to be published on AWN’s website. We will both invite specific autistic BIPoC writers, and we will open a call for submissions for Autistic BIPoC writers. AWN will pay all of the contributors.
- Host a community forum through our #LiberatingWebinars programming on erasure and exploitation of Autistic Black and Indigenous people’s labor and offerings. This forum will be led by Autistic Black and Indigenous facilitators.
- AWN would like to offer our help with any ongoing efforts to curate, index, and provide a central online home for many of the resources, articles, graphics, videos, and other content created by Autistic advocates, especially Autistic BIPoC advocates. For example, we could build on the original foundational work started by Laura Tisoncik and other elder community members via Autistics.org’s Autism Information Library. Such an online resource could enable all of us to better reference community-created advocacy material as we seek to create new resources. (https://bit.ly/2PJcKiE)
- We encourage our community to join us in uplifting and elevating Autistic, Typing’s work and show your support for them via donations, Facebook, Bookshop, and Twitter.
AWN is committed to the principles of Disability Justice, including intersectionality, leadership of those who are most impacted, honoring wholeness and sustainability, and cross-movement and cross-disability solidarity. Taking accountability also requires us to move deliberately and with care for AWN’s board members, staff, consultants, and volunteers. Our work has always been carried out largely by multiply-marginalized community members, including Autistic BIPoC advocates. Our plan of action seeks to follow the lead of our community’s most marginalized members and enable us to work in ways that promote the sustainability of our work. An important part of accountability is providing timelines and concrete actions. AWN’s staff, consultants, and volunteers are multiply disabled and neurodivergent, and most do not work full-time for AWN. Although we may not be able to commit to exact timelines for our action plan, we will be transparent about our efforts and changing capacity. Disability Justice invites us to move in accordance with our organizational and individual limitations out of respect for all of our disabled community members, as a core component of honoring wholeness and sustainability.