Our world is in crisis – this is new for many people, and for many others in our communities, this is unfortunately very familiar. AWN’s board members, staff, and volunteers are working constantly to support autistic and other disabled people in many marginalized communities, while also struggling with the impact of this COVID-19 global health crisis in our own homes and personal lives. Many in our communities are facing sudden layoffs and lost income, increased childcare and eldercare responsibilities, loss of access to necessary mental health and health care, and constant retraumatization through openly racist and ableist responses to this crisis. We are facing severe and extreme disruptions to our local communities, services, and daily lives beyond what many of us already experience, along with exacerbation of many people’s anxiety, trauma, OCD, and depression.
Usually, April brings Autism Acceptance Month activities across the U.S. with our partners and chapters in Washington State, Nebraska, New York, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, like countless other organizations, we have decided to cancel all of our planned events in the coming months to best protect our community members’ health and safety in accordance with current CDC coronavirus guidelines and to do our part in flattening the curve to reduce potential strain on our health care system. These cancellations include our planned community meetups and our annual co-hosted event in Washington State with Lei Wiley-Mydske’s Autism and Neurodiversity Lending Library.
Based on the best available science and recommendations from public health and epidemiology experts, AWN understands that each of us has a critical role to play in keeping each other safe, especially those in our communities who are at highest risk for severe and potentially deadly infections, including those at risk of death from proposals to ration limited health care resources according to ableist, ageist, racist, and classist criteria.
Those who are able to stay at home and avoid contact with other people have a responsibility to do so in order to aid in protecting those who do not have that same privilege, including our front-line health care professionals, public sanitation workers, and other workers providing critical infrastructure support, as well as all of our own, many of whom are disabled people at the margins of the margins. If we fail in our responsibilities by choosing to act with reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people who are most marginalized and most vulnerable, then we will bear witness to an even more horrifying number of deaths and the decimation of our own community.
Make no mistakes – the lives of many in the autistic and disabled communities are at stake. We are counting on each of you to support one another in every way we can right now – through mutual aid and care collectives, through intentional and sustained physical distancing as much as humanly possible, through reliance on the wisdom and knowledge of sick, mad, neurodivergent, and disabled elders who have survived before, and through doing our damnedest to prevent as many people from dying as possible so that we can honor their lives instead of their memories.
Over the next several months, our staff and volunteers will be working hard to plan a series of virtual events in keeping with the principles of access-centered organizing, in hopes of spurring connection and community. We look forward to sharing information about these virtual events with you all soon.
In community, love, and solidarity,
The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network