[act-ma] Autism Speaks Protest at MGH 1/15/2014

Allegra Stout astout at bostoncil.org
Fri Jan 10 12:46:36 PST 2014


Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
4:30pm - 7:30pm
Outside the Charles River Plaza Shopping Center
185 Cambridge Street, Boston MA

Please join local autistic people, disability rights activists, and allies in protesting Autism Speaks' dangerous rhetoric, irresponsible financial practices, and unconscionable claim to represent autistic people without autistic people. Autism Speaks is collaborating with the Mass General Lurie Center for Autism to host a special screening of their new documentary film, "Sounding the Alarm," which once again resorts to rhetoric of fear, pity, tragedy, crisis, and burden to talk about autistic people. Autism Speaks, whose founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, feature prominently in the film, is an organization with a long history of harm to the autistic community.

We will be peacefully protesting on the sidewalk outside the Charles River Plaza Shopping Center at 185 Cambridge Street in Boston, where Autism Speaks is holding their event. The sidewalk area is wheelchair accessible. (More details below, after the "Why Protest?" section.)

Let me know if you have any questions -- I can be reached by email at lydia at autistichoya.com<mailto:lydia at autistichoya.com>, on Facebook, or by phone or text message at 202-618-0187<tel:202-618-0187>. Please RSVP to the protest by emailing me or marking "attending" on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/244689152367771/

Why Protest?

>From 2007 to 2011, the Greater Boston Walk Now for Autism raised over $5 million for Autism Speaks from Boston metro area families and businesses. For the same years, according to Autism Speaks' own financial reports, only $222,722 of that $5 million came back to Massachusetts in family services, community education, and adult services grants combined. That's only 4.5% of all money raised from the Greater Boston area, and that means that for every $1 that Autism Speaks removed from our community, only 4.5 cents came back to help Autistic people and our families in the Greater Boston area. (In 2009, not one penny came to Massachusetts in community or family services grants.) This also means that less than 0.8% (less than 1 percent!) of all money raised from Boston went toward adult services.

We urge community members to stand against unscrupulous fundraising practices that remove money from our community and all other local communities where Autism Speaks holds Walk Now events. Very little money donated to Autism Speaks goes toward helping Autistic people and families. Only 4% of Autism Speaks' budget goes towards the "Family Service" grants that are the organization's means of funding services. While 44% of its budget goes toward research, only a small percentage of this research is aimed at improving the quality of life of Autistic people. Most of the research that Autism Speaks funds is devoted to causation and prevention.

Autism Speaks is not financially responsible. Although Autism Speaks has not prioritized services with a practical impact for families and individuals in its budget, its rates of executive pay are the highest in the autism world: some salaries exceed $400,000 a year. Its fundraising expenses exceed spending on most of its core programs.

Autism Speaks is one of only a few major disability advocacy organizations that has not included a single individual with the disability it purports to serve on its board of directors. In fact, the most prominent autistic person who was ever affiliated with the organization publicly resigned his role from an advisory board in November on the same day as another protest of Autism Speaks in the National Capital.

For community members interested in supporting Autistic people and our families, there are many better options for giving to the Autistic community both locally and nationally than to support Autism Speaks' agenda of siphoning money away from local communities and into research that does not benefit Autistic people and their families.

To read more and see references, check out these links about Autism Speaks:

- http://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/01/2013-joint-letter-to-the-sponsors-of-autism-speaks/

- http://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Autism_Speaks_Flyer.pdf

- http://thecaffeinatedautistic.wordpress.com/so-what-is-the-problem-with-autism-speaks/

- http://www.autistichoya.com/2013/11/coopting-the-movement.html

- http://boycottautismspeaks.com/home.html

- http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-resign-my-roles-at-autism-speaks.html

We are peacefully protesting. This does not mean we cannot talk to people outside the building, but it does mean we are not engaging in any violent or disruptive action. We will have some materials and flyers to hand out to passerby or attendees of the event with Autism Speaks, as well as some scripts with talking points. Please note: If someone declines to speak to us or to take our materials, don't push the issue.

I will have some signs available for you to borrow, but you are encouraged to make and bring your own signs. Some ideas for sign slogans: "Nothing about us without us!" "Autism Speaks does not speak for me!" "I am autistic; listen to me!" "I am a person, not a puzzle piece!" "Autism Speaks: 0 Autistic People on the Board, 0 Autistic People in the Leadership" or "I Am A Person, Not A Crisis." Also, if you have disability or autistic pride buttons, stickers, signs, or apparel, please bring and wear them! (If you have lots, bring some to share?)

The weather is forecast to be cold (might drop as low as 24 degrees)! Bring a sweater, fleece, sweatshirt, or coat. Wear long johns/thermal underwear, bring hand warmers, leg warmers, scarves, hat, earmuffs, gloves, whatever you need to stay warm. You can probably also go inside the building to warm up if you need to, but you may or may not be hassled if you do that.

We will not be providing refreshments, so you will need to bring your own water/drinks and food. Alternately, the protest is right outside a shopping center, so you can definitely get things from inside, where there is a CVS and a Whole Foods.

Feel free to bring cameras, recording devices, or camcorders!

This page has driving/parking and public transit directions to the building:

If you get lost or need help finding us, you can text message or call me at 202-618-0187<tel:202-618-0187>. For the sighted folks, I'm a short (but not little person) East Asian female-presenting person with chin-length black hair and glasses, and I'll be wearing an orange t-shirt that says "Nothing About Us Without Us."

We are going to be on the sidewalk beside the building where Autism Speaks' event is being held. While protesting, please do not approach the building, enter the building, or step off the sidewalk onto the shopping center's private property.

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