To mark World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), IPA+ partner Autism-Europe (AE) is launching a long-running awareness campaign titled “Break barriers together fort autism – Let’s build an accessible society” to understand what barriers to inclusion autistic people are up against and to identify how society can work to overcome and remove them. WAAD was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 as an annual day to draw attention to the urgent needs of people with autism around the world.
On WAAD (2 April) 2017, AE was seeking to promote the removal of common barriers faced by people on the autism spectrum. Its 2017 campaign is accompanied by a global call for action to European decision-makers, other interested stakeholders and the general public. The campaign calls on them to acknowledge the barriers experienced by autistic people, and to work together with people on the spectrum, their families and their representative organisations, in order to remove them.
It is a crucial time to bring to the forefront the access needs of people with autism. Accessibility for persons with disabilities is high on the EU agenda, as the European Accessibility Act proposed by the European Commission is currently being negotiated. The Act will set minimum accessibility requirements for a series of products and services across the European Union and AE supports a strong piece of legislation that will bring real change to the lives of millions of people with disabilities in Europe.
Furthermore, 30 March 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (UNCRPD) opening for signature. The Convention’s Article 9 provides that States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities have access to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including ICT systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. Autism-Europe thus calls on member States and the European Union to live up to their commitment.
The ‘Breaking through paper’ campaign
To raise awareness of the objectives of the campaign, AE has asked people with autism and their allies to write a short description of what makes society inaccessible for them on a banner or a piece of paper. Then they can photograph or film themselves holding their banner, before breaking through it or ripping it up as a way of symbolically breaking down this barrier. People wishing to support the campaign can post pictures of them holding the banner on social media.