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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Why I Joined the Boycott Autism Speaks Movement, Part Two

I didn't get everything out about why I decided to join the Boycott Autism Speaks movement in my first post on the subject. I knew that I wouldn't, hence the "Part One" when I was writing that post. It's time to get to Part Two.

Here's the recap from Part One:

I decided to join the Boycott Autism Speaks Movement (visit boycottautismspeaks.com for more information) because:

  • The language in co-founder Suzanne Wright's 2013 call to action

  • John Elder Robison's resignation, as one of the very few autistic people actually employed at Autism Speaks

  • The deliberately negative language and fear-mongering around autism in Autism Speaks education materials, especially the Autism Every Day PSA.

  • The low percentage of Autism Speaks' budget (3% in 2012) that went into support services for autistic people.

Let's dig a little deeper.

The Judge Rotenberg Centre...Issue


I'm not exactly sure what to make of this because I can't find information on just how extensive this partnership is. As someone pointed out in comments on Lydia Brown's article on the affair, it could have been an honest mistake that a display from the Judge Rotenberg Centre showed up on Autism Speak's Resource Walk at the DC Walk Now for Autism.

But wow. Go with the best-case scenario that they somehow slipped into the roster because someone wasn't paying enough attention, and Autism Speaks still couldn't have made a much bigger faux pas.

For those not familiar with the Judge Rotenberg Centre and how it "treats" autistic children, I've written about it here. But this article concisely summarizes how the shock therapy administered to autistic children and teens at the JRC has been officially been declared torture by the United Nations. Autism Speaks issued a statement saying that they didn't support the JRC and the use of these shock treatments.

Yet they were billed as a service provider at an Autism Speaks resource fair. It was very upsetting for many families, and as far as I can see there was no apology.

I don't want to support an organization that aligns itself, in any way, with an institution that tortures children. Next.

The Other PSAs


Autism Speaks continued the legacy it started with "Everyday Autism" of painting autism as the worst thing that could happen to a child and the people who love him/her, ever, with three others that, had I seen them right after my child was diagnosed, would have devastated me.

"I Am Autism" tries to end on a positive note, but the positivity is all about, "We will conquer this evil thing called autism that ruins every life it touches", not about acceptance, education, resources...things that my family and I need to know plan a good life for my child, still precious and loveable and absolutely with a bright future, despite an autism diagnosis.



"Neighbours", for its positive message on all people being able to access health care, also implies that society is only going to accept people that don't "act autistic".



When your informational videos are scaring the crap out of people (or making them angry; read the comments on especially the "Neighbours" video), then you have a messaging problem. But this goes further than simply getting the wrong message across. As I said in my first post on this, Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright has stated that her goal is to live in a world where autism is "a word for the history books."

I'm extremely uncomfortable with that idea.

Vaccinations


Speaking of feeling uncomfortable...

I haven't done all the research that I need to on this (but it doesn't sound like Autism Speaks has either, frankly) and I'm certainly no expert, but Autism Speaks' stance on vaccination does not sit well with me:
"It remains possible that, in rare cases, immunization may trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic issue."

They do encourage vaccination on the same page. But for someone sitting on the fence about getting their child vaccinated because of autism fears (especially after hearing some of what Autism Speaks has to say about how terrible life is for everyone involved with an autistic child), just the acknowledgement of a "possibility" that vaccines might cause autism could carry a lot of weight.

Someone should please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that the theory that vaccines cause autism had been thoroughly discredited.

Autism Speaks: Bottom Line


Confession time: While I think that Oprah Winfrey has done some wonderful charity work and I admire her for it, I've never really liked her. It's obvious that she holds a tremendous amount of power to influence how people think, and it's not always been obvious to me that she uses that power responsibly. Reading blogger Ariane Zurcher's observation in a post about Autism Speaks that "What Autism Speaks says and does is often the first thing that parents and people reading about autism hear," I'm reminded of that idea of not wielding power responsibly: pushing an agenda on people who are scared and looking for answers, not showing them all sides of a story...

And because they're so big, they've had the power to allocate significant resources to keeping the organization going in the direction it has, even though the autism community has been saying for several years now that their needs aren't being served. But people can always choose to opt out if they don't like the direction in which an organization is heading. And it looks as if that's what's happening with Autism Speaks.

I'm happy to join that movement.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Some Disabled Workers Won't Be Eligible For Minimum Wage Increase


 Sorry for another political post, but I'm a little annoyed right now. At President Barack Obama and his promise to raise the minimum wage in the United States.
Don't get me wrong. I support any sort of initiative that will raise the minimum wage in the US. I've been following this issue ever since I learned that the current minimum wage in the US is only $7.25. It's been over $10.00 in Ontario for years, going up to $11 in June. Heck, student minimum wage in Ontario in 1998 (the last time I worked as a student in Ontario) was $8.

What I don't support is nonsense about the minimum wage raise not applying to disabled workers that currently earn less than minimum wage - the employees of organizations holding a 14(c) certificate. And apparently, that's exactly what's going to happen. The words came right from Joe Biden himself, in a phone call to disability advocates last Wednesday. Read more here

It's such blatant ableism that it makes me feel ill.

Minimum Wage, Disabled Americans, and the 14(c) Exemption

This ableist action is built on policy that was already ableist. The 14(c) exemption, put in place in the 1930s. It says that "workers with disabilities are excluded from minimum-wage protections if they are employed in certified training programs." Read more here These are also referred to as sheltered workshop programs, and in the past I've gone into why the disability community is deeply divided about them (well, I know where I stand on them, but the community itself is divided).

Goodwill Industries has a 14(c) exemption. It was outed last year for paying disabled workers as low as $0.22 cents an hour, and for engineering their evaluation process so that it was almost impossible for people to get out of jobs that they didn't want. keeping Regular readers will remember how disgusted that whole business made me.  The story was highly publicized, and people protested Goodwill and did organized boycotts all over the country. No one from the White House has addressed the 14(c) exemption as something that's keeping Goodwill employees, and employees of other organizations that have the 14(c) exemption, as something that's contributing to keeping disabled people in this country living in poverty.

Read more about my thoughts on Goodwill here, here, and here.

Recent comments to Ari Ne'eman, head of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), may explain the administration's failure to even publicly mention the situation. Ne'eman was recently told by the the White House that the Obama administration doesn't believe it has the authority to raise the wages of people who work for organizations with a 14(c) exemption. Read More Here

Doesn't have the authority? It's my understanding that Obama is going to use Executive Agency to raise minimum wage to $10.10 for everyone else...and yet he doesn't have the power to step in on a labour issue that's keeping disabled people trapped in poverty and under the heel of organizations like Goodwill, who can afford to pay all their workers minimum wage but don't? That doesn't make one iota of sense to me.  ASAN had a legal analysis done that agrees Read More Here

Not only can I not can't see how Obama doesn't have the power to make organizations with the 14(c) exemption raise wages, but because I can't see, granted the havoc that raising the minimum wage using Executive Agency is going to cause for him in general, politically, how it's going to make things much worse. The only downside that I can see it for him is that it requires him to come down on a side on this particular disability issue. And by doing that, he risks alienating people and losing votes for the Democrats in the next election.

But I'd suggest that he's alienated much of the disability community at this point anyway, unless he takes some drastic actions in support of it.

Obama, Meet Me at Camera Three

Obama, you've got little to lose and the 420,000 disabled Americans employed in organizations with the 14(c) exemption have got everything to gain. 420,00 may sound like it's too small a number to matter, but "minimum wage" is called that for a reason because it's what *all* workers get paid, as a bare minimum.

Not just the non-disabled ones.

Throw the disability community something after nearly two terms in office and get on the ball with this one. Disabled Americans have been waiting long enough for you to do something for them.

Image Copyright: http://www.123rf.com/profile_gwolters

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Some Disabled Workers Won't Be Eligible for American Minimum Wage Hike

minimum wageSorry for another political post, but I'm a little annoyed right now. At President Barack Obama and his promise to raise the minimum wage in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I support any sort of initiative that will raise the minimum wage in the US. I've been following this issue ever since I learned that the current minimum wage in the US is only $7.25. It's been over $10.00 in Ontario for years, going up to $11 in June. Heck, student minimum wage in Ontario in 1998 (the last time I worked as a student in Ontario) was $8.

What I don't support is nonsense about the minimum wage raise not applying to disabled workers that currently earn less than minimum wage - the employees of organizations holding a 14(c) certificate. And apparently, that's exactly what's going to happen. The words came right from Joe Biden himself, in a phone call to disability advocates last Wednesday. Read more here

It's such blatant ableism that it makes me feel ill.

Minimum Wage, Disabled Americans, and the 14(c) Exemption


This ableist action is built on policy that was already ableist. The 14(c) exemption, put in place in the 1930s. It says that "workers with disabilities are excluded from minimum-wage protections if they are employed in certified training programs." Read more here These are also referred to as sheltered workshop programs, and in the past I've gone into why the disability community is deeply divided about them (well, I know where I stand on them, but the community itself is divided).

Goodwill Industries has a 14(c) exemption. It was outed last year for paying disabled workers as low as $0.22 cents an hour, and for engineering their evaluation process so that it was almost impossible for people to get out of jobs that they didn't want. keeping Regular readers will remember how disgusted that whole business made me.  The story was highly publicized, and people protested Goodwill and did organized boycotts all over the country. No one from the White House has addressed the 14(c) exemption as something that's keeping Goodwill employees, and employees of other organizations that have the 14(c) exemption, as something that's contributing to keeping disabled people in this country living in poverty.

Read more about my thoughts on Goodwill here, here, and here.

Recent comments to Ari Ne'eman, head of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), may explain the administration's failure to even publicly mention the situation. Ne'eman was recently told by the the White House that the Obama administration doesn't believe it has the authority to raise the wages of people who work for organizations with a 14(c) exemption. Read More Here

Doesn't have the authority? It's my understanding that Obama is going to use Executive Agency to raise minimum wage to $10.10 for everyone else...and yet he doesn't have the power to step in on a labour issue that's keeping disabled people trapped in poverty and under the heel of organizations like Goodwill, who can afford to pay all their workers minimum wage but don't? That doesn't make one iota of sense to me.  ASAN had a legal analysis done that agrees Read More Here

Not only can I not can't see how Obama doesn't have the power to make organizations with the 14(c) exemption raise wages, but because I can't see, granted the havoc that raising the minimum wage using Executive Agency is going to cause for him in general, politically, how it's going to make things much worse. The only downside that I can see it for him is that it requires him to come down on a side on this particular disability issue. And by doing that, he risks alienating people and losing votes for the Democrats in the next election.

But I'd suggest that he's alienated much of the disability community at this point anyway, unless he takes some drastic actions in support of it.

Obama, Meet Me at Camera Three


Obama, you've got little to lose and the 420,000 disabled Americans employed in organizations with the 14(c) exemption have got everything to gain. 420,00 may sound like it's too small a number to matter, but "minimum wage" is called that for a reason because it's what *all* workers get paid, as a bare minimum.

Not just the non-disabled ones.

Throw the disability community something after nearly two terms in office and get on the ball with this one. Disabled Americans have been waiting long enough for you to do something for them.

UPDATE: On February 13th, the news broke that the Obama administration reversed this decision and declared that workers eligible for the minimum wage increase, disabled or not, would receive it. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/02/12/obama-disabled-workers-subminimum-wage/5409927/ Thanks, Obama, for doing the right thing.