An Open Letter To Google About Their Partnership With Autism Speaks

So, as you may be aware, Google and Autism Speaks recently announced a partnership to further research into the genomics of autism. Autism Speaks, if you’ve never heard of them, are a supposed charity for autism advocacy – except the vast majority of autistic people don’t support them. This website has more information, but the long and short of it is that:

-They support eugenics.

-They speak over and ignore autistic people.

-They only spend about 3-4% of their budget on actually helping.

-They demonise autistic people, such as in their video I Am Autism.

 

Last night (June 12th, 2014 (BST)), Google announced #GCPOfficeHours, and invited people to tweet them. Naturally, autistic people and supporters took to Twitter to protest. What did Google do? They ignored all of us. Despite the tag being filled with pretty much nothing but autistic people tweeting about the Google/A$ partnership, Google didn’t respond to anyone, or acknowledge any of us.

 

So I decided to write a letter.

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

My name is Kathryn Andrews, I am 17 years old, and I have Aspergers’ Syndrome, a form of autism.

 

I am writing to express my concern with regard to Google’s partnership with the so-called “charity” Autism Speaks. As an autistic person and a user of Google Drive, Gmail, Youtube, Google Play Music, and many other Google services, I feel that I and other users, both autistic and supporters, should have a say in this. Since all tweets from autistic people or regarding this move were ignored on the June 12th #GCPOfficeHours on Twitter, I felt that it was important to send this letter.

 

Autism Speaks is not a charity supported by the vast majority of autistic people. In fact, I have never once encountered an autistic person who supports them. Autism Speaks advertises themselves with the slogan “Autism Speaks: It’s time to listen.” However, they do not listen. There is not one single autistic person on their board. They spend only 3% of their budget on “family services”. A woman applying for a job with them was rejected when she asked for accommodations in caring for her autistic son; even after she made the necessary accommodations herself, they rescinded the job offer.

 

Autism Speaks also uses fear-mongering and frankly offensive tactics to get money. The most notorious and perhaps most horrific of these is their I Am Autism video. This video features a sickening and ableist depiction of autism, claiming, amongst other things, that autism will “make sure that your marriage fails”, “bankrupt you for [its] own self-gain”, and also that autism “derives great pleasure out of your loneliness”. The entire transcript is honestly frightening, both in how the creators apparently view people like me and in how people are being educated to view autistic people. It suggests that we are nothing more than a burden and that our autism has somehow “stolen” us, when many of us are more than happy with our autistic selves.

 

Worse still, Autism Speaks is an organisation which supports eugenics. They fund a great deal of research, including research into pre-natal testing for autism, and they have outright stated their desire to make autism “a word that we only see in the history books.” This is the major concern about Google’s partnership with Autism Speaks. The AUT10K program, if supported by Autism Speaks, will almost certainly not be used merely to research autism.

 

It will be used to find a way to eradicate us.

 

This frightens me. It frightens many other autistic people. We deal with enough stigma as it is (partly as a result of Autism Speaks’ previous actions) and the last thing we need or want is to be afraid that Autism Speaks is now coming closer to a way to eliminate autism. I think I speak for the vast majority of autistic people when I say this: Autism Speaks does not speak for me.

 

A far better choice would be to partner with an organisation which actually supports autistic people. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, for example, is precisely what the name suggests, and does not want to eradicate autism or autistic people.

 

In conclusion, Google, I implore you to reconsider. There is far more that Autism Speaks has done – too much to fit into one letter – and it can easily be found by searching the Internet. Helping autistic people is all well and good, but supporting an organisation which wants us all gone is not. Please end your partnership with Autism Speaks.

 

Sincerely

Kathryn Andrews

 

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