The Importance of #WalkInRed and #ActuallyAutistic

Today, businesses, landmarks, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are #LIUB — "lighting it up blue" — for World Autism Awareness Day. The movement, spearheaded by Autism Speaks, strives to shed light on the "growing global health crisis" of autism. It was adopted by the UN in 2007, only one of three diseases to have a designated day of visibility. But here's the thing: Is autism a disease to be eradicated? An increasing number of people, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum, say no. In response, many have chosen to #WalkInRed today instead, gathering under the hashtag #ActuallyAustic.

Criticism for Autism Speaks has arisen in recent years over the organization's use of funds, their ultimate goals, and even their logo, a blue puzzle piece. According to Forbes, only around three percent of AS's income is used for "family services"; 38 percent, meanwhile, is spent on research — but unfortunately, states Autistic Advocacy, much of that researched is focused on eliminating the condition. Furthermore, as author and autistic adult John Elder Robison noted, AS tends when speaking about autism to lean towards the negative — that it's a health crisis, an intense burden on families, that it needs a cure, that hopefully one day it won't exist. The issue with this language, though, is that many of those on the Autistic Spectrum don't feel there is anything about them needing to be fixed:

There's also the puzzle piece logo, implying that those with Autism are missing something inherent, something that prevents them from being whole.

And then there's the conspicuous lack of anyone with autism within the leadership of AS — the Board of Directors does not include a single autistic person, extremely rare among disability networks of similar size and relevance.

Those who #WalkInRed today have begun posting selfies under the hashtag #actuallyautistic to provide faces and voices to a fight they feel they've been eliminated from. They've also begun pushing some edits to the title "World Autism Awareness Day," with desire being to change it to Autism Acceptance Day. As Tumblr user orangememesicle wrote under the #actuallyautistic tag, "Autism is speaking. Autism is right here, telling you that I’m not broken. Autism needs acceptance. Awareness doesn’t cover acceptance or understanding."

Image: @dizzydollie/Instagram