An Autistics Guide To Corporate Social Responsibility

I want to reiterate that these are my own views and do not necessarily reflect the views of others.

You’ve probably noticed that my blog has critiqued certain sponsorships that I have found troublesome. I wanted to come up with something that would be a good, sharable reference point.

One :: Imagery & Colour Usage

If you want to create a favourable first impression, utilizing a puzzle piece and/or blue immediately raises red flags. Firstly, the image and colour combination evokes negative thoughts of Autism Speaks, which is known for their harmful PSAs, “Cure” culture and questionable distribution of funds. Secondly, The puzzle piece implies that there is something is missing or needs fixing.

Two :: Words/Terminology

When Autism is used as a negative or scare tactic, that is not considered to be favourable.

I  recently read the side of a case of beer and was appalled at the copy.

“Affected by Autism”, “have Autism” and my interaction with their social media team interjected the word awareness in to our conversation twice. I have also noticed that they switch from capitalizing Autism to not capitalizing it. There is no consistency. Other promotions have also used words like “hope” which is demeaning and not at all empowering.

Three :: Transparency

In reference to the case of beer, they mention things like “Autism now affects 1 in 68 children with boys being four times more likely to have autism than girls.  It is the fastest growing developmental disorder with 1% of the world’s population affected by Autism.” without citing any sources. They have also said “…remains dedicated to supporting Autism research in Canada.  Since 2012 more than $600,000 has been raised and donated towards better understanding Autism and how to effectively diagnose and treat the condition.” – this time they have left out exactly WHO is running this research. They have also failed to provide the information of what would be an effective way to diagnose and treat the condition.

Four :: Representation and consultation

When running a promotion: REPRESENTATION matters. Most of the companies I have reached out to have been individuals at the top of the business with an Autistic child. I have had some really negative interactions with affluent parents pledging money to Autism Speaks, business owners who run AUTISM AWARENESS promotions with a portion of the funds going to different organizations and companies running contests where they not only hire a non-Autistic artist, but they utilize the harmful imagery I mentioned in section 1.

If you want to do right by Autistic people, go on to twitter and search #ActuallyAutistic to see the voices of Autistics. You can also look up Neurodiversity and Neurodiversity consulting. You’ll find yourself someone who is incredibly qualified: an Autistic person.

It’s so important to embrace what Autistic people have to offer and this is the proper way of doing so – instead of creating a very offensive campaign.

Five :: Responding to Customer complains

If someone complains to you, instead of explaining yourself immediately, please listen. Please pledge to change and give ways you plan on improving the campaign if you choose to run it again. Understand that yes, if you have an Autistic child that they will grow in to an Autistic adult–We are some of your greatest resources. Don’t talk down to us. Don’t lessen our complaints with ableist speak. Listen. Commit to change.

Six :: Suggestions

A few things a business can do:

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Canucks Autism Network

I tried to ignore the negative things they do and the incorrect language they use but I was confronted by them, in person and was completely blindsided that I would be in the same building as them.

I will give you some backstory—I participated in a “Youth with Autism” conference which already was problematic. I don’t believe I was made aware of the events name until late.

I got to the event and saw the Canucks Autism Network setting up their table. My heart sank.

They had plastic bracelets, pins and stickers to give away to the kids. That alone disturbed me: it’s a great way to further their message to unassuming children who don’t see anything else but free stuff. That way, their disgusting puzzle piece logo gets a much further reach. It’s almost like indoctrination.

At that point I started to feel sick and anxious.

I let one of the event coordinators aware of the fact that I was incredibly uncomfortable with them being there. I told her that their logo, the association with Autism Speaks and the use of incorrect language was not okay with me.

She assured me that they wouldn’t come in contact with me. I still didn’t want to be around them and I had a bad foreboding feeling. It lingered and seemed to be warranted.

I have instructions to the kids in the art room for the project I was leading. I saw the two CAN employees making their way in to the room. At this point I started to feel increasingly more uncomfortable. They continued to come closer to me.

Ryan Yao, who I was able to identify through LinkedIn, is the director of strategic partnerships at CAN. He is the one who approached me. I did not want to talk to him at all.

The conversation went something like this:

RYAN- So, you run art workshops?

ME – Well, I haven’t run one before. This is my first.

RYAN – Is this something you plan on continuing?

ME – Maybe next year for this event.

RYAN – Is it something you would be interesting in doing (with us)?

ME – It’s a conflict of interest because you’re associated with autism speaks.

RYAN – Oh, I understand.

Then he walked away.

I was so shaken up and it felt like the conversation lasted forever.

I have called them out multiple times prior to this on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

I really feel that it was unfair that I was subjected to being in the same place as them. Next time I participate in an event, I am going to make sure I am briefed on every detail possible so it does not happen again.

This is not the first time I have had a problem with the Canucks. Their eyewear sponsor, image optometry insults customers on yelp. It’s happened to me before. It’s incredibly contradictory to support Autistic children and be associated with a company that bullies people and continues to be unethical with their business practices.

To break it down:

1. they use improper language

2. They are associated with Autism Speaks

3. Their puzzle piece logo

4. Their AWARENESS campaign

5. Their blatant disregard for Autistic voices

Something needs to change. It’s very unfortunate that private organizations can regulate themselves. We need more government funding and better, more ethical practices that have Autistic people at the forefront.

I was on the radio today!

A dream came true of mine. I was on the radio on my favourite network, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). I met Gloria Macarenko and she was so lovely! I am a HUGE CBC fan and I couldn’t believe I got to go in the part of the building where they broadcast the news, both television and radio.

The radio program was all about a Youth with Autism conference taking place tomorrow and I will be running an Art workshop. This will be the first of it’s kind for me and hopefully not the last.

If you’re interested in hearing me on the radio, the link is here.

If you happen to be outside of Canada, you can always download a free VPN like ProtonVPN and set your location to Canada to be able to listen!