I have been incredibly busy these past couple weeks. I spoke at an online advocacy convention on September 26th, reflecting on my experiences in the education system. I wanted to focus on the fact that I, someone who dropped out in 11th grade and ended up getting my GED, was still able to be successful and thrive. I wanted the parents who were participating to understand that their child’s success in the school system will not necessary determine their success in the future. Not everyone thrives in a regimented system.
Then, on September 30th, I spoke at the BC Legislatures Provincial Budget meeting (at the 02:05 – Two hour and five minute mark) https://twitter.com/BCLegislature/status/1443671164690173960 in regards to being a disabled person and a small business owner. I spoke about being self-employed and the lack of support and was asked by one of our MLAs to submit a letter. I just wrote it and emailed it off.
I’m so passionate about highlighting our voices because we are left out of the narrative. The press releases for September’s British Columbia DisabilIty Employment month didn’t include one quote from disabled small business owners or self employed people. It just included quotes from people who hire us. It’s frustrating to know that there are folks out there who didn’t even know we exist and thus, by default, didn’t choose to include us in this very important conversation.
This is my “Flower Power” collection! I also have matching stickers and patches will be arriving October 4th. You can find these items at retrophiliac.etsy.com, alongside many other items I have available. Every time a purchase is made, it further ensures that I am able to live my dreams and hopefully be given the chance to help other people who want to be on the same path of independence that I am on.
I also secured my 10th retailer! I am grateful that I reached this amazing milestone, alongside other milestones to celebrate:
-Over 500 sales this year alone
-Over 1000 sales in total
-Over 200 five star reviews
And, I also celebrated my 33rd birthday and felt more accomplished than ever.
Now, to fight the good fight and continue advocating for disabled small business owners and self employed people. I’m not going to stop, i’m just going to keep pushing forward! Thank you for navigating this journey with me.
First up: Accessible Employers has been avoiding me for a few weeks now. I do think I found them mentioned in a government budget report article. It seems like they are still being very hesitant to be open about their budget. Which means one thing: They are a FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS. If they were a non-profit, they’d be on the charity database websites and would have to disclose their financial reports.
Secondly: I was a vendor at a market on the weekend and I was so excited to connect with new people and make a few sales.
I also was interviewed by Rachel and Hiiro from the Getting Jewcy Podcast. We had so much fun chatting and I was so thankful I got to speak about things that i’ve been talking about on this blog, too.
(This is an OPINION PIECE. These are words that are from my brain and are not necessarily going to be shared by all.)
Being disabled is something I have experienced for my entire life. This is not something I can decide to opt out of.
I’ve done my absolute best with attempting to sustain myself, finding unconventional ways to fund my creative endeavours. I’ve expanded my etsy shops return on investment by approximately 224% over last year.
This has not been easy. All the local, provincial and federal or country-wide resources I have reached out to have sent me in a perpetual circle, each referring me back to the folks who have referred me to them. This has created a sense of frustration and has made me aware of how inaccessible resources are for disabled folks who have chosen to work for themselves.
The one program that is available is through Community Futures BC and it is called the Entrepreneurial Development Program for Persons With Disabilities (which is outdated language). From what i have seen, these programs are reliant on their disabled clients taking out business loans.
Expecting a disabled person to take out any kind of debt does not make sense. I am unsure why the Western Economic Diversification branch of the Government of Canada would put their name behind a program when they already are very careful (and somewhat protective with their funds) about folks who receive any kind of social assistance or disability. They have admitted to handing out grants for other programs, so they should be aware of the huge financial risk they are supporting. Disabled people are already at risk in so many other ways that I can’t begin to wrap my head around the fact that they are so comfortable promoting debt.
Clearly, the programs that are promoting that kind of debt are receiving program-specific funding from the government. If the programs receive money that, chances are, they are not expected to repay – then why is it a good idea to make marginalized people take on financial debt when the end goal is to be financially independent? Our lives are fragile. Anything could happen to us. Would we really want out families or next of kin to be financially responsible for the debt we may not be able to pay back? I certainly would not feel comfortable with that amount of stress and expectation looming over me for years.
This is a huge problem that needs to change.
Which brings me to my next point and some opinions I would like to share about an organization called Accessible Employers.
I have emailed nearly all of the members of their President’s Group on Friday, July 2nd 2021 and, at the time of this post – I have not heard back from them. I also have emailed them multiple times to the email address listed on their website and also have received complete silence.
My introduction to their organization was through someone who had heard me speak for an engagement that I was hired for. He seemed impressed and said that he thought that there might be a way that Accessible Employers and I could partner or collaborate. I was excited – until I wasn’t.
I already had been completely gaslit and deflected upon in a conversation I shared with Lisa, the owner of a local bakery called Gabi & Jules whose entire marketing tactic relies on the owner having an Autistic child. She claims that she strives to hire inclusively. This all might sound lovely and wonderful, but it’s not.
Firstly, Lisa is 2nd in command of Accessible Employers. She, and the 24 or 25 other people who sit on the Presidents Group, are (from what I can tell) not disabled themselves.
Secondly, Lisa uses the puzzle piece in her shelf talkers for her bakery goods, her boxes (which she ordered more of – quite a while after I attempted to kindly educate her on how hateful this imagery is – and when she responded to me, she made it sound like it was an opinion of mine and not a fact), her vinyl wrapped vehicles, her awnings and much more. Her website’s inclusivity and autism portion uses plenty of puzzle pieces, as well as uncomfortable language like “…..we have seen the beauty and kindness that comes from seeing abilities rather than disabilities.” which essentially creates a negative and harmful dialogue around disabilities. Being disabled is NOT a bad thing. Using language like this is.
Thirdly, the videos used on Accessible Employers to talk about their organization features their business-clad members discussing the benefits of the organization.
The exploitative language used contains words like “bottom-line” when asked about the benefits of hiring disabled people. It’s actually incredibly cringy to watch and I haven’t even outlined all the things wrong with it.
There are more videos, such as the one for Gabi and Jules, which again, features the tokenization of Autistic people, outdated language including functioning labels, talking about disabled folks in an almost ‘manic pixie dream girl’ way – as if to say that we are some kind of subservient entity whose job it is to submit to these participating businesses and make them more money.
If it sounds like i’m making this up, the information on the landing page of accessible employers actually has language like “90% of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities.” and “Embracing an accessible and inclusive workplace is just good business.”
I would like to know what kind of entity they function as. Are they a non-profit? A charity? Where are their financial statements? What kind of government kickbacks and incentives are they receiving for each disabled person they hire? Why is there not a single disabled person on their board? Why are the founders not choosing to reinvest any of the additional income they are creating to actually empower individual disabled people to work for themselves?
Chances are: They don’t feel like any of this is their responsibility. They probably don’t feel like they need to disclose any of their financial statements or that no one is going to hold them accountable for using and enabling ableist language and the blatant exploitation of their entire organization’s structure which is UTILIZING DISABLED PEOPLE TO BE MORE PROFITABLE. Also, I have not seen anything about increasing minimum wage, paying their employees more or giving them any kind of additional benefits. It becomes more obvious to me who is actually benefitting by this organization or business.
At one point, I was contacted to write for them and in exchange they would allow me to promote my ND Enamel Pin and it sounded like they were not going to pay me, either. I told them that autism “awareness” (which is the language that they used) is not a narrative that Autistic people are in charge of. I told them my Neurodiversity pride pin was NOT just for Autism (which they inappropriately assumed it was, calling it my “Autism Pin”), and because I spoke up and corrected them, they essentially rescinded the offer. This could have been the perfect chance to learn something new. They also could have considered discussing this further. It was a great opportunity to learn from me, someone who is part of the disabled demographic they are supposedly serving or being served by.
Ironically enough, they did post a tweet using acceptance over awareness.
This interaction (the proposed writing gig) was the first for me and it highlighted their inability to listen to disabled people, admit their wrongdoings and promise to create change – which Lisa Beecroft echoed when she REFUSED to take responsibility for utilizing puzzle pieces for her business. One thing is for sure, their inability to listen to disabled people is consistent throughout the organization or my two interactions i’ve had with them.
Why is it so hard to accept that disabled people have a voice? Why is it so difficult to understand that we are not just subservient, malleable pawns that can be shaped to serve their bottom line?
Changes need to be made. They need to be held accountable and they have the ability to be pioneers in this space. If inclusion is what they strive for, they need to put their money where their mouth is and create REAL positive social change instead of co-opting the voices of a community that they aren’t even part of. They are not living the disabled experience first hand and understanding why our voices need to be added to this conversation is the first step.
Not only was I a recipient of a BC Arts Council grant – which means I have the ability to create more awesome things, but my local MLA (Member of the legislative assembly) Rick Glumac spoke about me at the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria.
I am so grateful that my hard work was acknowledged and that he spoke up about the puzzle piece, awareness vs acceptance and used my correct pronouns.
I’ve also contributed to a few “Nothing with out us” segments on CBC’s “on the coast with Gloria Macarenko”, and i’m incredibly thankful that I have been given this opportunity.
I’ve been keeping myself as busy as possible and I will have many new items that i’ll be releasing soon and I even got my first dose of the covid-19 vaccine. I’ve been working on keeping myself hydrated and my mind in a more positive state. It’s a challenge though and I can’t wait until my family, friends and roommates are fully vaccinated.
I really can’t wait to share more good things with you.
I had reached out to Mortgage Tree in the past to provide them with feedback about how terrible their campaign was.
I’ve already written extensively and provided a free guide for businesses to understand how to navigate these treatorous waters, but they actively choose not to listen.
I created a video and a long blog post about all the things that happened.
They made a plethora of excuses and essentially negated my voice and all the feedback that I had for them. Seems like they’ve continued on this campaign and also have continued to hire a NON-AUTISTIC artist (from what it seems) to create a colouring book page for them.
I felt like my contributions were worthwhile and at this point I feel like the stress and fighting is far outweighing the benefits and my mental health is suffering. I am at a low point.
If the goal is to help folks, we should be understanding that the worst thing to do is penalize people.
I’m unsure what happened to the ideals of kindness, speaking to people with respect and understanding. It seems like this has all fallen by the wayside. Instead, there’s folks out there with sheer anger and frustration, taking it out on everyone for the world to see.
It’s sad to know that we’ve come to a place where instead of activism, advocacy and helping people, we’ve been reduced to videos where folks are naming names and creating a cult or pact mentality against folks in our community.
Is re-victimizing and triggering folks helping anyone? If we are to be helpful, why is calling out people in videos acceptable, acknowledged and praised? This should never be the baseline.
The focus has been taken away from information, knowledge and advice and has turned in to dictatorship with numerous folks joining in on the bullying, further strengthening the ability to dog pile and driving them to their lowest point – driving them to contemplate suicide.
The sad thing is, it’s going to happen. Someone is going to end up harming themselves. I know that I was made to feel like an absolute piece of human filth. I felt like crying. I was triggered, I was brought to panic. I also was made to be unable to seek emotional help that I was in dire need of.
I’m not trying to argue. But at what point do I have to say “enough is enough”?
Well i’ll tell you:
When the emotional toll becomes too much to bare and helping people is overshadowed.
We shouldn’t be bullying folks out of activism and advocacy. If our goal is to help people, why are so many folks being driven to mental breakdowns? Because the opportunity to listen has turned in to the opportunity to dictate.
I’m not putting myself through this. I’m beyond sad. I’m not trying to argue, i’m not trying to fight, i’m not trying to start a war. But this is eating away at me and the moment i’m told to stay silent becomes the moment I have to speak.
I have wanted to write about this for a while but I have been putting it off.
I wanted to address the issue with “Autism Moms” or “Autism Parents” and the exploitative tactics that sellers of Puzzle piece merchandise utilize to gain sales.
I reached out to a parent run company on etsy that was selling a sparkly puzzle piece enamel pin in honour of their Autistic child. I tried to educate them and tell them that it is a symbol of hate and eugenics, and instead they felt threatened by me and told me if I continued to contact them, that they’d report me to etsy.
There’s over 6,000 listings for the search query of “Puzzle piece Autism”. These are sellers who are EXPLOTING THE IGNORANCE OF FOLKS WHO DO NOT KNOW IT’S A HATE SYMBOL. Chances are, the people selling these items are profiting off this. They probably know how harmful this symbol is and yet they continue to perpetuate it because it’s PROFITABLE.
I’m unsure of how many folks don’t see the problem here. Profiting off these symbols and selling them to unsuspecting individuals is wrong and again, incredibly exploitative.
I’m in a facebook group and a mother had asked about her “Autism Mama” bracelet which was adorned with puzzle pieces, and she was quickly – and swiftly educated.
I ended up having an “Autism Mom” slide in to my private messages and DEMANDING I educate her on the subject. There was more than enough information in the initial thread. She weaponized an Art of Autism article against me about someone who was pro-puzzle piece (but denounced her support in the beginning of the article). I had asked The Art of Autism to amend this article to include pertinent articles and was met with an uncomfortable misunderstanding. At this point, I will no longer associate myself with The Art of Autism.
A note: If you’re a PARENT of an AUTISTIC CHILD, Do -NOT- co opt their diagnosis as your identity. This is NOT your identity. Don’t talk over Autistic adults. Listen instead. Remember: Your child is going to be an ADULT SOMEDAY. Wouldn’t; you want them to be able to help others and feel empowered?
Also: don’t expect Autistic adults to be a certain way or to provide endless advice. We don’t owe anyone (especially parents) anything.
If you need more information about this, please visit:
I seem to utilize my blog at times where I feel really emotional, or post meltdown. Sometimes I feel calm and serene while updating but most of the time I am dealing with inner turmoil.
Periodically throughout the years, someone who made negative comments about my mother and essentially ghosted me over a decade ago, has constantly reached out to my family members to engage in friendly banter — all while choosing to ignore me with every attempt to find out what I did wrong, apologize and clear the air. This person would press ‘block’ nearly immediately.
I wasn’t trying to recreate a friendship we just had (which is what they thought I was trying to do), I was merely trying to reduce or eliminate the negative feelings they had towards me.
I thought this was the right thing to do.
Seeing the comment they made yesterday (on my family members post) was no different. I sent an apology, said their kindness ‘didn’t go unnoticed’ and attempted to reach out. I had done this periodically throughout the years in the hopes that they would grow as a person, forgive and ‘be okay’ with who I am as a person. I’m not sure why I would be lead to believe any differently when the example of their behaviour that I was presented with was kind, conversational and engaging.
Well, I was wrong. I was very wrong. Once again, I misread the social cues. I reached out and got blocked.
I went to my other (art) account and then asked them to “please do not interact with my family anymore.” I had told my family member how this person had been treating me throughout the years (with visual proof, this time) in the hopes that they would stand by me, support me and no longer associate with someone who had been treating me so disrespectfully.
The response I got was probably one of the cruelest, most judgemental messages I have ever received in my life. There were comments about me being negative, toxic, throwing a temper tantrum, how this person is in their 30’s now and they’ve grown and that’s due in part to the fact that I am no longer in their life, that my attempts to reach out (and in my words, reconcile) were harassment. This was two exceptionally long messages. I then explained that my family member had read the words they told me, and finally they told me to ‘go F myself’ and that I was ‘toxic AF’. This person also chose to misgender me. If they would have taken the time to even learn about my Autism diagnosis, they would have seen how these comments were rooted in ablism. I did not have my diagnosis until 5 years ago. I didn’t even self diagnose at the time we were friends.
Now, let’s not forget that people change a whole lot in 12-14 years. I certainly am not the same person I was in my late teens/early twenties. My main focus is doing what I can for the Autistic community and supporting cat welfare organizations when I am able to. My mindset is “What can I do for others?” —especially in times of distress.
The part that hurt the most is that this lead to a huge argument with my family member who was incredibly defensive and refused to cut this person out. Fortunately, this former friend of mine blocked my family — but in the end, it wasn’t really about the former friend. It was about remaining loyal to family. It was about being supportive of your family member when someone else has chosen to spew words that don’t; harbour any truth; words that were made to hurt.
I cried a significant amount last night. I had a meltdown. I felt like I couldn’t see, like I couldn’t breathe. None of the words I was saying (and the way I was explaining the situation) seemed to have resonated with those around me. I felt wholly exasperated.
I was essentially crying out for much needed emotional support and I was not getting it from those around me. I was not getting the “I care about you. This person treated you poorly. I love you, I have your back. I wouldn’t ever associate with someone who treats you like this. This is showing who they are as a person and it’s not reflective of who you are.” None of that. I got this kind of support from my friends, albeit – online. That doesn’t negate how thankful and gracious I was to each person who was willing to listen.
The moral of the story is: remain loyal to your friends and family. Stand up for them. Don’t allow them to be bullied by others. Don’t sit idly by and be complacent. Not involving yourself is essentially saying “hey, this behaviour is okay.” it’s not saying “i don’t want to be involved in drama.”
Engaging in friendly banter with someone who bullies your relative is a way to continue to re victimize and trigger them — yes, it is even worse if they are Neurodiverse. We need more allies. We need less people to be complacent with ableist behaviour and more people to stand up and say “this isn’t okay how you are treating them (my family). I don’t feel comfortable engaging with you unless you make amends and express kindness towards them.” either that, or swiftly blocking them without allowing pride to get in the way.