The (Perceived) Exploitation of Disabled People

(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Community Futures BC and it is called the Entrepreneurial Development Program for Persons With Disabilities (which is outdated language).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.

Here’s why:

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPlg6N-N3BU

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.”

As businesses in Canada are not allowed to discriminate or play favourites when it comes to those they choose to hire, Accessible Employers has figured out a way to operate in a grey zone.

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.

Exposing The Aspie World

I am one of those people who seem to have the ability to cut through the drivel that is perpetuated by others.

I saw right through Daniel Jones of The Aspie World. I knew that there was something about him that didn’t sit right with me.

I have created two videos where I react to him. His content is truly repulsive.

1. Sensationalism

His content is chalk full of sensationalism, which is defined as “(especially in journalism) the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement.”

He uses clickbait titles which plays off the very same theme, essentially taking Autism to a level where it becomes something fresh, new and exciting – at the expense of others. He also pairs up with other YouTube creators who have the same thing in mind. I recently heard that he made a point of insulting “negative” creators at an event tied to the creation of his videos.

2. Self fulfilling prophecy

He creates content to boost his ego. He can’t take critiques from anybody. If you tell him he’s doing something wrong, you’ll be blocked very quickly.

There have been other people in the #ActuallyAutistic community who have called him out and some that have even taken the time to private message him to express their feelings about his content, only for it to fall through the cracks and be disregarded. He has also written a book about a religion (he may or may not) have created and he also promotes his merchandise through his videos.

Edit (July 11th 2019): It’s also alleged that Daniel Jones is even more phoney than he lets on. User “yourfavehatesautismspeaks” on tumblr has added some very interesting talking points to the conversation.

Alex Watts is his producer and “community manager” who decided to send me this on twitter. It’s incredibly unfortunate that they will stoop to tactics like this as a means to communicate with me.

July 12th, still being heckled by Dan Jones “Community Manager”, who fails to uphold himself to any professional standards.

3. Misinformation

If you have the ability to watch my react videos, you’ll notice very quickly that he fails to cite sources for his information. When talking about Aspergers VS Autism, he prefaces it saying that it doesn’t apply to everyone, yet he makes generalizations. Autism absorbed Aspergers in 2015 — Four years before his video came out. He said he will be updating the video, but it’s not like he didn’t have the new information at the time of creation. I also am baffled at a lot of the things he says and he continues to perpetuate his information as fact. It’s not factual. If you can’t cite sources and you can’t show proof to people, you’re only as good as your word.

His videos are presented at different educational events which is a further way to perpetuate fiction.

He has also said that there is a lack of Autistic female youtube creators, which also is not true. Perhaps he said this because he’s not a fan of those who have challenged him and suggested that he change.

Emma Dalmayne created a video back in October of 2018 that I highly suggest you watch.

4. Preaching to Autism Moms

A vast majority of his audience seem to be Autism “Warrior” Moms. These are the type of people who generally won’t listen to #ActuallyAutistic adults in favour of people who are telling them what they want to hear. Daniel Jones has found that they are the perfect audience for him and he uses terms that are generally not well liked by our community like “WITH Autism”, “With Aspergers” — which I find a lot of these parents use. Plenty of them are Autism Speaks supporters as well and won’t hesitate to attach a shiny blue puzzle piece to their social media handles.

In closing:

If you’re not going to listen to the community you supposedly represent and are part of and you continue to promote yourself with the basis of your content being completely untruthful, manufactured, sensationalized and self-gratifying, you’re not helping anyone.

I also believe it’s so important to give a voice to my fellow Autistics and I have done so in this post. It’s not just me who is striving for change and proper representation. IF YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE, DO SOMETHING GOOD WITH IT!

Please note:

I no longer utilize the term Aspergers in reference to myself as it is harmful terminology. I am maintaining the Aspergers tag on 3 of my posts so they are easily searchable, however I am not condoning the use of this language. 

Brand Awareness At Our Expense

When a brand like Mortgage Tree runs a contest and they utilize an Artist that is NOT AUTISTIC for a campaign, red flags are raised immediately.

There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS. Can you spot them all?

A contest is being run and prizes are available to those they choose. There’s not many restrictions as to who can enter.

When I say this has a lot to do with branding, Crystal Salamon deleted her original case study which revealed that only about $60 has been spent on paid ads when this campaign was run in 2017. That’s right: she’s been at it for years.

I have posted negative reviews on both Crystal’s facebook page and Mortgage Tree as well. With Mortgage tree, that lead to a very uncomfortable conversation through private messages which I try to avoid.

They’ve also VINYL WRAPPED A CAR (which was revealed after this conversation)

For more information on this campaign:

Of course, there’s plenty more links that include all the twitter and instagram pages as well as a search for their hashtags. They’ve got all their bases covered. The youtube videos are pretty bad too.

#AutisticVoicesFirst

Autism Speaks. It's Time to Listen.

When I realized that Autism Speaks slogan was “It’s time to listen”, my heart sank.

I honestly felt like I broke in to a thousand little pieces that no one could pick up. It was the feeling of grief. The more I research, the more I realize how much Autistic voices matter.

The CEO of Autism Speaks is someone who has experience managing different health related foundations. Her name is Angela Geiger. As far as I can tell – She is NOT Autistic.

Autism Speaks Canada is headed up by Jill Farber and she has spent 15 years as a private consultant specializing in ABA. She is NOT Autistic.

It’s important for the verbal portion of the Autism community to speak up for not only us but for our nonverbal brothers and sisters. After all, we know best. This is who we are in every aspect of our being.

Wouldn’t it be nice for Autism Meetup groups and self-advocacy networks to have funding and get provided devices and tools to make life easier? Frustratingly enough, most companies need a “front” to do so. By that I mean a “charitable” organization with whom to “partner” with so it looks like they’re doing a DAMN amazing thing to benefit those who need it most. Why can’t they do it without the publicity or without a partnership? Money- simply put! Advertising is key. Looking good to those who are uneducated on the subject increases profit margins and a veil of “doing good”.

Let’s PUT #AutisticVoicesFirst

 

New Videos!

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion and should not reflect the brands or companies I have graciously partnered with.

Why ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ doesn’t sit well with me.

I want to make it evidently clear that I am all for mental health awareness and supporting related causes. I have always struggled and believe that funding is entirely necessary.

Bell is a Canadian Telecommunications giant. For one day each year, the #BellLetsTalk campaign overtakes social media, with Olympian Clara Hughes as their Spokeswoman.

They make sure you are aware of the campaign through every advertising platform imaginable. I can’t imagine the money they put in to advertising alone.

They utilize the hashtag to get their customers and even non-customers talking about it to which they make a donation to their own fund.

I just don’t think this is the right way to do it. I have most definitely had real-life disagreements on this subject as well.

Here’s why I don’t think it’s okay:

  1. According to Forbes, Bell Canada (BCE) has a market cap of 40.5 Billion Dollars.
  2. Bell’s employees do not get equal or fair treatment in regards to their own mental health. CBC has written about this and there are various other articles online too.
  3. They have various ways you can get involved and they donate 5 cents to different initiatives. As far as I am concerned, they can make a sizeable donation without using the hashtag to, essentially, get very cheap marketing for their brand.
  4. The Bell Community Fund has a financial cap of $25,000 and has all kinds of exclusions including: Anti-stigma projects and event sponsorships etc.

I believe we should get to the point where talking about our mental health is a regular thing we can participate in and completely free of judgment. I don’t believe it is right to capitalize on mental health/wellness/illness for financial gain. I also don’t think it should be segregated to one day of the year that is decided on by a multi-billion dollar telecommunications giant.

Let’s talk about it, I think we need a new hashtag.

#LetsTalkAboutMentalHealth maybe?

Margaux

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion and should not reflect the brands or companies I have graciously partnered with.