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.
(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.
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:
These are MY PERSONAL VIEWS. These belong to me. Other Autistic folks may agree and some may disagree.
I wanted to talk about something that’s been really unnerving lately which is: Non Autistic Parents of Autistic Children sharing imagery and inspiration porn that is very harmful.
As an Autistic person myself, I feel as though attempting to bridge the gap with Autistic parents is a very important stepping stone to creating unity and setting their Autistic child up for success in the future. Assisting them with the tools needed to make sure that hateful imagery, improper terminology and ableism is eliminated. However, when Parents of Autistic children and their friends chime in and belittle, berate and negate the work of an Autistic person, this is moving backwards.
A few days ago I saw this image come up on my facebook feed. I was dumbstruck.
It got widely shared by this father who I believed I was friends with and he tagged his wife and said his child would love it. I pointed out 2 very prevalent things that are troublesome:
Autism, or being Autistic IS a disability however–there’s nothing wrong with that.
I even linked an article and mentioned how I create content on the subject. Two friends of this father chimed in and essentially told me that just because I create content and cite sources, doesn’t mean that it’s true and that I should allow this father to be happy. I explained how I want their child to be set up for success in the future and that I am only trying to be an ally. I wanted to provide information as to how these things were harmful and that speaking over an Autistic person when they are trying to HELP truly doesn’t help anyone at all. I also mentioned that, at it’s core, it is incredibly ableist and problematic.
No one defended me. None of my Autistic friends were able to even come and assist. Although the facebook post was public, the comments were not open to everyone. Eventually I gave up and I deleted this father from my friends list. He had ample opportunities to take this as a learning opportunity and chose not to. He also did not hold me in any kind of regard because if he did, he would not have allowed me to get attacked the way I did. I can only hope that his child gets the kind of support that he needs because if how I was treated was any kind of indication, I have a reason to be worried.
If you are a parent of an Autistic child and you are looking for help, here’s what I can suggest:
Do not take content creator Daniel Jones of The Aspie World as fact. He creates sensationalized content that is, at the source, his income. He very rarely (if ever) cites sources for the material he creates and is not an ally to the rest of the Autistic community. I have even been sworn at by his content manager before and I have created 2 react videos. Please DO NOT utilize his advice to assist your child.
Reach out to Autistic adults – the ones that have your child’s best interest at heart. We can be the best resources available as we have lived this. Also, I do not create content for money. I do this from my heart because this truly gives me purpose in my life.
Do not negate Autistic voices. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn from us. We are the best allies for your children and, for the most part, we want to impart our wisdom and create change. If anything, we want to help. Obviously i’m not speaking for everyone.
I hope this shed a little bit of insight on some of the struggles we face on a daily basis. It’s truly not easy but by listening to Autistic people and truly taking in the things we say is a great step to unity, change and acceptance for all.
Celebrities – you know them. They can be kind, generous, and approachable. They can also be crude, negative and bigheaded. In this case, the latter applies.
Yesterday was an absolute firestorm on twitter and it all started with a joke: Someone posed the question of what they should wear when going to meet William Shatner. Someone else responded by saying “A Boycott Autism Speaks Shirt!”. William personally found this tweet and followed it up with the tweet you see here.
Victoria responded and Shatner viewed that as a threat – which is completely ironic due to the statement he made in the above tweet.
It also appears that this is not the first time he has become very hostile towards someone who was asking a very genuine question about their Autistic child.
I wonder where his publicist is and how his unprofessional behaviour has not reached the mainstream media. If you are going to attack a marginalized group of people, defend Autism Speaks and expect that the #ActuallyAutistic community is going to be quiet, you’ve got another thing coming. A lot of his fans are blindly following him and hanging on to his every word, without doing research on the subject. They are attacking us and creating an extremely stressful environment because of their perceived allyship to Mr. Shatner. I would only hope that asking for donations to ASAN would be welcomed, but sadly that is just not the case.