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:
- Consult with Autistic Adults or hire a Neurodiverse Consulting Company (Christa comes to mind)
- Ditch the word Awareness
- Do not pledge money to Autism Speaks
- Consider ASAN/Autistics United/Autistic Meetups and other small, local, Autistic-run charities in your community as preferred donation recipients
- Be completely transparent, cite sources and the destination of the funds raised, provide as much detail as possible
- Pledge to change – come up with a plan and again, be transparent about it
- Need an artist? A writer? Just someone to hire? Hire someone Autistic to help with your campaign. Proper representation matters. (I have a group called MADE BY AUTISTICS, if you need to find someone.)