I am utterly appalled by the lack of attention given to true accessibility and inclusion on the part of the non-autistic organisers of Autcom. Kassiane Sibley, one of the autistic presenters (and one of my co-presenters!) who also has a seizure disorder, has written about certain Autcom organisers’ callous attitudes towards the potential risks of seizure triggers like flash photography here.
People who make a big deal about presuming competence and supporting human rights for all need to practise what they preach. Don’t use fancy slogans if you don’t actually mean it, especially when this is literally a life-or-death matter. People can die from seizures and it’s one of the last things people should be taking lightly.
I had my own incidents of fail. They’re definitely not life-threatening like a seizure trigger, but they’re still shitty enough that they need calling out.
When I was there there was a woman who would constantly try to touch people without their consent. I’d feel a light tap on my shoulder or back nearly every time I passed her. You’d think she would have been told that this was an access issue because a lot of us autistic folks have startle response issues or sensory needs regarding touch, but no! I did hear somebody say ‘don’t touch’ to her once, but she didn’t stop and continued to do it throughout the conference. This woman turned out to be the sister of one of the people who was presuming incompetence on the part of the flash photographer so… I really don’t fucking know what’s going on, but if you want to talk about accessibility, look at your own damn family. I don’t like people randomly touching me at odd times without my express consent. Your right to do what you want ends where my body begins.
Later, I presented on a panel about autism and race with some of the only people of colour/non-white people who were at the conference: Kassiane, Lydia Brown and Morénike Onaiwu. My portion of the presentation was about racial profiling and how it intersects with autism, primarily about how ‘odd’ behaviour can be interpreted as seeming drunk or high, and how many people end up with dangerous – or even fatal – interactions with the police. At the end of the panel, Sandi (she of ‘maybe you don’t belong here if you have epileptic seizures’) asked me ‘as a black man, how are you afraid of the police’ (paraphrase). Like, seriously, what the fuck? I spent ten fucking minutes talking about why law enforcement is such a danger for black people and you ask me THAT question? If you’d actually listened, maybe you’d have avoided parting your lips to ask that nonsense.