On Sunday, October 11, ASAN-Ohio State/Central Ohio members and other disability rights advocates protested Autism Speaks' Walk for Autism, held on the Ohio State campus. Nineteen individuals protested the organization's harmful advertising, unrepresentative leadership, and eugenic aims. Among the protesters were autistic self-advocates, students, faculty, staff, parents, children, and other community members.
During the first half of the event, protesters faced incoming car traffic and displayed posters with slogans such as "Nothing about us without us" and "Autism Speaks does not speak for me." Some drivers slowed their cars and honked in anger, while others rolled down their windows and shouted profanities. Several parents stopped by on foot and asked about the protest, and these individuals were polite, seemed willing to listen, and took flyers with them.
Jeffrey Strasser, Stephanie Ballam, Melanie Yergeau, Justin Rooney, Erika Strandjord, and Meg Evans hold signs on a street corner near the parking lot
The second half of the protest commenced with the actual one-mile walk, and ASAN protesters greeted walkers with chants of nothing about us without us, Autism Speaks needs to listen, and we're people, not puzzles. Protesters also waved signs and distributed flyers that highlighted why Autism Speaks does not speak for autistic individuals. While chanting nothing about us without us at the walk's start, one walk team began shouting O-H-I-O in order to drown out the protest. A couple mothers told the protesters to "get a life." Many individuals, however, were intrigued by the protest and asked for details. Several indicated surprise at the breakdown of Autism Speaks' funding (with only 4% going to services) and lack of autistic representation in the organization, while others insisted that Autism Speaks needs to speak for autistic individuals.
ASAN protesters were constrained to one side of the street, and many of the walkers deliberately avoided walking near the protest line. Several campus police officers stopped by the protest site to request information as well as confirm that ASAN's first amendment rights were not being violated.
Jeffrey Strasser, Jason Smith, and Stephanie Ballam hold signs that read "'Autism Speaks' against us," "Autism Speaks does not speak for me," and "First class autistic, second class citizen."
ASAN-OSU/Central Ohio thanks those involved in the protest, from planning to attendance. Several graduate students affiliated with the Nisonger Center lent their time, advice, and expertise, and aided with advertising and information-gathering. Additionally, many students and faculty from the English Department and Disability Studies program were in attendance at the protest, and many more helped to make the event a success.
YouTube footage of the event (captions coming soon):