We begin the year with several programmes and projects in the pipeline. These are some of our focus areas for 2021:
We’re building relationships with autistic activists throughout Africa and with cross-disability organisations serving communities in African languages. Our goal is to support autistic strategies in ways that draw on the best of traditional African values and culture.
A meeting with the head of the Health Department in the Western Cape identified ableism as the single greatest obstacle to better health services for disabled people in the province. It would be surprising if this were not also the case in other provinces and countries.
We also see ableism (including internalised ableism) as a major stumbling block to progress in any of our other activities in the continent and internationally.
We recognise that ableism is often perpetuated by disability organisations themselves.
Working with both local and international activists of all disabilities, we intend to run projects aimed at shifting perceptions in view of better service-delivery and the acceptance of disabled people as full, valued members of society.
Our efforts over the past five years have contributed to a growing number of young autistic people in South Africa being able to express their thoughts in words. This year you can expect to hear more regularly from the nonspeaking collaborators within the Autistic Strategies Network as they speak out for themselves via AAC.
Communication is a human right. It has always been our goal to reach nonspeaking autistic people all over Africa. We want to support the growth of fundraising and service-delivery to provide communication access to nonspeakers who cannot afford suitable AAC. Our special special focus is on autistic people with apraxia, an area in which many Speech & Language Therapists are not yet well trained.
We work closely with service-providers, parents and self-advocates.
Shelters are often not accessible to disabled people, particularly to families. Some homeless shelters also have quotas for the number of disabled people they ar prepared to take. We would like to work with other civil society organisations and government departments to address this problem.
We’ve had tip-offs that chemical restraint is once again being used in certain SEN schools. We are seeking partners to help us address this illegal practice in which parents are forced to give their disabled children specific drugs to be allowed to attend a school.
We’re working with agencies and activists locally and internationally to ban nonconsensual Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) in South Africa. We hope that this will set a precedent for other countries in Africa to do the same, in keeping with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). The programme will run in conjunction with our other programmes aimed at reducing ableist crimes.
In collaboration with the Western Cape Network on Disability (WCND) and the Western Cape Government department of Health, we intend to start training public health workers in how to work more supportively with autistic and other disabled people. Part of our training will create awareness of the common health issues in autistic people and their families, and how to address them using available resources.
Autistic Community Network
The Autistic Community Network is a support programme coordinated by volunteers. We collaborate with fundraising organisations and allies in the community to support individual autistic people and sometimes also their friends and family in emergencies such as evictions, difficulty in accessing medical services, abuse or hunger. We’ve been doing this informally for years, but this year we intend to formalise these activities.