Under pressure, Autism Speaks removed a controversial video from its Web site Thursday and privately apologized to a number of disability organizations. Despite this, critics are pressing forward with a public letter condemning the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization.
The video includes an eerie voice-over declaring that autism will ensure that your marriage fails, bankrupt you and make it “virtually impossible” to go out in public without experiencing embarrassment or pain. In contrast, a second, more hopeful portion of the video says parents and others will work tirelessly to overcome the challenges autism presents.
Many self-advocates found the video offensive. Autism Speaks said the video was merely an expression of two fathers who produced the film, both of whom have children with autism.
Under continuing pressure, however, the group removed the video from its Web site Thursday and privately apologized to leaders of other disability organizations critical of the film. Still, the video remains on Autism Speaks’ YouTube channel.
“Autism Speaks staff has made every effort to reach out to those who have expressed their disapproval in order to discuss their concerns and criticisms,” according to the organization’s spokesman Adam Pockriss.
Nonetheless, critics are proceeding with their campaign against Autism Speaks, publicly releasing a letter Thursday asking the group’s sponsors, donors and supporters to find new ways to support people with disabilities.
The letter charges that the video uses, “fear, stigma, misinformation and prejudice against Autistic people as a fund-raising tool” and says doing so “does real damage to people with disabilities everywhere.”
More than two dozen disability organizations including the National Council on Independent Living, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network have already signed the letter.