Today is World Autism day. It is an internationally recognized day which encourages Member States of the United Nations (UN) to take measures to raise awareness about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) throughout the world. It is a day the countries and peoples are urged to recognize and celebrate the rights of persons with autism.
World Autism Day is one of only seven official health-specific UN Days. The day itself brings individual autism organizations together all around the world to aid in things like research, diagnoses, treatment and acceptance for those affected by this developmental disorder.
Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world come together today to Light It Up Blue in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them.
Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month, aiming to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world.
This year’s observance takes place in the midst of a public health crisis unlike any other in the annals of the world — a crisis that places persons with autism at disproportionate risk as a result of the coronavirus and its impact on society.
The Day aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism – and others living with autism – face every day. As a growing global health issue owing to its increasing exposure in the press and common knowledge, autism is an issue that is only gaining more understanding – and the day’s activities are planned every year to further increase and develop world knowledge of children and adults who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What’s more, World Autism Awareness Day goes one step further to celebrate the unique talents of those with autism, while putting a huge focus on the warm embrace and welcome that these skills deserve through community events around the globe.
Events of the day set out to emphasise that persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others.
But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 as earlier pointed out exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights. However, it is the duty of the international community to ensure that a prolonged disruption caused by the prevailing health emergency does not result in rollbacks on previous achievements regarding the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance.
The United Nations (UN) Secretary General, António Guterres, emphasised this point when he said that Universal human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, must not be infringed upon in the time of a pandemic. He stressed that governments have a responsibility to ensure that their response includes persons with autism and added that persons with autism should never face discrimination when seeking medical care. They must continue to have access to the support systems required to remain in their homes and communities through times of crisis, instead of facing the prospect of forced institutionalization.
In this context, the UN scribe insists that the world as a whole has a role to play in ensuring that the needs of people who are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 are met during this difficult period. Information about precautionary measures must be provided in accessible formats. We must also recognize that when schools employ online teaching, students with non-standard ways of learning may be at a disadvantage. The same applies to the workplace and working remotely. Even in these unpredictable times, the world must commit to consulting persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, and ensuring that non-traditional ways of working, learning, and engaging with each other, as well as global response to the coronavirus, are inclusive of and accessible to all people, including persons with autism.
The rights of persons with autism must be taken into account in the formulation of all responses to the Covid-19 virus. Persons with Autism, in our opinion, are persons with special needs. It is from this perspective that we argue that they deserve to be given all the attention they require to have a normal life devoid of discrimination and such other tendencies that make them feel less human.
On World Autism Awareness Day, let humanity stand together, support each other and show solidarity with persons with autism.