At Aucademy we often talk of a perfect Autistic homeland, affectionately dubbed Autopia. Conceptualised as a place in which all Autistics can lead peaceful and comfortable lives, it sounds like a dream come true; but what are the realities of such a place? Is such a place even possible?
This evening I was discussing such things with a good friend of mine, and one thing became clear. Accommodating Autistics does not necessarily mean all disabled people are accommodated.
Let’s use the UK supermarkets “autism hour” as an example.
In the UK, many supermarkets have an hour a week where they reduce sensory stimuli, and encourage only Autistic people to attend to their shopping in order to reduce crowds. It helps, but there is a wider conversation about only doing this for an hour a week that needs to be addressed another time. We can, however, look at why this can’t be done all the time.
Lower lighting is great for Autistics with no particular intersections of other disabilities, but what of those with conditions of the eye that make seeing in dim light difficult? In our attempt to grant privileged access to one minority, we have removed access for another minority.
This really is the crux of the issue with creating Autopia. Autistic people live at many intersections of experience, and any attempt to accommodate everyone together, will likely marginalise another minority.
A true Autopia would require an individual approach, where each person’s living environment is adapted to there individual needs. It would require a bespoke design.
This however presents an issue with shared spaces. Autistic people represent a great deal of intersections with race, gender, disability, and so forth. The creation of a truly inclusive and safe space for Autistics would require more than sensory rooms and a living situation outside of the grasp of capitalism.
The complexities of creating shared space for all Autistics, both physically, and virtually, is still something that needs to be addressed.
Minority groups from all intersections have been telling us about the bigotry they face within our online community. Non-speakers getting attacked for their use of language when they have no access to Autistic spaces, black and trans Autistics having their experiences ignored and invalidated.
These are just a couple of examples of things that need to be addressed if Autopia is to ever become reality.
Whether we care to admit it or not, the Autistic does have unwritten rules, and some in our community react poorly when newcomers do not understand the nuances of our community. This in itself creates issues of accessibility.
This is personally why I adore neuroqueer theory. Should we not live a life true to our natural selves? We need to encourage Autistics to live authentic lives, not exclude them from our spaces.
This is not to excuse the intentional perpetuation of pathology paradigm views and bigotry, but a comment on the fact that we were all raised with problematic ideas of what it is to be Autistic. Was it not access to the community that helped us change those views, and embrace the neurodiversity paradigm.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to a neurocosmopolitan society. That approach is provincialist in nature, creating privilege for some while marginalising others.
On the whole, I constantly see a great deal of positive growth and evolution from the Autistic community, but like any societal movement as it reaches maturity, the Autistic rights movement has some creases that need ironing out.
Autopia is a beautiful goal to shoot for. It’s time we came together and made it a reality for all Autistics. Together we can build a neuroqueer future, and on that basis, a neurocosmopolitan society.
Isn’t that something worth fighting for?