Autism-Europe releases a document gathering 18 testimonies by members of the autism community from 16 European countries on what constitute barriers for them and how we as a society can work together to break down these barriers as part of its long-running campaign for World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), “Beak Barriers Together for Autism”.
Europe counts an estimated 7.4 million people on the autism spectrum (1% of the population according to prevalence studies). This is more than the entire population of Bulgaria. Autism is therefore by no means a rare condition. However, the diversity of the spectrum and the fact it is a largely invisible condition, means that it can be quite easy to overlook the difficulties experienced by autistic people.
Although they might not always be obvious, the barriers autistic people and their families find themselves confronted with are numerous. Autism-Europe conducted a survey across Europe in 2017 to assess the main challenges faced by autistic people. It appears that in all countries, at varying levels, autistic people and their families have similar difficulties in accessing a diagnosis, inclusive education adapted to their needs, employment, person-centred and life-long support, and lack services to assist them in moments of transition throughout their lifespan. As a result, many autistic people are deprived of the right to enjoy life in the community.
As part of our campaign “Break Barriers Together for Autism”, we would therefore like to share a selection of personal testimonies, to illustrate some of the main barriers autistic people and their families face in their everyday life, as well as examples of good practices that can foster a more inclusive society.
When reading this document, it is also important to keep in mind that every autistic person is different which entails that accommodation and support must be person-centred and individualised to respond to the person’s aspirations and needs.
These testimonials are a poignant reminder that the EU and its Member States still have to address many structural obstacles that have a significant impact on access to rights and ultimately the quality of life of autistic people and their families. At Autism-Europe, we strive to shape policies and practices that will make society more autism-friendly and barrier-free, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This document is also an opportunity to highlight some key recommendations for the promotion of the full realisation of the rights of autistic people.