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Thousands across Europe and beyond break barriers together for autism

Around World Autism Awareness Day (2 April), thousands of people responded the call launched by Autism-Europe and joined the second phase of its awareness campaign “Break barriers together for autism- Let’s build an accessible society”.

From Autism-Europe, we would like to sincerely thank all those individuals, families, associations, institutions, companies, policy-makers and celebrities who have publically shown their support and have made this initiative a success. With this campaign, Autism-Europe is aiming at engaging with autistic people and hearing their experiences to understand the many daily hurdles they face. It is only by working together that we can remove those barriers and foster a society in which everyone is included.

In the framework of the campaign, examples of some of the main barriers autistic people and their families face in their everyday lives have being gathered by Autism-Europe in a document entitled “Fostering a barrier-free society for people on the autism spectrum”. It includes 18 testimonies by members of the autism community from 16 European countries together with examples of good practices and policy recommendations that can foster a more inclusive society in nine key areas.

So far in 2018, associations from more than 22 countries have actively supported the campaign. The campaign’s success has been possible mainly thanks to Autism-Europe’s member associations, who have undertaken different initiatives to achieve maximum dissemination of the campaign:

  • In Spain, hundreds of regional and local associations supported the campaign and ran activities in public spaces replicating the ‘break through paper’ gesture. Prominent figures from the world of sport (like players from the football and basketball team Real Madrid, Kiko Casilla and Felipe Reyes), politics (ministers such as Mª. Dolores de Cospedal , leaders of the most important political parties like Pedro Sánchez, and the whole chamber of Andalusian and Castile and Leon governments), trade unions (like CCOO) and disability organisations (ONCE launched a special lottery coupon). On April 6, a concert will take place in the central Callao square of Madrid around the campaign topic and the campaign’s official video is being displaying on the screens of Metro de Madrid from April 2 to April 6.
  • In Luxembourg, the photo exhibition “Breaking barriers together for autism” took place on March 26 together with an event under the patronage of the Grand Duchess that saw the participation of Autism-Europe Director, Aurélie Baranger, who presented AE’s recommendations for a European Autism Strategy to the Luxembourgish community. Dr Andréia Pinto Costa, Research Associate from the University of Luxembourg, also presented the result of her cooperation with the Foundation Autisme Luxembourg for the elaboration of a  National Autism Plan.
  • In Malta, Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis, launched on April 2 the National Autism Council, which will be tasked with drafting the country’s National Autism Strategy. The Council showed its support to the European campaign by holding the campaign banner. Furthermore, Maltese First Lady Michelle Muscat also joined the campaign by symbolically breaking barriers for autism.
  • In Italy, people on the autism spectrum and members of the association Autism Oltre Labirinto completed the Treviso Marathon riding 42km on special bikes designed for autistic people and supported the campaign. For his part, Autism-Europe’s Vice-President Pietro Cirrincione presented the campaign at the Eurime Conference on March 24 in Venice.

At the European level, events celebrating World Autism Awareness Day will conclude with the photo exhibition “Break barriers together for autism” organised by Autism-Europe that will be opened from April 9 to April 11 2018. The exhibition will be hosted by Member of the European Parliament, Rosa Estaràs. The President of European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the President of Autism-Europe, Zsuzsanna Szilvasy, as well as representatives of the European Disability Forum and other EU policy makers will attend the vernissage of the exhibition on April 10 at 11:30am to give political momentum to this second phase of the campaign.

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