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Autism-Europe calls for the removal of barriers for autism to build an accessible society

Autism-Europe (AE) is launching a long-running awareness campaign titled “Break barriers together fort autism – Let’s build an accessible society” to understand what barriers to inclusion autistic people are up against and to identify how society can work to overcome and remove them.

To mark World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), AE is organising a photography exhibition on April 3 in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee. The topic is accessibility and inclusion of people with autism in society.

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On WAAD (2 April) 2017, AE is seeking to promote the removal of common barriers faced by people on the autism spectrum. Its 2017 campaign is accompanied by a global call for action to European decision-makers, other interested stakeholders and the general public. The campaign calls on them to acknowledge the barriers experienced by autistic people, and to work together with people on the spectrum, their families and their representative organisations, in order to remove them.

It is a crucial time to bring to the forefront the access needs of people with autism. Accessibility for persons with disabilities is high on the EU agenda, as the European Accessibility Act proposed by the European Commission is currently being negotiated. The Act will set minimum accessibility requirements for a series of products and services across the European Union and Autism-Europe supports a strong piece of legislation that will bring real change to the lives of millions of people with disabilities in Europe.

Furthermore, 30 March 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (UNCRPD) opening for signature. The Convention’s Article 9 provides that States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities have access to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including ICT systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. Autism-Europe thus calls on member States and the European Union to live up to their commitment.

Breaking through paper campaign

To raise awareness of the objectives of the campaign, AE has asked people with autism and their allies to write a short description of what make society inaccessible for them on a banner or a piece of paper. Then they can photograph or film themselves holding their banner, before breaking through it or ripping it up as a way of symbolically breaking down this barrier. People willing to support the campaign can post pictures of them holding the banner on social media.

Photo exhibition: Break barriers for autism

April 3 will mark the opening of a photography exhibition organised by Autism-Europe in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee. The topic of the exhibition is accessibility for people with autism in society. Pictures have been taken by three photographers from the UK (Graham Miller), Poland (Michał Awin) and Luxembourg (Andre Weisgerber). The exhibition will remain open to the public in the Foyer on the 6th floor of the EESC until 21 April.

Notes to editors:

World Autism Awareness Day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 as an annual day to draw attention to the urgent needs of people with autism around the world.

Autism is a complex lifelong disability. People on the autism spectrum experience persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction, and might display restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests. Currently, around 1 in 100 people in the European Union have autism, which represents over 5 million people.

Autism is often referred to as an invisible disability, because people can often be unaware that a person is autistic. It also means that it can be difficult to comprehend the barriers people with autism are faced with, let alone foresee ways of breaking down these barriers to improve accessibility. More awareness and understanding are therefore needed in society.

Autism-Europe aisbl is an international association whose main objective is to advance the rights of people with autism and their families and to help them improve their quality of life. It ensures effective liaison among almost 90 member autism organisations in more than 30 European countries, including 26 Member States of the European Union, governments and European and international institutions. Autism-Europe is a member of the European Disability Forum and the Social Platform.

For more information and interviews, please do not hesitate to contact:

Aurélie Baranger
Director of Autism-Europe
Email: aurelie.baranger(at)autismeurope.org

Cristina Fernández 
Communication Officer for Autism-Europe
Email: communication(at)autismeurope.org