Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, Autism-Europe inaugurated on 28 March a one-week photo exhibition at the European Parliament as part of its campaign ‘Building an inclusive society for autistic people’, displaying twenty-five photographs from ten talented artists, all autistic or members of the autism community.
The event featured Autism-Europe President, Harald Neerland, who opened the event, MEP Rosa Estaràs, host of the exhibition, as well as fellow MEPs Dolors Montserrat and David Lega. Participants also learned more about the creative process and stories behind the pictures thanks to the participation of Florin Popa, photographer, and Paola Matussi and Valentina Iacucci Ostini, who spoke on behalf of two autism organisations featured in the photographs.
The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola closed the inauguration and welcomed all of the attendees who had come from across Europe to discover the photographs highlighting the lived experiences of autistic people and the European Parliament.
In order to capture the message of inclusion shared during the event, we thought it best to leave it in the words of those who spoke at the inauguration:
“This exhibition is showcasing the voice of people with autism, it is showcasing their lived experiences and it is showcasing some of the barriers to an inclusive society that we see [… this] exhibition is aimed at promoting a better understanding of autism […] understanding, while not enough, is a great start to creating an inclusive society.”
Harald Neerland, President of Autism-Europe
“Through these photographs, we have sought to truly share with all Europeans that if Europe stands for values, disability is the example of those values.”
Rosa Estaràs, MEP and Vice-Chair of the EP Intergroup on Disability
“The only thing we know is that nothing is impossible the day that we, with the help of others, start believing in ourselves and that is what these pictures show, thank you.”
David Lega, MEP, World Paralympic Swimming Champion and Member of the EP Intergroup on Disability
“These beautiful photographs express, through a single image, the great effort and perseverance behind them […] Together, […] we must soon be able to decide that Europe truly is fully inclusive, and that all of its citizens have the same opportunities.”
Dolors Montserrat, MEP
“It is also important to make sure that behind that number [of 7 million people on the autism spectrum in Europe], there is one person, […] there is also a society that not only has the duty to protect but also to promote full inclusion in all our societies.”
Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament
“Even if autism has started to receive more attention in the media and at the political level, it is still an invisible subject […] autism is not just about people with autism and their families, autism is about us as a society, autism says something about our capacity, our willingness to recognise and to understand difference.”
Florin Popa, photographer
“We must embrace all autistic people and work to raise awareness and support for those who are non-verbal or [who have] limited speech and restricted social communication skills. It is our duty as a non-profit organisation to ensure that these individuals receive the resources they need […] This photo drives me and encourages us to never give up, thank you on behalf of our community.”
Paola Matussi, Fondazione Oltre il Labirinto Onlus (Member of Autism-Europe)
“We are very fond of this picture because it depicts a moment where our youth is showing inclusivity towards other people. […] We will like to open a hostel […] where our youth can welcome tourists from all over Europe in Perugia our beloved city. […] We want to change the perspective, because it is not them needing help from others but it could be them helping others.”
Valentina Iacucci Ostini, La Brigata Indipendente