Sometimes discrimination is obvious, like when a child is denied access to school. Other times it’s less obvious, like when adults with autism do not have the support they need due to lack of public funding.
Each time discrimination occurs, the effects accumulate. Without an appropriate education, it’s difficult for a person with autism to get a job. Without an income and adequate support, it is difficult to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Over a lifetime, this leaves people with autism more and more excluded from the society they live in.
Across Europe, people with autism experience widespread discrimination and social exclusion.
For example, in France, 80 per cent of children and young people with autism cannot attend school due to a lack of appropriately trained teachers and other forms of support.
In Greece, there are people with autism living in a large and inhumane residential institution in which they are trapped in caged beds, prevented from going outdoors and heavily neglected.
Even in the United Kingdom, where support for people with autism is among the highest levels in Europe, only 15 per cent of people with autism are in full-time employment.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with autism have the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to be included in their communities.
They also have the right to assistance in education, employment as well as other forms of support.
Most countries in Europe also have laws to prevent discrimination and support people with disabilities. For rights and laws to make a difference, however, they must be translated into concrete actions.
On World Autism Awareness Day, Autism-Europe is calling on everyone to help us ask decision-makers across Europe to become more aware of autism and take action to prevent discrimination and promote inclusion.