ASAN March Newsletter
This has been a difficult month for many of our community members. We began the month with the virtual vigil for Disability Day of Mourning, where we honored members of our community killed by their parents or caretakers. As we do every year, we read the names of the victims and mourned. Likewise, we mourn the victims of the March 16th shootings in Atlanta, Georgia: Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Xiaojie Tan, Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Daoyou Feng, and Paul Andre Michels. We continue to stand in solidarity with our Asian American community members. The increase in anti-Asian racism over the past year is a call to action for us all — we must demand justice and dismantle systems of oppression. These acts of violence come after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color, especially people of color with disabilities. Black Lives Matter protesters continue to call attention to the ongoing crisis of police violence and anti-Black racism.
And while we welcome the release of Matthew Rushin from prison this week, his incarceration is a reminder that we must fundamentally change our justice system. As advocates, we must make sure that our solidarity does not fade away when the news cycle moves on. We must work to end systemic racism, and be proactive about fighting for the safety of everyone in our community, every day.
As always, we’re thankful to have our disability community working for change alongside us. Thanks to your advocacy, this month Congress passed the first COVID relief bill that includes emergency funding for home and community-based services (HCBS), including funding that can be used to move people with disabilities out of dangerous congregate settings. This is a huge victory for people with disabilities — but more work is needed to address systemic factors that have made COVID-19 so dangerous for people with disabilities to begin with, including Medicaid’s institutional bias. This makes the discussion draft of the HCBS Access Act (HAA), introduced this month, especially welcome. The HAA would build on the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision and provide the Federal Medicaid resources necessary for states to fulfill those promises. We look forward to the process of moving the HAA from a discussion draft to the law of the land. A one-pager about the The Home and Community-Based Services Access Act can be found as a PDF here.
We also applauded the reintroduction of the Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act this month. This bill, which evolved from ASAN’s model legislation to prohibit organ transplant discrimination, would clarify the rights of people with disabilities to be free from discrimination when seeking life-saving organ transplants. Both this bill and the HCBS Access Act are a result of years of advocacy from our policy team, our nonprofit partners, and grassroots advocates in every state.
We’ve been keeping busy with new resources and toolkits. This month, we introduced a new white paper outlining ten core principles to make higher education more accessible to autistic students. A summary of the research is also available in three formats including plain language and Easy Read, as part of our ongoing dedication to making research accessible to everyone. We also debuted our new toolkit on managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS). Good MLTSS programs can be the gateway to independent living in our communities. The toolkit, in Easy Read and plain language, can help self-advocates understand what these programs are, how they’re made, and how we can make our voices heard! And we released new cognitively accessible resources on the COVID-19 vaccine: an animated video and an Easy Read factsheet, both available in English and Spanish.
Finally, April is Autism Acceptance Month! We have so many good things in store for you and our community to celebrate acceptance, accessibility, and neurodiversity. We’ll have new resources, an event reflecting on ten years of neurodiversity advocacy, and new merchandise. It’s full steam ahead as we enter April!
Your continued support makes our work this month — and every month — possible. Thank you for everything you do to make sure that when it comes to the policies that affect our lives, there will be nothing about us, without us!
Director of Advocacy
Autistic Self Advocacy Network