For the first time, a dialogue session was held between members of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and autistic advocates on the side lines of the Committee’s 21st Session. It was organised by Autism-Europe – with the support of the Government of Malta – on the eve of World Autism Awareness Day in the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. It addressed some of the key challenges faced by autistic people and ways of improving the implementation of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
All speakers on the panel were people on the autism spectrum, from Malta, France, Finland and Switzerland. The discussion was chaired by Dr Alistair de Gaetano, Chairperson of the Maltese Autism Advisory Council. He highlighted the importance of neurodiversity as a concept entering the mainstream, rather than remaining a fringe issue. He gave practical examples to show how autism policy and practice should be aligned, particularly within the context of the UN CRPD.
Access to employment
Stéf Bonnot-Briey, a French member of Autism-Europe’s council of administration, spoke of the need for autistic persons to access the world of employment on an equal basis with others. She emphasised that it was not only about upholding a fundamental right but was also instrumental in upholding their sense of self-worth and dignity. She reminded the audience that the lack of legal capacity also often prevents them from freely accessing the labour market. She stressed that the specific needs of persons on the autism spectrum have to be addressed through the provision of reasonable accommodation, the nature of which may vary greatly from one person to the next. She concluded by emphasizing the diversity of autistic people and thereby of the means necessary to support them in the community according to their individual needs.