Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Power of Community

I just received an email notification from Ari Ne'eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and current spokesperson for the wider disability community, that NYU has announced the end of the 'Ransom Notes' campaign.

Here is a link to Dr. Koplewicz's official statement.

A few brief words about all this:
First, I can't overstate how impressed I have been by Ari Ne'eman's leadership during this process. Though I am not sure at what point Ari assumed his unofficial leadership role, or how he individually ended up in that position, he acquitted himself admirably by all measures. Ari, in his writings encouraging a response from the broader disability community, facilitated a tone of honest and open communication by using such a tone himself. Noticeably absent from his statements was the contentious nature of so many debates and discussions, at least those in the autism community. Ari was consistent in his position as a coalition-builder, was appropriate in his chosen use of diplomacy to achieve the goal of ending the ad campaign, was clear in his explanations of why the campaign was harmful and offensive to those who live with the labels/disabilities it centered on, and has fostered an environment in which Dr. Koplewicz is now willing to sit at the table with the disability community and craft a campaign that can bring about the ends that NYU initially was striving for.

As I said in my earlier post on this topic, I don't think Dr. Koplewicz ever intended to cause harm to anyone. Quite the contrary, I am thankful that there are professionals who dedicate their lives to careers that serve to benefit people with disabilities of all kinds, and he is certainly to be included in that group. I think this is clearly evidenced in his closing statement about the 'Ransom Notes' campaign: "We hope you will partner with us to bring the issues surrounding child and adolescent mental health to the top of America's agenda. Work with us as we fight to give children and their families equal access to health insurance, remove the stigma that the term "psychiatric disorder" so clearly still elicits, and, most importantly, support the drive to make research and science-based treatment a national priority." While there are still some things in his statement that I disagree with or are couched in such a way as to indicate that his hand had been forced, I am appreciative of the steps he has taken today.

Here are some closing words from Ari Ne'eman which I think encapsulate the issue well:

"This is a victory for inclusion, for respect and for the strength and unity of people with disabilities across the world. It is that message that has carried the day in our successful response to this campaign.
Furthermore, we intend to build on this progress, not only by continuing a dialogue with the NYU Child Study Center and using this momentum to ensure self-advocate representation at other institutions as well, but also by building on the broad and powerful alliance that secured the withdrawal of these ads in the first place.
We are strongest when we stand together, as a community, as a culture and as a people.
Thank you to all of you who have made this victory possible.
Remember: 'Nothing About Us, Without Us!' "


Club 166 said...

I agree that Ari struck just the right tone, and was thus able to unite a wide variety of people behind the effort to end the campaign.

It was a masterful stroke.


Alyric said...

But Ari is a very clever chap - quite happy to be a small cog in his machine:)

Patrick said...

While I am glad to hear about the discontinuance of the notes campaign, I still find its instantiation to have been insensitive, and for the most part thoughtless about the feelings of those it was intended to help.

I will be more glad when other thoughtless advocates, who should also be paying attention to feedback from the Autism community, halt or retract their fear tactic campaigns.