(Oops, I thought all British channels were BBC. Corrected now.)
I was interviewed, along with Laura Tisoncik and a few other people (some of them pictured during the shots of Second Life), through Second Life, by a reporter who approached us there.
Whoever edited the interview, edited it into something incredibly simplistic that I do not remember us saying.
Laura and I told the reporter at length, for instance, that autistic self-advocacy was really a branch of the disability rights movement. We described the social model of disability (which, while still a model and imperfect, is easier to explain than more complex things) which makes the question of “Is autism a disability or not?” nonsensical by definition. We did not divorce ourselves from the concept of disability even an iota, in fact we were continually reaffirming political autistic people’s connection to the disability rights movement. Neither of us trivialized autism into anything like a “lifestyle choice”.
She also talked to us at length about functioning levels, and we talked about how that concept falls apart as you actually get to know autistic people. We used ourselves as an example, where she is usually stereotyped as high-functioning and I am usually stereotyped as low-functioning, but there are things I can do that she can’t, and the differences between us are really pretty minor and superficial, it’s just that some people take a few small and superficial aspects of us and blow them out of proportion. Neither of us would’ve consented to a description of me as ‘profoundly autistic’ (or ‘mildly autistic’ for that matter, just ‘autistic’ will do nicely, and if you have to describe what we can and can’t do, describe it in terms of specific things, don’t describe it in terms of some overall level, because that always betrays much more about which skills the person labeling finds important than which ones the person being spoken of has).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we were asked specifically what our answer was to people from the National Autistic Society (and I know for a fact that the NAS is not monolithic on this issue, because Larry Arnold and Mike Stanton would both disagree with this idea) who claimed that the autistic liberation movement will make it harder for autistic people to get services. We pointed out the obvious fact that one of the top priorities of autistic adults, including those of us who are political, tends to be getting all autistic people whatever assistance we need to be able to live our lives in the best way possible. That we are in fact always calling for real, proper adult services.
In fact, can anyone read any of the following articles: And People Still Fail to Get It, Again and Again, The Conference Presentation I Won’t Make (But Want To), To the Kit Weintraubs of the World, Why I Am Angry, You Have It So Good, A Reply to the Initiator of the Hear Their Silence Rally, and Input from Autistics and Allies during the Hear Our Voices Campaign, and think that autistic people just don’t understand that some people want or need services? And these are just articles by various people from the website run by two of the people interviewed. Looking further would’ve gotten people even more stuff. Like, oh, The Reality of My Autism by Larry Arnold, who’s on the board of the NAS and is part of the autistic self-advocacy movement as well (and is another one trying to build bridges with the more mainstream disability movements).
But, in the end, they quoted a non-autistic member of the NAS but did not quote any reply to them from us, making it therefore seem like we actually had overlooked this area that we have very much not overlooked.
So, if anyone gets here because they heard of me or this website on Channel 4, be aware how much was mangled in the editing room. It’s way simpler, I suppose, to oppose ideas such as “disability” and “way of life” off each other, it makes for nicer sound bites, but it’s not what we said. Just as, in the other recent article in the UK about this movement, very few if any of the people quoted would’ve actually said something like that either (and there were other distortions in that one, like describing both me and AFF as if we were more prominent in our respective countries than we actually are). The “fun” part about being quoted or paraphrased in the media always seems to be that things always get either edited down to sound bites, distorted, or both, somewhere in the retelling, and then we have to answer to people who are angry at us for saying things we didn’t say.