When it comes to improving the lives of people on the autism spectrum—ensuring that support programs and services are available and accessible, advocating for greater inclusiveness in education and employment, understanding and upholding particular rights—it’s vital to be both well-organized and well-informed. That’s where advocacy campaigns like the Autism Society’s “Vote 4 Autism” initiative come in.
The Vote 4 Autism campaign was created to help individuals stay informed of the government’s actions on ASD, and to build a bridge between decision-makers and those affected by their decisions. For many people with an autism spectrum disorder, as well as their families, friends, and supporters, it’s not always easy to understand what proposed government policies on ASD could mean in real-life terms, or to know who to contact to address their needs and concerns. Vote 4 Autism addresses those challenges in a variety of ways: disseminating regular news updates with clear information on topical issues and suggestions for specific actions to take, helping individuals identify and contact their government representatives, and encouraging attendance at key events such as town hall meetings and public debates. In these ways, the campaign helps and empowers individuals to take responsibility for voicing their needs.
Vote 4 Autism is just one of the many activities of the Autism Society, which is widely recognized as the country’s leading grassroots ASD organization. Founded nearly 50 years ago with a mission to improve the lives of everyone affected by autism, the Autism Society remains in steadfast pursuit of that goal today. A prime source of reliable information about autism, the Society publishes a widely-read quarterly journal, annually hosts the country’s most comprehensive national ASD conference, and helps review and interpret current research on ASD. Somewhat uniquely among ASD organizations, the Society is proud to have individuals on the autism spectrum serving on its board of directors and in other leadership positions.
On the political front, thanks to its tireless advocacy campaigns like Vote 4 Autism and its strong national affiliate network, the Autism Society has spearheaded a number of key pieces of legislation concerning ASD over the years. One of its most notable recent successes was helping bring to fruition the landmark 2006 Combating Autism Act, the country’s first autism-specific federal law. Under this act, nearly $1 billion in federal expenditures was authorized over five years for ASD research, education, and early intervention. The act has just been renewed by President Obama as the Autism CARES Act, which dedicates another $1.3 billion in federal funding to ASD efforts over the next five years. Currently in the works for the Autism Society is an advocacy campaign focused on the ABLE Act (“Achieving a Better Life Experience”): a bill that would allow people with disabilities and their families, including individuals on the autism spectrum, to put aside tax-free savings for future life expenses such as education, employment support, health care, and housing.