Courtney Johnson traveled to Washington D.C. last week with members of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) to urge legislators to restore and expand two acts that immensely impact persons with disabilities, the Empower Care Act and the Autism CARES Act.

Advocate Courtney Johnson

Specifically, the group met with the teams of Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander to explain the importance of reauthorizing these acts.

The Empower Care Act reinvests state funding for nursing homes into long-term support for persons with disabilities living independently. The Autism CARES Act also provides support to the autism community, but by funding research and training programs; the concerns with this act are that the work is missing research studying the prevalence of autism in adults and the efficacy of adult training programs currently in place. Further, Johnson and the ASAN team also used their time on the Hill to push for ending the use of electroshock devices on persons with autism, a regulation the FDA has been toying with for two years.

The ASAN has not stopped their advocacy with this concerted lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, however. Along with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), they have released statements condemning the current separation of families at our country’s borders. These statements remind us that although reality seems bleak at the moment, large bodies representing whole communities are rallied behind disability advocacy and immigration.

The advocacy work being done here by the ASAN, the CCD, and Johnson brings to light two main points: advocacy in any form is crucial to enacting change in one’s community and legislation impacts all of us in many ways. These values are some that we hold  very dear to our hearts at the American Autism Association as we remind ourselves of our role as the advocates and support system for individuals and families affected by autism.

It is difficult to believe in these values at times when government officials use inhumane measures to separate families and children undergo irreversible trauma while facing the horrors of separation. But it is essential that we do our part by being the voice for those who aren’t given one, by advocating for those who are wronged and continue to fight for humanity above all else.

Johnson reminds us that in advocacy work in general, whether it is condemning the actions of bodies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement or tirelessly advocating for your child with a developmental disability, we may not see the fruits of our labor instantly, but we must remember that we are making impactful change no matter how small.

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