Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Projecting Accommodation: The Autism-Speaks-Cineplex Partnership

Cineplex Theatre. Taken from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/02/09/cineplex-screenings-autism_n_6643974.html

How many of you heard that twelve Cineplex locations in Canada started offering "Autism-friendly screenings?" (For reasons up ahead, please read before you click this link.) They are screenings for specific movies (starting with the SpongeBob Movie: SpongeBob Out of Water, Cinderella, Home and The Avengers: Age of Ultron) at a child price for every entrant at 10:30 AM once every four to six weeks. What tailors its program toward the Autism spectrum is that it lowers its theatre volumes, uses two-dimensional display projection and dedicates a part of the theatre for Autistic viewers to use as a "calm zone."

Yet what glares me down is that Cineplex partnered with Autism Speaks Canada to bring the program.

Autism Speaks is publicly known as the largest Autism organization and well-known by Autism advocates (including me) to misrepresent us. Their founder states that we are missing from the world because we have Autism. The organization uses a puzzle piece as their logo  to signify that those with Autism have missing parts.The organization made a video in 2009 called I am Autism, stating that we "know no color barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency."  Furthermore the organization excludes those with Autism. Its only-ever Autistic board member, John Elder Robison, resigned in 2012 after its founder continued to call Autism a "problem." We're not a problem; we're a group of people with the ability to concentrate on our passions and are reported to have more empathy than average. Does that lack in morality? Why else would Robison turn away and slam the door?

Is a partnership between Cineplex and an organization which advocates against our qualities to accommodate us something to worry about?

Several times in high school, I was accommodated. Sometimes in tenth-grade history, my History instructor excused me from films. I still remember handing a note to the school librarian to choose the information I needed at my fingertips on the library Windows XPs to write an assignment about Hitler while the rest of the class watched a documentary on him. Even if we ignored my sensitivity to graphic material, the background music in the videos my twelfth-grade Chemistry teacher played made me emotionally sensitive. She let me study in the Science Office, no need for a note as the Science teachers were accustomed to me overtaking the table away from teachers' desks.

There were times when I wasn't accommodated. My high school played music in the halls in the mornings before class, while getting to class and during lunch. Even though several teachers asked that the volume could be turned down, it still remained loud. Getting inside the school, bracing the National Anthem (The true north strong and free) and running errands for three different extracurriculars whose teacher supervisors were in three different parts of the school were sometimes the toughest part of the day.

It is a human right that we, Autistic people, are accommodated. (I'll explain using the term Autistic in another post.) When I accidentally glanced at the comment section on articles about Cineplex's new program, I noticed several Autistic Canadians were pleased. First the teachers and now the theatre. Why, accomodation may just be the next open door . . .

. . .

. . . My tenth-grade History teacher accommodated me with reluctance. She knew I had Aspergers Syndrome and regularly told me I would need to overcome my sensitivities to succeed in university. A mark in the nineties did not reflect the dignity I received below the fifties. A Cineplex-Autism-Speaks partnership may accommodate some of us and enable some of us to enjoy theatre screenings. But I will not tolerate if you took me to Cineplex to watch Frozen, turned down the volume and skipped the parts I can't handle if I might leave the theatre to find a poster of the blue, one-hundred-and-first puzzle piece to the jigsaw I'll never morph into. Furthermore I can imagine a donation box with "We're looking for the CURE!" at the ticket counter. But I have the right to carry my dignity whether or not I'm in a tenth grade History class, whether or not I'm in a twelfth-grade Chemistry class, whether or not I'm a university student, whether or not I walk through Cineplex, or whether or not I have Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. It is not enough to accommodate without respect and I therefore do not approve of Cineplex's program.

I cannot count how many people I know visit Cineplex at least once a month. Some people I know also live outside Cineplexes. Is Autism Speaks's view of people with Autism, people like me, the view I want them to know? Is their view the view I want you to know? Is their view the view I want the world to believe? Would I not rather that you, that everyone looks at the ability to focus on one's passion and the compassion in a person with Autism, a person like me, a person who has lived the past few years explaining hearing sensitivities and why I can't stand graphic material in the hope that I'm understood?

- FA

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