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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Julia Bascom and Coalitions

  In The Politics of Autism, I write:

In 2006, 19-year-old Ari Ne’eman, who had a diagnosis of Asperger’s, cofounded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in response to what members saw as the absence of autistic voices in policy debates on autism. As a motto, the group adopted a saying from the broader disability rights movement, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” ASAN gained national publicity in 2007, with a successful campaign against billboards by the NYU Child Study Center depicting autism as a kidnaper. The ads, said the group, stigmatized people with autism by suggesting that their condition was hopeless. Although billboards appeared only in New York City, the response was nationwide. ASAN used the Internet to join forces with other disability rights organizations and gather thousands of petition signatures.

At The 19th, Sara Luterman profiles Julia Bascom, the executive director of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network:
She and other disability advocates “were on the Hill constantly,” fighting to stop the Trump administration from gutting Medicaid. Protesters from the radical group ADAPT were dragged out of their wheelchairs by Capitol Police outside then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office and from Senate hearing rooms. At the same time, Bascom and other disability advocates were meeting with senators and representatives, begging them not to cut or cap Medicaid spending. The attempt to cut Medicaid and repeal the ACA failed.

The fight gave Bascom and other disability advocates new political capital. Labor unions and the reproductive rights movement both have strained histories with the disability community. That has changed significantly since 2017, in large part due to Bascom and other disability leaders building and maintaining bridges where none had previously existed.

“Before 2017, you wouldn’t get disability advocates and labor in the same room. The effort to expand [home care] has pulled together disability, aging and labor in a way that’s unprecedented. And Julia is a major part of that,” Nicole Jorwic, a longtime disability advocate and colleague, told The 19th