Note: Each of these clippings contains a short excerpt. For the full article in any entry, click the title.
For video news clips and clips of me speaking, check out my videos! (Access information provided for each video.)
7 activists tell us the best thing about being autistic
23 April 2017
Autistic people thrive because of their autism, not in spite of it. And the community will be the first to tell you all the glorious things being autistic brings to their lives. For Autism Acceptance Month, we asked activists to share with us the best thing about being autistic. Their answers challenge the idea that autism causes any sort of “suffering,” and instead celebrate autistic pride, community, and passion.
In autism arrest, the only thing new was the video
22 April 2017
Lydia Brown, a well-known autistic writer, told me that the teachers must do better. “You’re an adult. Being hit (by paper) is not going to kill you. And if you think that being hit means some kid needs to be handcuffed, you’re in the wrong job. No one said teaching was going to be easy. But you don’t punish somebody when they’re panicking.”
Let the video shock you. But know that this is not an isolated incident. If you look around your school, your neighborhood, and your community, you will find disabled children being criminalized for their inability to follow the often arbitrary “norms” of society. No child should be made a criminal for just being themselves.
Speaking my truth about Autism
22 April 2017
I have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and I advocate, educate and support autistic, and other neurodivergent people. I believe we were created this way for a reason, and we have gifts to share in our communities.
What does autism mean? Lydia X.Z. Brown, autistic activist, writer, and speaker defines autism as “a constellation of ways that a person exists in the world and interacts with the world around them: Which means how we communicate, and how we learn, how we understand language expressed to us. How we experience our sensory world. Autism refers to a certain pattern of doing these things in a way that is distinct from the majority or dominant population.”
‘Diverse’ co-chairs named for LGBT march on Washington
20 April 2017
Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Organizers of a planned LGBT march on Washington scheduled for June 11, which has been named The Equality March for Unity and Pride, released on Wednesday the names of 12 of 13 co-chairs of the event but provided few additional details such as how it will be financed or the route of the march.
50+ Autistic People You Should Know
19 April 2017
Not too long ago, Kerry Magro released a list called “100 People with Autism You Should Know,” with the intent of introducing autistic people and their allies to a variety of autistic advocates. Unfortunately, Magro’s list doesn’t really reflect the autistic community. Magro’s list contributes to the idea that autistic people are predominantly white men who don’t view their disability as political. This alternative list is an effort to reflect the diversity of the autistic community. I wanted to highlight fierce advocates for civil rights and inclusion that reject the idea that we must comply in order to be acceptable. You can find these trailblazing autistic activists on personal blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and other social media.
“Getting rejected from Harvard was one of the best things that ever happened to me”
12 April 2017
95.6 percent of people who apply to Harvard don’t get in, meaning thousands of kids this year had to accept the message: “We cannot offer you admission to the Class of 2021.” Lydia Brown, a student at Northeastern Law, is no stranger to that message, having been rejected by Harvard College and then Harvard Law. Now a second year lawyer at Northeastern, Lydia says one of the best possible outcomes from their college applications was actually getting turned down from Harvard – here’s why.
What It Means To Be Highly Empathetic, And Autistic
3 April 2017
The myth of the unfeeling autistic person has societal impacts that go beyond the personal as well. In social settings, I’ve been afraid to admit that I’m autistic, because I didn’t want my friends to fall into the trap of thinking that I’m unfeeling and don’t know how to love. More broadly, this idea is often, troublingly, used to criminalize the community.
“Serial killers, mass shooters, terrorists, and even white supremacists in the vein of the alt-right have all been labeled autistic or other types of neurodivergent or mad by armchair psychologists trying to pathologize violence,” says autistic activist, educator, and writer Lydia X. Z. Brown. “This is an insult to the many neurodivergent and mad folks who are not only survivors of horrific violence, but work constantly to end it.”
13 Ways Professionals in the Eating Disorders Field Can Better Support Autistic People
National Eating Disorders Association
While autistic self-advocates have created significant change, stigma and misinformation around autism and eating disorders still exist. With that in mind, the National Eating Disorders Association hosted an Autism Acceptance Month #NEDAchat, which explored common misconceptions about autism, barriers to treatment for eating disorders, and how those in the field can best serve those in the autistic community.
Disability Justice at the Intersections
20 March 2017
To Brown, making room for all these intersecting elements of identity in each person’s life is crucial to fighting for justice. As the latest speaker in The Trust’s Health Equity Learning Series, Brown focused on disability justice—which they described as a kind of quest to acknowledge and celebrate the complexity of each person’s mind and body, while understanding disability as a social and political force within a larger context of oppression. Their presentation was given in Denver on Feb. 28, and will be integrated into a series of conversations hosted by organizations around Colorado in the coming weeks.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Transgender Comments Invalidated My Womanhood
13 March 2017
This Saturday gone, I spoke on a panel with five other women of colour at WoW Festival. Our talk was titled “Intersectionality for Beginners”. Just before the mics were turned on Guppi Bola, a social justice organiser, and I were talking about queerness. “Isn’t it such a shame what Chimamanda said?” she asked me. I exhaled deeply and held my hand up. “Please don’t tell me now, just before we go on.” I knew the knowledge that one of my favourite authors had fucked up so thoroughly would have kept me from being present.
The talk went well. Lydia XZ Brown gave an excellent keynote speech where they outlined the necessity and potential for intersectional analysis and practice. I read the names of the most recent trans women to become angels too soon for our liking. At the end of the talk there were hugs, exchanges of contact details and I left feeling like a job had been well done. I consciously didn’t check my phone. I wanted to enjoy the feeling of contentment for a bit longer. It was on the train home an hour or two later that I read the words stated by Chimamanda during a Channel 4 interview that wounded me in their othering of my womanhood: “Trans women are trans women.” The message being that we must be particularised as different from cis women because of our private parts. Let’s just keep one thing clear here, the subtext of her interview whispered, They are trans women. Not women. Trans women. Different. Get it?
“I’ve always had a yearning for justice”
28 February 2017
What do queer people, disabled people, people of foreign origin and fat people have in common? How can these groups work together and learn from each other? These questions and others will be examined at the conference Disturbing Existence on March 3-4. The keynote speaker will be Lydia XZ Brown, Autistic Hoya, an American activist and law student of Asian origin, adopted, autistic, disabled, asexual and genderqueer, known for their well defined and fresh perspective on marginalized groups’ struggle for human rights. GayIceland got in touch with them with a couple of questions which they were happy to answer.
What Do LGBTQ Celebrities Look Like at Home?
15 February 2017
Chances are you’ve seen his photographs. If you haven’t, you know the people he’s photographed (a list including – briefly – Buzz Aldrin, Edward Albee, George Takei, Alison Bechdel, and Alan Cumming.) And now he has a new book of photographs showcasing LGBTQ luminaries and ordinaries in the natural habitat of their homes. Tom Atwood is an award winning photographer best known for his 2005 book Kings in Their Castles, a photo collection of queer men in their homes. The project shined an intimate light on both notable and everyday people, and Atwood leveled the playing by showing subjects in a domestic setting (because no one looks famous while their gardening.)
Lydia X. Z. Brown on women and disability
8 February 2017
More than 20 years after the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, Britain’s workplaces, restaurants, arts venues, schools, shops and public transport remain largely inaccessible and unwelcoming to disabled people. Is the women’s rights movement any better? Disability justice activist Lydia X. Z. Brown joins a panel of speakers to discuss feminism and disability at the WOW – Women of the World festival, on Saturday 11 March. We asked Lydia how justice for women can become justice for everyone.
How Doctors’ Offices—and Queer Culture—Are Failing Autistic LGBTQ People
6 February 2017
“As a genderqueer, nonbinary trans person, I’ve found that it is possible to find health care providers who are very competent with transgender/gender-nonconforming people, but they are highly unlikely to also be competent in working with autistic people in a non-pathologizing way,” said Lydia X.Z. Brown, chair of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. “Likewise, most health care providers I might feel comfortable sharing about being autistic with, and who would be more likely to be more respectful and non-ableist, seem not to have much experience working alongside [transgender/gender-nonconforming] people.”
Students get real about race—and how to help each other
Student Health 101
1 February 2017
Lucy Berrington & Meron Begashaw
Racial bias is widespread in human groups and cultures—yet this does not give us an out. Bias causes varying levels of harm, depending partly on the social structure in which it occurs. “Addressing racism means recognizing that we all have the capacity to harm, but also the opportunity to learn and grow,” says Lydia Brown, a race and disability activist and a graduate student at Northeastern University School of Law, Massachusetts. “Among Asians, being people of colour doesn’t mean we are automatically exculpated from being anti-Black, for example. I don’t think it’s the exact same thing as when white people discriminate, but it’s not OK, whether we call it racist, biased, or bigoted.”
Shutting Down Bullsh*t about Autism 2 (video with captioning on-screen)
27 January 2017
A few weeks ago Dylan shut down bullsh*t about autism but many in the autistic community felt the video was incomplete. Today he sits down with four folks on the autism spectrum to tackle more topics like parents speaking over their autistic children, “autistic” versus “person with autism,” and Star Trek.
Facebook video reminder of violence faced by disabled Americans
5 January 2017
David M. Perry
3 January 2017
Evan Ross Katz
“Using mental illness as a punchline reinforces the idea that it is okay to treat people with mental illnesses or any mental disability with mockery or pity, instead of as real people who deserve respect for self-determination and bodily autonomy,” disability justice advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown said in an interview. “By itself, the sign is just another everyday example of casual ableism, but it is a thread in a much larger social fabric of sobering statistics about abuse and violence targeting people with mental illnesses and any mental disability.”
13 People With Disabilities Talk About Life Post-Election
9 December 2016
BuzzFeed recently asked people with disabilities about their feelings on the Affordable Care Act’s possible repeal, and other issues that will impact their lives over the next four years. Here’s what they had to say:
“Witch, Please” discusses Harry Potter, disability, queerness
The Tufts Daily
16 November 2016
Hannah McGregor and Marcelle Kosman of Canadian podcast “Witch, Please” were joined by Experimental College Professor Lydia Brown on Nov. 15 for a panel discussion about queerness and disability representation in the “Harry Potter” series. The event was hosted by the Tufts Podcast Network. Brown, a disability activist, began by speaking about neurodivergent characters in fiction. They mentioned that characters who are explicitly labelled as autistic are usually described as a “collection of deficits,” whereas characters whose disabilities are implied are more realistic and relatable. Brown mentioned Luna Lovegood and Hermione Granger as characters in “Harry Potter” who could be read as autistic or otherwise neurodivergent.
The Link Between Autism and Trans Identity
15 November 2016
Beyond research, numerous organizations are beginning to push for a greater awareness of issues related medical care, including campaigns like #AutisticTransPride, neurodiverse-and-trans-awareness blogs, and the work of activist groups like ASAN. In an essay for the Asperger/Autism Network, an organization that provides support for people on the autism spectrum, the activist Lydia X. Z. Brown suggests the term “gendervague” to express an inseparability of gender identity and neurodiversity. “Being autistic doesn’t cause my gender identity,” Brown writes, “but it is inextricably related to how I understand and experience gender.”
Lessons For Our Future From the Disability Intersectionality Summit
14 November 2016
Carrie Wade, featuring Sandy Ho, Lydia X. Z. Brown, and Mickey Thomas
Lydia X. Z. Brown: “Disability justice is, at its core, a practice of honoring the body. That means actively affirming that every body’s existence is valid, that we all deserve to exist without fear of violence. That different bodies have different capacities and limitations, that our needs are complex and fluid, that everyone occupies multiple categories of identities and experiences. I have only begun to incorporate disability justice as a practice and guiding framework in the last couple of years, and it is so powerful to learn from the wisdom of fellow disabled people of color and queer and trans disabled people.”
Humans first, disability second: Towards a responsible portrayal of disabled people in journalism.
National Association of Science Writers
31 October 2016
Rodrigo Pérez Ortega
It is somehow enrooted deep in society that disabled people are brave just for doing everyday activities — like attending school, driving or buying groceries — and that they should be praised just for that. It becomes a tag that drags a lot of people into the prejudice that they are heroes for “overcoming” their conditions. An able person turns a disabled person into an object of inspiration. This phenomenon is called “inspiration porn” and the reason it exists is in part how the media portrays disability. We have a false idea that “being disabled is necessarily a horrible existence, that it’s suffering, affliction, devastating, tragic and that the appropriate response narratively as well as emotionally is one of pity, one of feeling bad for the person” said Lydia X.Z. Brown, an activist, writer, and speaker, during the panel “Against ableism: Writing about disability” on Saturday, Oct. 29, during ScienceWriters2016 in San Antonio, Tex. This way of thinking is further encouraged by religious speech, social construct, and medical views.
Lydia Brown speaks on disability justice
21 October 2016
James Cressey, assistant professor of education, said, “if we want to partner with people with disabilities, or better yet, become their allies – if this is the work we want to do then we definitely need to hear voices like Lydia Brown’s.”
One Lesley University student, Janna Drolette, came from Boston to hear Brown’s talk, saying, “I came for my Characteristics of Children with Special Needs class. We have field options to choose from and this is the one I wanted to come to. It sounded really interesting.” Drolette added, “you have to change the way you think and the way you’ve been taught to think.”
SickKids’ New Ad Campaign: Fighting words?
19 October 2016
Michael Orsini and Anne McGuire
First, likening illnesses and disability to war forgets the range of experiences and outcomes associated with these conditions. Some of the kids living with the conditions highlighted in the campaign will not “win the battle” and it’s not because they are morally weak or don’t have enough fight in them. The war metaphor implies that positive health outcomes flow naturally from personal will, good choices and a positive attitude. The video’s hyper-focus on overcoming weakness, of conquering illness or disability and ‘getting back to normal’ is a textbook example of ableism, which prominent disability activist Lydia X.Z. Brown defines as “the systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than.”
Le vote des personnes handicapées détermine-t-il le sort de l’élection ?
France TV Bureau Du Washington / France 2 Washington
26 September 2016
Mais “dans les bureaux de vote, c’est souvent l’épreuve”, confie Lydia X. Z. Brown, une activiste autiste, diplômée de la prestigieuse Université de Georgetown : “Pour beaucoup de personnes handicapées, voter s’avère très difficile : les bureaux de vote sont loins, parfois inaccessibles en transport collectif ou gérés par des personnes qui ne comprennent pas le rôle des aides à la personne, pourtant nécessaires lorsque l’on est invalide. Pire, certains handicapés sous tutelle peuvent être privés de leur droit de vote”. En 2005, ils étaient 30% à avoir rencontré des difficultés pour se rendre aux urnes.
(Original quote in English before translation: “For many other people with disabilities, polling sites can be completely physically inaccessible, inaccessible by public transit, or staffed by workers who do not understand the role of assistive technology or personal attendants providing support to a disabled person. Worse, those with disabilities who are under guardianship or have a felony conviction may be completely stripped of the right to vote altogether, even if they could get to the polls.”)
Advocates: Clinton’s Speech on Disabilities Fell Short in One Big Way
22 September 2016
To Lydia Brown, a disability justice advocate and educator who is disabled, Clinton’s speech “falls into the dangerous trap of tying our worth to our productivity and economic value.”
“Clinton acknowledged the recent police killings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, but failed to mention that Scott was Black and disabled, as are many of those most likely to be targeted by police violence,” Brown said. “Disability is more than just one aspect of a person’s identity or experience—it connects with all parts of our lived experience, but political power often only belongs to white people with disabilities who are able to gain economic advantage while disabled people of color face compounded lack of political, social, and economic power.”
Why Japan won’t release the names of its knife attack victims
Catholic News Agency
13 September 2016
But the problem goes beyond Japan, said Lydia Brown, an author, speaker and advocate for the disabled, who also has autism. “The…victims have been mostly ignored or quickly shuffled through the news cycle in all world media, both within and outside Japan,” Brown told CNA in e-mail comments. “Ableism (discrimination in favor of the able-bodied) and related shame, stigma, and dehumanization of disabled people is widespread in East Asian cultures, but is also equally prevalent in Western and other societies as well.” An example of this discrimination is the way Western media treats the stories of disabled people who are murdered by their family or caretakers, Brown said. “…our own media narratives typically paint such incidents as ‘understandable’ due to the ‘stress’ or ‘burden’ of supporting a disabled person,” Brown said.
Justice System Disproportionately Harms LGBT People of Color
22 August 2016
Sometimes zealous criminalization of sex work means that LGBTQ people can be funneled into the system for morality offenses that are antiquated and, campaigners emphasize, deeply ineffective in solving the problems that have led many to sex work in the first place.
Other factors, like the criminalization of HIV status that still occurs in some states, also impact both racial minorities and LGBTQ people disproportionately. For instance, individuals can become ensnared in the justice system for having sex while HIV positive, even if their partner was aware of their status.
Lydia X. Z. Brown, 2016 Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force, provides one example of the multiple pressures faced by LGBTQ people of color:
“Yet queer and transgender people of color face risk of profiling, arrest, and police violence even – or perhaps especially – when victimized by crime. Just ask Ky Peterson, a Black transgender man who was sentenced to twenty years in prison for killing his rapist in self-defense; or Robert Suttle, a Black gay man living with HIV who served prison time, lost his job, and is required to register as a sex offender for the next eight years for the crime of having a vindictive ex-partner who took advantage of HIV criminalization statutes to have him prosecuted for consensual sex.”
Autistic Girls of Color Missing from Media Narrative
Teen Voices at Women’s eNews
17 August 2016
For Elly Wong, an Asian American freshman at Syracuse University who identifies as genderfluid, the issue is one of intersectionality and typecasting. “There’s too much of the old mainstream view of all autistics as kids or savants, not enough of us as just weird people doing a variety of things. Autistic representation is pretty lacking right now,” Wong says.
That is the problem Lydia Brown wanted to address by starting the blog Autistic Hoya. Brown is an autistic activist from Boston, who, like Wong, uses plural pronouns.
“There are many autistic women of color and autistic genderqueer people of color involved in activist spaces, but our voices are few and far between compared to white autistic women, white autistic genderqueer people and white autistic men,” Brown said in an email interview. “Especially when it comes to representation and leadership in activist and advocacy organizations.”
Autistic Activist Lydia X.Z. Brown Is Fighting ‘Violence Affecting Disabled Folks’
NBC News Asian America
15 August 2016
As a law student and longtime social activist, Lydia X.Z. Brown is a regular presence at legal and social justice events across the East Coast. Despite that, Brown says they often get a bewildered reaction when it’s revealed they are autistic. “People will look at me as if I am one of their peers, but as soon as I disclose that I am autistic, their voice register changes,” Brown told NBC News. “They go ‘Oh, good for you. You must have overcome so much.'” The assumption that autism is a condition that should be considered shameful or that must be overcome is something Brown has devoted their entire life to changing. Now 23, the Northeastern University School of Law student has been advocating for disability rights since their early teens.
A Herd of Glass Unicorns: A Review of QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology, edited by Raymond Luczak
The Deaf Poets Society
One of the anthology’s strongest contributors is Lydia Brown, a genderqueer law student who is a neurodiversity and autism rights activist based in Boston. Brown primarily writes from the point of view of an autistic person and about boards and conferences focused on autism. Sarcastically, they write that conferences ought to “[r]elegate disabled speakers to the ‘inspirational personal story’ presentation. You should ignore any of their interest or ability to speak about public policy, best practices, recent research developments, advocacy strategies, theory, etc.” Brown’s work echoes editor Raymond Luczak’s mention in his introduction of inspiration porn, and the ways in which it is harmful to people with disabilities. Although I certainly agree with Luczak that this sort of pornography is harmful to disabled people, I do feel it is necessary to distinguish from the variety of ways in which disability is exploited for the able-bodied, hearing majority’s comfort. For example, hearing people’s tendency to view ASL as performance art is qualitatively different impact-wise than the cliché memes on social media featuring a physically disabled person performing some physical activity with the caption, “what’s your excuse?” Brown’s work, and QDA more generally, endeavor not just to challenge this way of thinking on disability, but aim to offer a more holistic view of disability.
Violence, Disability, and the Lessons of Sagamihara
26 July 2015
There’s a much bigger story to be told about dehumanization and its consequences. These awful stories are not anomalies. The writer Lydia Brown, one of the most important voices in today’s disability rights movement, responded to the violence in Japan by writing that ableism is not just “bad words. It’s violence.” Brown links the massacre in Japan to ongoing use of electric shocks on autistic children in a Massachusetts school, incarceration of disabled prisoners, and many other ways that individual and structural ableism endangers the bodies and minds of people with disabilities.
Advocates hope FDA will ban electric shock devices used at Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton
22 July 2016
If the ban doesn’t pass, advocates say they aren’t giving up. But many are also worried that JRC isn’t planning ahead for if the ban does happen. Even if the FDA does decide to pass its ban on GEDs, advocates say their fight isn’t over. “JRC, as far as any of us are aware or could possibly suspect, are not preparing any transition,” said Lydia Brown, chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. Some students might leave JRC if the ban passes, Brown said, but others might stay, and what kind of therapy they’ll be subjected to is unknown. “For those remaining at the JRC, it’s an open question,” Brown said. “The JRC has been able to successfully evade oversight and monitoring for decades.”
Critical Conversations: Lydia X.Z. Brown on Ableism and the new Anthology All the Weight of Our Dreams
18 July 2016
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a queer, disabled, and east asian non-binary activist, advocate, writer, and law student. Brown, along with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, have co-edited the first anthology of writing and artwork by autistic people of color, titled All the Weight of Our Dreams. We asked Lydia about the new book, the state of ableism, and what they look forward to for the future.
If You Care About Mental Illness, It’s Time to Stop Saying “Crazy” and “Insane”
24 June 2016
Science backs it up: Research has shown that subtle discrimination can hurt people’s self esteem. This 2005 study — though not about ableism — asked lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals to read scenarios of straight people “saying or assuming things potentially offensive to gay [men] or lesbian women.” Examples included saying “butch” to describe a woman with short hair and no makeup, or saying “gay” to describe someone perceived as unintelligent. For each, the participants recorded the extent to which they’d be offended and less open about their sexuality, among other criteria.
“Not only did respondents find the scenarios to be offensive and indicative of prejudice, but perceived offensiveness was associated with a decreased likelihood of coming out,” the researchers found.
But as Brown pointed out, changing common speech is just a start. “We can’t focus all our attention on language and say that that will solve ableism,” they said.
4 Disabled Writers/Bloggers You Need to Read: Ableism When You’re Disabled, Visibility and Representation is So Important
Wear Your Voice Magazine
15 June 2016
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a fantastic writer and radical disability justice activist. They are a genderqueer person of color, chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and is currently in law school. Brown started their website, Autistic Hoya, back in 2011. Not only are they a writer, they have been doing grassroots activism work for several years as well as public policy advocacy and outreach. They write about ableism in language, public policy and Autism awareness, accessibility, and other social justice topics that affect people with disabilities.
Writing Culture Has An Ableism Problem
14 June 2016
Hearing these ableist “tips” over and over can create a sense of inadequacy: You feel like you aren’t doing enough to be successful at the thing you’re most passionate about, and you never will. Lydia Brown, 22, born in China and raised in the Boston area, is a nonbinary writer and activist attending Northeastern University School of Law. They lament:
The expectation [is] that publishing […] is easy because all you have to do is send out a million query letters to agents, follow up, etc. [But] I have executive functioning disabilities, as do many autistic and other neurodivergent people, which make doing any large task with multiple little tasks involved extremely difficult.
The awards were presented at an event held in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Keynote speaker Lydia Brown, a disability rights activist, spoke to a mixed audience of faculty, staff and students on the topic “Tear Down These Walls: Demand Disability Justice as/in Liberation.” Recalling powerful stories about people in the disability community, Brown referred to the “problem of disability” as a social question of what do people do about disability, how do they understand it, and how do people, as a community, understand and respond to disability.
Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
31 May 2016
Liz Weintraub interviewing Lydia Brown
In this week’s edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz Weintraub interviews Lydia X. Z. Brown who is talking about a new Anthology on Autism and Race.
Science, Race, and the Invisibility of Black Autism
17 May 2016
HERE ARE SIGNS, at least, that the issue is starting to get some serious attention, primarily due to the efforts of autistic self-advocates and their families. There are communities, as represented by the website, The Color of Autism that seek to highlight both the gap and the needs. This spring, a powerful anthology on autism and race called All the Weight of Our Dreams, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, will be published by the Autism Women’s Network. And the mainstream media is starting to raise the issue. Earlier this year, National Public Radio made a point of discussing the challenges for African-Americans diagnosed with autism as part of an investigation into the condition.
Complaints and Closures Strain Campus Resources
29 April 2016
Suzanne Monyak and Aly Pachter
With five academic coordinators responsible for the entire student population, the Academic Resource Center faced criticism for its tight quarters and inadequate resources in an external review submitted to the university in January. The 14-page report, which was obtained by The Hoya in April and eventually leaked in full by disability rights activist Lydia Brown (COL ’15) on her blog, was conducted in October by Sheilah Shaw Horton, vice president for student development at Loyola University of Maryland, and Myrna Cohen, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Weingarten Learning Resources Center. Among the 15 recommendations included in the report, Cohen and Horton recommended moving the ARC office to a larger space and hiring two more full-time learning coordinators, noting the ARC’s “wheelchair inaccessible” location on the third floor of the Leavey Center, its “claustrophobic” testing room two floors above and its undersized staff.
Meet the people being left out of mainstream conversations about autism: Marginalized groups debunk the ‘Rain Man’ stereotype.
22 April 2016
Lydia Brown is a 22-year-old Asian, genderqueer autistic person who uses the pronoun “they” and serves as chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. They told NTRSCTN that people of color are underrepresented in autism-centered organizations: “I’m exposed to an autistic activism/advocacy movement where almost all the leaders are white.”
Brown was misdiagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder because a psychologist thought their behavior was related to being adopted from a Chinese orphanage. There are “a lot of overlapping ableist ideas about adopted children as damaged, emotionally or otherwise, which depends on the idea that being disabled means being damaged or defective,” they said.
Accessibility push faces tricky terrain
22 April 2016
Disability rights advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown (COL ’15), while an undergraduate at Georgetown, tried for years to get the administration to support the establishment of a disability cultural center on campus. Brown said that after three years of working on the proposal, the university never offered any support, even after the GUSA executive branch endorsed the center in early 2015. The center would serve as a conduit for communication between different offices handling disability issues, according to Brown. Only three universities — Syracuse University, University of Minnesota, and University of Illinois at Chicago — currently have such a center that works with disabled students and their allies. The lack of action by the university in creating a disability cultural center is indicative of a larger problem with ableism on Georgetown’s campus, according to Brown. “Overall, the biggest problem is institutional non-recognition of ableism on this campus,” Brown said. “And that covers a lot of sub-things or sub-points such as there’s no coordinated set of resources or support system for people with disabilities or for people who want to practice ally-ship.”
EB: Fighting against the monolithic ideal of autism is not just about the spectrum and age, but also about race, class, gender, and sexuality. How different are autism stories at the intersections of other marginalized identities?
SS: That’s a very good question, but as a white, neurotypical, cisgender male, I’m not the best person to answer it. I’d like to refer your readers to a superb anthology coming out in April called All the Weight of Our Dreams (through the combined efforts of Lydia X.Z. Brown, Senior Editor; E. Ashkenazy, Project Manager and Editor; and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Assistant Project Manager and Editor), about the intersections between autism and race. The authors talk about the complex pain of feeling excluded for being autistic from the same communities where they find support for being people of color. I hope this book finds a wide audience.
Asian Pacific Americans with Disabilities: Our Stories, Our Lives
Disability Visibility Project
20 March 2016
One major theme is the sense of invisibility in both APA and disability communities. Here are a few quotes:
…disability is not a white people problem…we are so not a monolith. But most people interpret AAPI to mean only east asians (like me), which erases a lot of people from any conversations, policies, or programs. The other issue with this erasure is not only that many disabled Asians get left out but that Asians who *aren’t* really part of the U.S. mainstream disability community aren’t engaged *at all*. Especially immigrant folks.
–Lydia X. Z. Brown
Who needs Twitter? Life & Culture Marginalised groups in particular find a lot to love about Twitter’s raw nature
25 February 2016
For many disabled people, Twitter provides a welcome opportunity to interact without having to engage with people face-to-face or leave the house – things that can be serious problems not only for those with physical disabilities, but also those with anxiety or depression. “Many marginalised groups have found Twitter to be a very useful and sometimes healing platform to share experiences, to commiserate, to realise ‘wow, I’ve had that experience too’, but also as a means of protest and consciousness-raising for people outside that community,” said Lydia Brown, a disability rights advocate and writer in the US. Brown, who is autistic, was the originator of #TheAbleistScript, a hashtag late last year through which people shared their experiences of the well-meaning but ultimately patronising things people sometimes say to disabled people, such as how “inspirational” it is that they accomplish things.
Student pushes bill on autism training
The Milford Daily News
9 February 2016
It was seven years ago at Lexington Christian Academy where activist and advocate Lydia Brown began writing the text for a bill that would provide police with training on autism and other developmental disabilities. Like the people Brown advocates for, Brown, too, is autistic. Now a student at Northeastern Law School, Brown, the chairperson of a state council on disability, is urging the Legislature to pass bills on police and criminal justice training for working with people who have autism. The bills in the House (H. 2098) and Senate (S. 1264) would institute police training on autism and other developmental disabilities to reduce harm to people interacting with law enforcement or prison staff. Police and corrections officers would learn basic information about autism and other disabilities and techniques to de-escalate conflict.
Learn to love yourself: Our experts tell you how
Student Health 101
Q. How can I feel better about my disability?
—Junior, Thornton, Colorado
Answer: “Like many disabled young people, I struggled with self-esteem and identity development for a long time. Growing up disabled can be incredibly isolating—you might only be around people with bodies or brains like yours in places like group therapy or the hospital. Even the most well-meaning relatives, teachers, and classmates might unconsciously accept the idea that disability means broken or defective, and it can be so hard to find meaningful, practical support. I began to develop an empowered disability identity and autistic pride when I found out that there are whole communities out there of people like me [who are] thriving—not despite disability, but because of disability.”
The Boston doctor who studied autism before autism
The Boston Globe
26 January 2016
In 1846, the Boston physician Samuel Gridley Howe, already renowned as the founding director of what would become the Perkins School for the Blind, set off across Massachusetts on a mission. The state had tasked him with determining “the condition of the Idiots of the Commonwealth,” their number, and “whether anything can be done in their behalf.” […] These people were widely grouped with others with cognitive disabilities as “idiots.” Recently, however, three writers have identified Howe’s outliers quite differently: They say these Massachusetts residents might have had autism. […] For those in the autism advocacy community, Howe’s report offers a tantalizing kind of prehistory. Lydia Brown, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and a former policy team member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said in an e-mail that it’s “fantastic to learn more about a marginalized community’s history in part by looking to see evidence of our existence in the past. . . I think it’s important and beautiful to look for traces of disabled people — and autistic people in particular.”
Melrosian of the Month: Lydia Brown
Melrose Free Press
25 January 2016
Our latest Melrosian of the Month is Lydia Brown, the new chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. At age 22, Brown becomes the youngest person in the country to serve as chair of a statewide Developmental Disabilities Council. In this new role, Brown will work closely with Council leadership and state and federal policymakers to continue the MDDC’s efforts to promote self- sufficiency, community inclusion and opportunity for all people with developmental disabilities. Who is Lydia Brown? Brown, currently a law student at Northeastern University, is an autistic and multiple-disabled activist, writer, and speaker whose work has largely focused on violence against people with disabilities.
#SayTheWord: Why I’m reclaiming the word ‘disabled’
21 January 2016
Jax Jacki Brown
There has been a push in recent years to adopt person first language, instead of saying disabled person one should say “person with a disability”, to remind us that a person with a disability is a person first and someone with a disability second. However, this move is hotly debated by many people with disabilities who see their disability as intrinsic part of their identity, one which they do not wish to be separated from. The debate about whether to refer to ‘disabled people’ or ‘people with a disability’ is contested and evolving both within and outside of the disability community. This debate has been termed ‘identity-first versus people-first language’ but ‘to dismiss it as a silly semantics argument denies the power of language’ warns disability writer Lydia Brown.
Journalists should learn to carefully traverse a variety of disability terminology
National Center on Disability and Journalism
7 January 2016
Although many individuals with disabilities do favor people-first language, a growing number of disabled people, especially from the Deaf community and the autistic community, prefer identity-first language, such as autistic woman. […] The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in Washington, D.C., explains clearly that most autistic advocates affiliated with ASAN prefer identity-first terminology. Autistic blogger, activist, and law student Lydia Brown said in a 2011 blog post reposted on the ASAN website as a language guide: “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as ‘Autistic,’ ‘Autistic person,’ or ‘Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity — the same way one refers to ‘Muslims,’ ‘African-Americans,’ ‘Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer,’ ‘Chinese,’ ‘gifted,’ ‘athletic,’ or ‘Jewish.’”
Autism Advocates Cautiously Optimistic on Clinton Proposal
6 January 2016
However, since then, as understanding and acceptance of autism has evolved, the concept of “combating” autism has fallen out of favor. When the 2006 legislation was re-authorized in 2014, it was called the Autism CARES Act. Similarly, last week at a town hall in New Hampshire, Clinton talked about “supporting” people on the spectrum and their families. “Improving support for children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families can vastly improve their lives,” her policy proposal said. Lydia Brown, an advocate on the spectrum and a law student at Northeastern University, welcomed Clinton’s evolution. “I am glad to see she has evolved,” Brown said. “If you want us to be supporting you, then you should use supportive language.” However, while pleased with many of the policy proposals, what matters is what happens concretely if Clinton is elected, Brown said.
I’m Not Broken: What this Washington reporter with autism wants you to understand. (full text PDF)
4 December 2015
Lydia Brown—who started the blog Autistic Hoya as an undergraduate at Georgetown and who interned at ASAN (she is now a law student at Northeastern University)—drives home this point: “What we really need are to build stronger support networks for autistic people whether they’re in D.C. or elsewhere, to provide the support necessary to get the opportunities that whoever among us have gotten,” she says. The importance of helping people on the spectrum to find their way in Washington cannot be stressed enough. People on the spectrum’s access to social capital is already limited as is. But not having a means to access political capital means that, too often, political rhetoric is shaped not by us but by others acting on our behalf.
‘Crip’ faces erased from queer life and spaces
27 November 2015
“QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology,” edited by Raymond Luczak, (Squares & Rebels), bears witness to voices long unheard and lives historically unseen in our community. In the anthology, 48 writers from around the world in fiction, nonfiction, comics and poetry defiantly break through the code of discrimination, scorn and pity. Sometimes terms like “intersectionality” and “diversity” are just clichés that change nothing. That’s not the case with this volume. QDA presents a cornucopia of intersectionality from Monique Flynn, a queer femme working against the stigma around mental illness to Sara Ibrahim, who lives in the Middle East, is interested in race and disability and working on her first novel, to Lydia Brown, an East Asian queer, genderqueer, asexual and autistic activist and writer.
A Queer Disability Anthology: Disability and LGBTQ Intersectionality
13 November 2015
Sometimes a book drops in your lap like a miracle you didn’t even know you needed. That’s what happened with QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology edited by Raymond Luczak and published by Squares & Rebels Press. I never thought speaking up about disability exclusion at AWP would connect me with a community of writers with disabilities, but that is what happened — starting with an email from Luczak inviting me to review the QDA anthology. I jumped at the chance because I didn’t know there were disability anthologies out there. I actually said out loud, “WHAT? This exists?”
Perhaps because of how QDA found its way into my mailbox, I couldn’t help but howl (in the best way) at How Not to Plan Disability Conferences by Lydia Brown. No. 1: “Form a planning committee without any actually disabled people on it.” (Quick, somebody dial A-W-P.)
#TheAbleistScript spells out discrimination against people with disabilities
Al Jazeera America
6 November 2015
Though more than one billion people across the world live with some sort of disability, ableism, or discrimination against those who are disabled, still persists. On Friday, blogger Lydia Brown, who has autism, took to Twitter with #TheAbleistScript to share commonly heard assumptions and offensive remarks about people with disabilities.
Disability Course Cluster Established
23 October 2015
Disabilities rights activist and former GUSA Secretary of Disabilities Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15) said the cluster will bolster the establishment of a disability studies minor. “Georgetown can use the course cluster pilot as a steppingstone toward establishing a full, formalized minor in disability studies,” Brown wrote in an email to The Hoya. In the past few years, an increasing number of universities have created a disability studies program, including Syracuse University, the University of California Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brown said that she hopes students in the cluster will be able to apply what they learn in class. “Ideally, students taking disability studies courses and attending related events would develop more nuanced consciousness of ableism in society and perhaps be better positioned to incorporate a disability justice analysis into their other coursework, campus activities and future employment,” Brown wrote.
New course cluster explores interdisciplinary field of disability studies
The Georgetown Voice
18 October 2015
Lydia Brown (COL ‘15), a former disability rights activist at Georgetown, commented on how this cluster is a step in the right direction, but there are other ways Georgetown could expand awareness. “Outside the academic curriculum, Georgetown could commit to a concrete plan for opening a Disability Cultural Center to provide a university-wide central hub for disability-related programming, curricula, and community building,” she said.
Fix the charity that wants to ‘fix’ autism
Al Jazeera America
8 October 2015
David M. Perry
Amy Sequenzia, a non-verbal autistic, points out that she might be considered the “poster child” for Autism Speaks’ idea that life with autism is tragic, but that she’s doing just fine. She said that if Autism Speaks wants unity, they must move away from so-called “fixing” therapies and ensure that “autistics [are] part of every conversation about what affects our lives.” Autistic advocate Lydia Brown noted that simply including autistic people isn’t sufficient, because disability identity intersects with other aspects of identity (say, race, class or sexual orientation). “Autism Speaks refuses to take any steps toward empowering autistic leadership, let alone focusing on the leadership of autistic people from multiply marginalized backgrounds,” she said.
At the Intersection of White Privilege and Disability
The Body is Not an Apology
2 October 2015
The faces we see in the disability rights movement are primarily white. Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann, and Justin Dart were all pioneers in the disability rights movement, crucial to getting civil rights laws passed—but this movement has not been without the contributions of people of color. Unfortunately, their accomplishments are often overshadowed by white people. To that end, I believe it is essential that we continue to raise the profiles of amazing disabled activists of color. Here are some folks we should all know about. I encourage you to take the time to check out their work.
This Is What Sex Ed for the Intellectually Disabled Looks Like
29 September 2015
Outside of parents and schools, community programs can offer an alternative resource for sex education—and, crucially, a safe space to practice social skills and interact with the concept of developing sexuality firsthand, though flirting and socializing with other teenagers. “My major experiences [with sex education] were The American Girl Body Book and a ‘relationship social skills group,’ for young adults on the autism spectrum,” said Lydia Brown, an autistic 22 year-old law student and disability activist. But not all community programs are created equal. “It was a pretty horrifying experience. The group ranged in age from 15 to 22. [They spoke to us] in an incredibly condescending tone of voice—like the kind of speech where people intentionally draw out every word because they assume you won’t understand otherwise.”
GU Hires First Access Coordinator
22 September 2015
The Georgetown University Student Association announced Friday that the university hired Anisha Thadani as its first access coordinator and events manager, a position that will address accessibility issues for students with disabilities on campus. According to a statement released by GUSA, Thadani began work in August. She will be the primary point of contact for issues related to campus spaces and access routes, and will oversee programming requests. The appointment comes after student advocacy over the past few years to improve campus accessibility for students with disabilities. In meetings between GUSA and student advocates, both called for the university to coordinate resources for students with disabilities in a more streamlined manner.
Op-Ed: Autism Speaks needs to do a lot more listening
24 August 2015
Among the areas of research that are perpetually underfunded in the U.S., says disability rights advocate Lydia Brown, are ways of facilitating inclusive education, developing strategies for preparing autistic teenagers for the workforce, studying problems in sensory integration, helping autistic people to live more independently in their communities, improving access to healthcare, reducing discrimination in employment and housing, and ending the abuse of autistic people by their service providers.
Students of Color Conference—25 years of movement building
The International Examiner
9 July 2015
The event hosted three keynote speakers, all from different backgrounds to expose students to different communities and how communities intersect. In particular, Lydia Brown did a keynote titled, “From Self to System: Why Every Movement Needs Disability Justice.” Brown’s keynote brought to light a much needed discussion on ableism and overall the violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people. this sparked conversations afterward as to how our schools are and making sure we are accessible to all students.
Disability Justice: Designing for Access at TLISI 2015
The Prospect, Georgetown University Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship
1 June 2015
Both Rifkin and Önder are committed to raising awareness of accessibility issues on Georgetown’s campus. During their session, Rifkin and Önder referenced two students with disabilities in particular who they learned from. Graduated students Lydia Brown and Heather Artinian were outspoken advocates for disability justice while at Georgetown. During the session, the professors shared an excerpt from an article Heather Artinian wrote for the student newspaper The Hoya, in which she highlighted her difficulty in requesting accommodations in order to participate in extracurricular events: “My deafness is a part of me. It does not end when I walk out of a classroom.” Önder and Rifkin used this to frame a discussion about the Accommodationist Approach. Under this framework, the disability resides in the student and it is their responsibility to arrange for their own accommodations. However, as Rifkin pointed out: “What we’re hearing from Heather is she is a person, she’s not a compliance issue.”
Op-ed: We Must Protect Disabled LGBT Adults From Conversion Therapy
18 May 2015
Jordan Gwendolyn Davis
But, here’s the issue: as with all Leelah’s Laws, this new one only covers the practice of conversion therapy for those under 18 years of age. Of course, it is very reasonable that young people would be enumerated in such legislation, as they are often uniquely vulnerable to mental or even physical coercion from adults, along with being protected by a general social consensus that the young must be kept from harmful influences. But are LGBT youth the only people who are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of conversion therapy? Not by a long shot. An invisible reality remains: LGBT disabled people of all ages are a second demographic that’s at risk of receiving conversion therapy.
The corrosive cult of compliance in our schools
Al Jazeera America
22 April 2015
David M. Perry
Kayleb Moon-Robinson is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Virginia. One day at school, he kicked a trash can and was charged with disorderly conduct in juvenile court. A few weeks later, he disobeyed a new rule (made just for him) that he stay behind in the classroom while his peers left. When the school resource officer (SRO) arrived to take him to the principal’s office for disobedience, Kayleb reportedly struggled and swore. The officer allegedly slammed the boy down on a desk and handcuffed him. Kayleb is now being charged with felony assault on a police officer, and his future is very much in doubt. Kayleb is autistic and African-American. The state of Virginia wants to brand him a criminal.
Lydia Brown, an autistic activist, wrote a blog post calling for a joint response to Kayleb’s impending incarceration. In an email, she said, “We need to urge organizations working for racial justice, disability rights and the end of mass incarceration to acknowledge the intersectional complexities of what is happening to Kayleb and to unite in collective demands for real justice.”
Protesters question mission of Autism Speaks
20 April 2015
Autism Speaks held its seventh annual awareness fundraiser and 5K run on April 12 at Kendrick Park. The outreach effort was a success for the non-profit organization, raising nearly $31,000 for autism research. But for a group of local autistic protesters, the event marked a second year speaking out against the Autism Speaks mission. [… Rebecca] Binns once supported Autism Speaks, but recently, through online bloggers like Lydia Brown of Autistic Hoya, discovered the “disturbing” language the organization uses to represent her. She encourages people to donate to other organizations, like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).
Student Activists Share Georgetown Experiences
17 April 2015
A panel of student activists reflected on their personal stories, inspirations and visions for the future of student activism in the Healey Family Student Center Monday evening. The event, titled Pass the Torch: A Celebration of Student Activism, was the second part of the three-part Ignite the Dream: Race and Socioeconomic Class in America, an event series aimed at increasing dialogue and awareness on the topics of race, class and social inequity. […] The panel also discussed motivations to become involved with student activism and what Georgetown’s administration could do to foster greater equality and access to benefits on campus. Brown advocated for the creation of a disability cultural center on campus, which she has advocated for since August 2012. “We are in a place where our university is constantly talking about innovation or designing the future, but all of the money that is going towards events, programs and initiatives that are going towards designing the future innovation really only serve to perpetuate empire and do not serve to empower the most marginalized people that are already on this campus,” Brown said.
GUSA Executives Lay Out Plan for Youtopia
17 April 2015
On a really grand, macro level, what are your priorities for the entire term in office?
Luther: I would say that something that specifically falls on our timeline, whether we like it or not, is Campus Planning and then there are a few other issues area on campus that because of how serious the effects are, it is very important for us to engage with them. Those are things like mental health.
Rohan: One of the things I would like to engage with more is disability. Lydia Brown, who is fantastic, is leaving. There’s such a big void and it’s something that personally touches me. I have a lot of friends who identify as people with disabilities and I see what they are going through as a result of entities that are not accommodating. Georgetown is not ADA compliant and needs to get there. That’s a component of the campus plan, but I think that that’s definitely something I personally would like to see be improved.
Non-Profit Organizations: What are the Rules?
Law Street (TM)
8 April 2015
However Autism Speaks has faced some controversies. One of the major criticism levied against the group is that Autism Speaks considers autism to be a “horror” and a “tragedy” that happens to people and families. Autistic Hoya explains: “Autism Speaks regularly issues propaganda in which they say, ‘The rate of autism is higher than the rate of cancer, childhood diabetes, and AIDS combined,’ which compares a developmental disability to diseases.” In addition, the group has come under fire for allegedly aligning itself with the Judge Rotenberg Center, which uses electric shock therapy.
Autistic and Queer: Coming Out on the Spectrum
6 April 2015
You’ve probably given some thought to where you fall on the sexuality spectrum, but what about the neurological spectrum? There is a small amount of emerging data to suggest that autistic individuals are more likely than the general population to identify as asexual, queer or trans. Yet queer autistics are often excluded from the non-autistic LGBTQ community based on inaccurate stereotypes about their ability to empathize and desire intimacy. April is nationally designated Autism “Awareness” month, but activists from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) are running a #AcceptanceIs campaign to encourage people to change the narrative and think in terms of “acceptance” rather than “awareness.”
Lydia is proudly autistic, asexual, panromantic, Asian and adopted.“The idea that someone can be that many kinds of divergent from what is considered normative is terrifying for people because the more you deviate from the norm the more you are a reminder to them that the normative was never possible to attain to begin with,” she said. Lydia is coming up on her two year anniversary with her partner who is also an autistic activist. They were first introduced through a friend online in 2009, met in person a few times and then started dating officially in 2013. “We went out for date night at a really nice Italian restaurant with white table cloths and all these people dressed to the nines. We just awkwardly showed up in ripped jeans and T-shirts. That’s autistic dating for you. [laughs].”
The 30 Top Thinkers Under 30: The Self-Described Queer, East Asian Disabled Person Devoted to Defending Anyone on the Margins
4 April 2015
Lydia Brown was born in Suzhou, China. As a one-year-old, she was adopted and brought to live in Melrose, Massachusetts, where the population is more than 90 percent white. Brown calls herself “a queer, East Asian disabled person,” an identity that defines her work. Brown is autistic, and has devoted her life to defending anyone on the margins. “As a transracial, transnational adoptee into a white family as well as the beneficiary of access to higher education, I can navigate white spaces with much more fluency than the vast majority of people of color,” she says. “I find myself tasked with the urgent responsibility of providing allyship with darker-skinned people of color who face much more pernicious forms of racism than I ever will.” Brown notes that it is extremely rare to find someone in a leadership role who has multiple marginalized identities: “You are allowed to be disabled and LGBTQ, or disabled and racialized, or disabled and low-income, but not more than one,” she says. “The problem is that most of us live at those intersections.”
Women’s History Month Celebrated in March
27 March 2015
When Georgetown closes out its celebration of Women’s History Month on Tuesday with an event featuring ballet prodigy Misty Copeland, hundreds of students will have attended its 15 events, which featured discussions on gender, race, politics and disability. For the first time, the month-long series of programming received funding from an initiative launched by the Office of the President in October 2014 that funds cultural and advocacy groups with official months designated to their causes. Women’s History Month received $1,500 in funding from the Office of the President and is the sixth of seven heritage months this academic year, preceded by Black History Month in February and followed by Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May. Women’s Center undergraduate assistant Mary Rogers (COL ’16) said that the money helped fund resources for disabled students. “The extra money was really helpful in being able to secure ASL interpreters for students who may have needed them,” Rogers said. “It helped make some of the events a little bit more inclusive.” […] Rogers said that she especially enjoyed the Women and Disability Roundtable that featured disability rights advocate Lydia Brown (COL ’15) and National Council on Disability Executive Director Rebecca Cokely. “In my opinion the best feminism is an intersectional one that includes gender, race, ethnicity and disability, so it was really great to explore that,” Rogers said.
Q&A: Tezel and Jikaria Reflect on Their Year in Office
20 March 2015
What demographic is least represented in GUSA? How can future leaders go about helping this group gain representation?
Trevor: One group that I think that is going to be and has been underrepresented in GUSA is disabled students. A titan of the disability movement and a future national leader of the disability movement is about to graduate from Georgetown, and I’m very concerned. Joe and Connor are very aware that the great work that Lydia Brown (COL ’15) has done can’t end. Furthermore in order to advance a Georgetown that is socially inclusive of all students, making sure that disabled students are represented both in their actions over the next year but also in the composition of their cabinet, staff and external board is going to be huge.
Omika: Also, pretty obviously, people of color are underrepresented in GUSA and so that’s something that we definitely wanted to address and bring more into conversation with the Multicultural Council. Hopefully, by involving people who would normally not be involved in GUSA and including them in conversations, that problem can be solved over the next few years. It’s definitely going to take time, but it’s really important.
Brown’s proposal for establishment of Disability Cultural Center gains momentum
The Georgetown Voice
5 March 2015
GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ‘15) hosted a panel on Monday, Mar. 2, to discuss her proposal to create a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown and the general philosophy of disability studies. Brown has been trying to promote the creation of this center for two and a half years, but her movement has recently gained momentum after GUSA announced its support of the proposal on Feb. 23. “Only three universities in the world have Disability Cultural Centers, and Georgetown is not one of them,” Brown wrote in an email to the Voice. “We claim to be a leader in innovation and ‘designing the future,’ yet we have not seized a clear opportunity for leadership.” The proposal’s website emphasizes the Center as a hub for social, educational, and academic programs as well as a locus of support for the disabled community. A transition toward understanding disability as a feature of diversity rather than as a maladaptation underlies the movement.
Vigil Recalls Disability Murders
3 March 2015
People with disabilities murdered by their parents were honored in a vigil on the National Mall Sunday. The vigil, which was held in front of the U.S. Capitol, commemorated the Disability Day of Mourning and was supported by prominent disability rights advocacy organizations, including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet and the National Council on Independent Living. First organized in Sunnyvale, Calif., in 2012 in response to the murder of 22-year-old George Hodgins by his mother, the Disability Day of Mourning is held annually to bring attention to the deaths of people with disabilities. The first rally in D.C. was held on March 30, 2012, and events have been held every subsequent year on March 1. Twenty-two cities around the United States and three locations in Canada, Hungary and the United Kingdom held vigils Sunday. […] “Part of the reason we hold these vigils annually is we keep reminding each other and the public that, even as we’re mourning our dead, more of us are murdered,” [Lydia] Brown said. “And the narrative is the same: that we’re better off being dead than disabled.”
GUSA Endorses Disability Cultural Center
27 February 2015
Georgetown University Student Association President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) announced their administration’s support for the creation of a Disability Cultural Center, a project led by GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15), on Feb. 23. “The DCC will serve as a resource for students with disabilities and their allies, and will coordinate programming to educate the Georgetown community on topics such as disability rights activism, disability cultures and disability public policy,” a GUSA press release dated Feb. 23 said. Although Brown released her proposal for the creation of the DCC in August 2012, Jikaria said that the GUSA press release will serve to catalyze Brown’s recent concentrated campaign. “GUSA has always been in support of the creation of the Disability Cultural Center,” Jikaria wrote in an email. “As Lydia conducts a more concentrated campaign right now, we felt that a press release would be the appropriate way to highlight our support and bring attention to the proposal.” Brown said that the Tezel-Jikaria administration, as well as the two previous GUSA executive administrations, supported her proposal, but that this week’s endorsement comes at a time of great change within the university.
For Disabled Students, The Struggle Continues
26 February 2015
Solutions to these problems have been slow in arriving. But in the fall of 2012, dozens of students and faculty came together to plan a proposal for a disability cultural center. Spearheaded by Lydia Brown (COL ’15), the proposal gained the endorsement of the GUSA executive last week. Lydia Brown has become something of a public face at Georgetown for issues related to disability and neurodiversity. But Lydia will graduate. A disability cultural center, however, offers an opportunity to institutionalize and extend the work of disabled organizers. For a community that has only recently gained the attention of our campus community, such a resource would be essential.
GUSA announces support of Disability Cultural Center
Vox Populi at the Georgetown Voice
26 February 2015
On Monday, GUSA announced its support of the creation of a Disability Cultural Center (DCC) at Georgetown. Lydia Brown (COL ’15), the GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs, has circulated a petition to garner student support for a center to educate students on disability rights activism and its surrounding culture. President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) endorsed her idea, calling her efforts an “important initiative”. Currently, no administrative-level office recognizes disability as diversity at Georgetown, as Brown emphasized in an email to Vox. “Despite numerous difficulties with underfunding, understaffing, and lack of visibility, the university nevertheless recognizes the need for safe spaces for students of color, women students, and queer and trans student through the CMEA, Women’s Center, and LGBTQ Resource Center,” Brown said. “Students with disabilities are as much a part of this campus as other underrepresented and marginalized groups, and we deserve at least the same recognition.” Despite the drive and passion behind her mission, Brown notes that attempts to create the DCC have been an uphill battle.
Disability Compliance Draws Scrutiny
24 February 2015
With recent lawsuits filed against universities for inadequate resources for students with disabilities, Georgetown’s policies could leave the university vulnerable to a similar lawsuit, though administrators asserted that the university was compliant with federal disabilities legislation. Two federal class action lawsuits, which were filed Feb. 12 by the National Association of the Deaf and four deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, separately accused Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of violating both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. According to the suit, the universities did not appropriately caption online educational resources, including “massive open online courses,” and thousands of video and audio tracks available to the general public.
However, Georgetown University Student Association Undersecretary of Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15) said that the inequality of access provided to students with disabilities is widespread beyond closed captioning, citing unreported cases and expressing doubt that universities are particularly accommodating. “Too often, intimidation and fear of retaliation keeps disabled students from filing formal complaints or lawsuits against their universities for access failures and disability discrimination,” Brown wrote in an email. “The impact of such fear is only heightened at more elite and prestigious schools. Yet it is critical to hold our institutions of higher learning accountable for their deliberate indifference and hostile environments for students with disabilities.”
Disability Support Receives Funding
13 February 2015
The Office of Student Affairs will provide the majority of funding for disability accommodations at student-sponsored campus events by the 2017-2018 academic year in accordance with an agreement reached with the Georgetown University Student Association on Tuesday. The funding will cover American Sign Language interpreters and other disability-related accommodations including Communication Access Realtime Translation, services that previously had no central funding source for student groups. As part of the agreement, GUSA will allocate $15,000 from the Student Activities Fee Reserve Account to create the GUSA Access Fund, which will be operated by the GUSA Fund, for the 2015-2016 academic year. If 25 percent — or $3,750 — of the fund is utilized during the 2015-2016 academic year, 80 percent of the cost of disability accommodations will be contributed, while GUSA will fund only the remaining 20 percent. If this criteria is not met, the sharing agreement will not take place until the 2017-2018 academic year.
GUSA Undersecretary of Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15), one of the primary advocates of the new policy, praised Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Director of Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr. “This is a major step in the right direction, and a concrete result of years of advocacy by numerous students for improved disability policies on campus,” Brown wrote in an email. However, she also expressed disappointment that disability accommodations have not been provided through a centralized system until now. “Georgetown has always lagged behind on disability issues, and this is no different,” Brown wrote. “Disabled people are not considered a priority. We are told that we are too expensive, too needy, and too burdensome, and that anything we ask for and receive we should be grateful that someone went out of their way to provide.”
Student Essay Featured in Disability Course
13 January 2015
An anthology featuring an essay by Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a student activist for disability rights, will be used as coursework in a new anthropology course called “Disability and Culture,” taught by Professor Sylvia Onder. The anthology, titled “Criptiques,” is a collection of works by disabled writers, “exploring the provocative sides of disability,” according to the publication’s website. “This is one of relatively few collective pieces of literature exploring a variety of issues in madness and disability in very radical ways that have not frequently been brought together in conversation,” Brown said. Brown’s essay, “Disability in an Ablelist World,” the first essay Onder assigned her class from the anthology, aims to move beyond the dichotomy between the models of disability as both a medical condition and as a social construct, arguing instead that disability is both biologically embodied and cultural constructed. “As much as disability is a lived reality in people’s bodies, it is also equally, or just as much, social and cultural,” Brown said.
Caitlin Wood, the anthology’s editor, said that she knew she wanted to include Brown’s work when she was planning “Criptiques.” “She’s just so brilliant and very much on my wavelength politically,” Wood wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I have tremendous respect for her and her work. I love her chapter in ‘Criptiques,’ ‘Disability in an Ableist World’ because it lays out the basics of ableism and gives historical context to what that really means. It was imperative to me to include discussions of ableism in ‘Criptiques’ and Lydia just nailed it. I was honored to have her in the book.”
Talking Crip Culture with Media Maker Caitlin Wood
Winter 2014-Spring 2015
There are a zillion disabled bloggers who I admire. I really like Elsa Henry’s site Feminist Sonar, Ollibean.com, and Lydia Brown’s site autistichoya.com, just to name a few. I’m also very impressed with Alice Wong, who created the Disability Visibility Project. For me, the most radical (and realistic) representations of disability are coming from disabled people themselves, which is of course common sense. We live it; we know what it’s like. I don’t foresee the mainstream catching up to us very soon.
Elevator malfunctions create accessibility issues on campus
The Georgetown Voice
20 November 2014
This semester, a number of elevator malfunctions and delays throughout campus have caused students to raise concerns about university accessibility and convenience. One of the two elevators in Darnall Hall broke down twice this past week for over 48 hours each time, and only one is currently operating. Darnall consists of six floors, and over 200 students travel by elevators daily. The staircase next to the elevators doesn’t allow access to the basement level, where laundry machines and dryers are located.
GUSA Secretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15) addressed the effect of elevator malfunctions on the disabled community. “As mentioned in the Voice [editorial] last week, back in September, both of the elevators in Copley broke down at the same time. This was particularly egregious because every student with a physical disability who lives on campus is housed in Copley Hall,” she said. “All the disabled students in Copley had to be moved to New South for that night—that’s unacceptable.” Brown also recalled an instance earlier this month in which the elevator in Walsh broke for a week, citing it as another example of “the pervasive issues with construction and facilities on campus.”
Administration no longer considering consolidation of cultural centers
The Georgetown Voice
13 November 2014
In his opening remarks, [Todd] Olson also stressed his personal commitment to addressing issues facing disabled students, the validity of which which was repeatedly disputed by Lydia Brown (COL ‘15). “Why don’t you commit to a firm timeline on any of the issues raised in the disability justice working group?” said Brown. “Not just the disability cultural center, but issues around access to sign language interpreting services, issues around physical accessibility on campus during construction, issues around the curriculum … We don’t have a concrete timetable on any of these very salient issues, yet you keep reiterating that there’s supposedly some serious commitment.”
Todd Olson faces questions about safe spaces and accessibility concerns at diversity town hall meeting
Vox Populi at the Georgetown Voice
12 November 2014
In his opening remarks, [Todd] Olson also stressed his self-proclaimed focus on addressing issues facing disabled students, a claim that was repeatedly disputed by Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a woman with autism and disability rights advocate. “Why don’t you commit to a firm timeline on any of the issues raised in the disability justice working group?” Brown asked. “Not just the disability cultural center, but issues around access to sign language interpreting services, issues around physical accessibility on campus during construction, issues around the curriculum … We don’t have a concrete timetable on any of these very salient issues, yet you keep reiterating that there’s supposedly some serious commitment.” Olson responded to Brown bluntly. “I don’t think I’m going to make you happy,” Olson said. “I’m not going to get to a specific commitment of a time frame on these issues at this meeting tonight.”
Speaker Discusses Incarceration of Disabled People
11 November 2014
Talila Lewis, founder of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, spoke about the mass incarceration of disabled individuals at the fourth installment of the Lecture and Performance Series on Disability Monday. The event featured a presentation on the discrimination and hardship faced by disabled people in prison, but it also focused on the many issues raised by mass incarceration, the privatization of prisons and criminalization of society in relation to race, immigration detention, and undue process of law and wrongful conviction. It included a screening of the Al-Jazeera documentary “Deaf in Prison.” […] Disability rights activist Lydia Brown (COL ’15) organized the event and said that Lewis’s work has filled a necessary gap in the need for improved prisoner rights. “Talila is the only person in the nation who has worked on multiple deaf wrongful conviction cases and advocated for hundreds of disabled and deaf prisoners,” Brown said. “[She created HEARD because] there was a gap in services and advocacy specifically for prisoner rights and especially for deaf and hard-of-hearing prisoners who face extreme amounts of abuse, discrimination, and other access issues.”
Panel Talks Disability Rights
31 October 2014
A panel discussed the history of institutional abuse against the disabled as part of the fifth installment of Georgetown’s Series on Disability Justice in the Edmund A. Walsh Building on Tuesday evening. The panelists included Deepa Goraya, a lawyer with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Jennifer Msumba, a survivor of institutional abuse and a disability rights advocate and Shain Neumeier, a lawyer with Disability Rights New York. All three of the speakers were disabled. About 40 people attended the event. The event was organized by Lydia Brown (COL ’15), who herself is autistic and a strong advocate for disability rights, running the website Autistic Hoya. It was a part of Disability Cultural Month. “The impetus behind the entire lecture series is to promote greater dialogue behind different disability issues in a concrete way and in the context of diversity and social justice,” Brown said.
Disability rights advocates speak to students about institutional abuse and torture in America
Vox Populi at the Georgetown Voice
29 October 2014
Kenneth Lee & Saman Asdjoji
On Tuesday night, two disability rights attorneys and an institutional abuse survivor participated in a panel discussion entitled “Human Rights Aren’t For Us: Disability & Legalized Abuse,” the third in Lydia Brown‘s (COL ’15) Lecture & Performance Series on Disability Justice that is being held and sponsored by various University and external organizations throughout the academic year.
Deepa Goraya, an attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the Disability Rights Project, provided a detailed overview on how, since the colonial era, people with disabilities were long confined to institutions and deprived of citizenship. Goraya cited several landmark court cases beginning in the 1970s that have successfully framed institutionalization as a civil rights issue. Since then, people with disabilities have begun to move into community-based settings to pursue employment and integrate themselves into society. […] Shain Neumeier, an attorney at Disability Rights New York, linked the origins of modern-day institutions that purported to treat people with disabilities to New Age and pseudo-scientific ideologies in the 1950s. Scholars and government officials conducted research on solitary confinement, coercive persuasion, and deprivation techniques that Cold War-era Communist regimes practiced. Jennifer Msumba, an adult with autism who has been in a residential school or hospital since the age of 15, shared her intensely personal and traumatic experiences in the multiple residential schools and programs she was part of.
Disability Month Focuses on Diversity
24 October 2014
The Academic Resource Center and the Office of the Provost are sponsoring the university’s first Disability Cultural Month throughout October and through Nov. 13, which features events, panel discussions and a performance that will focus on disability and diversity awareness. Lydia Brown (COL ’15), who was on the month’s planning committee, said that she hopes the month will encourage the student body to think differently about disability. “What we hope to do through the events of Disability Cultural Month is not only to highlight the diverse experiences of disabled people, even within that category of disability, but also to highlight how it is incumbent upon us, intellectually, socially and even ethically, to shift the way we think about disabilities.” Brown said. “We need to shift from this pathological context that disability means something wrong with you to be fixed medically or psychiatrically, to the context of diversity and social justice in keeping with the values of our Jesuit university.”
Construction, advocacy should augment campus disability dialogue
The Georgetown Voice
23 October 2014
Construction has only magnified the issues confronted by disabled students on a daily basis. On Oct. 11, the entirety of the north end of campus was closed down with only one day’s notice, causing serious accessibility issues. Similarly, according to student disability advocate Lydia Brown (COL ’15), when the elevators in Copley Hall stopped functioning for a night in September, all disabled students in the building had no choice but to relocate during the repairs. They spent the night in New South. Disability access and the mentality of ableism are issues that merit address at a systemic level, rather than in an ad hoc response to the increased strain placed upon handicapped students by construction and unforeseeable incidents. Dialogue about these problems, however, has been thwarted even in recent days. A Sept. 29 Lunch & Learn session for campus student group leaders sponsored by the Center for Student Engagement and hosted by Brown was virtually unattended.
The Voice spoke recently with Brown, who has proposed the establishment of a disability cultural center at Georgetown to address these concerns. There is little precedent for such an organization—only three universities in the country have centers dedicated to the cultural aspect of disability, as opposed to institutions that assist disabled students with accessibility issues. According to Brown, the impediments to the establishment of a disability cultural center are largely financial. Nevertheless, the university should consider collaborating with advocates like Brown as both a good-faith and necessary investment aimed at addressing an inequality.
Construction illuminates accessibility issues on campus
The Georgetown Voice
23 October 2014
Though construction work on the north side of campus is an inconvenience for Hoyas who have to travel through the area, unclaimed posters appeared last weekend reminding everyone that these areas are even harder to traverse for disabled students. “Most people might feel mildly inconvenienced, frustrated or confused by the frequent and ever-shifting campus construction,” said GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15). “But they aren’t aware of the severe barriers to accessibility faced by people with disabilities without being told explicitly.” While Brown does not know who is hanging the posters, she is in support of their message. “I think that the number one thing these posters are doing is raising greater public consciousness of the lack of physical accessibility on campus,” she said.
University responds to accessibility concerns over construction-related detour paths
Vox Populi at the Georgetown Voice
21 October 2014
This past weekend, an anonymous person posted flyers in the Leavey Center stairwell, Henle Village, and Village A, protesting that certain paths on campus are “difficult to traverse for some of your friends and fellow Hoyas.” […] At the time of publishing, no person or organization has stepped up to claim responsibility for these flyers. “I do not know who it is that is doing it, but I am fully in support of this person or this group of people’s efforts,” Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a disability rights advocate and GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs, said in an interview with Vox. According to Brown, most students might be mildly frustrated or confused by the current campus construction, but the posters make them aware of the barriers the current arrangements and, more widely, the design of Georgetown’s campus, pose to those with physical disabilities. “Exactly what pathways are open or closed is constantly changing. There are occasionally announcements sent out to campus, but even those announcements are not consistent. They’re not consistently sent,” she said. “There are very few pathways that are open to students who have physical disabilities to be able to access the other side of campus.” Going forward, Brown believes that the University needs to have a cultural shift towards proactively accommodating people with disabilities.
Disability Seminar Falls Flat
7 October 2014
Brown said that while the university has made attempts to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act on paper, access has not improved for disabled students. “When we talk about disability, we approach it as if it is somebody’s private, individual medical problem,” Brown said. “The way to deal with it is to treat it and hope to cure it, as opposed to thinking about disability as a diversity and a social justice issue. We’re here. We’re a part of the world but we are not considered a community because people deny us the ability to be recognized as a community.”
Jes Res, Northeast Triangle details revealed at construction open house
The Georgetown Voice
11 September 2014
The open house for students interested in the ongoing construction projects was shared recent progress on the former Jesuit Residence renovations and Northeast Triangle construction, coincidentally using Georgetown’s newest building, the Healey Family Student Center, on Sept. 9. […] In response to the presentation, GUSA Secretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ‘15) raised the issue of physical accessibility for the disabled community. “We are providing eight accessible units of each type in the Jesuit Residence,” replied Wilcox. “This building helps to mediate the accessibility challenges this campus has already with topography. You can come out of the building onto the sidewalk along Library Walk, enter ground level of Reynolds Hall, and you could work across the lower level and then egress back on accessible ground on Southwest Quad. It’s almost like a short cut.” After the presentation concluded, Brown shared her positive attitude toward the project. “Historically at Georgetown, our university has done very poorly in creating an accessible environment for people with disabilities,” said Brown, “So I was pleasantly surprised that the new project managers had thought about mobility disabilities access.”
University unveils latest details on Georgetown’s newest dorms
Vox Populi at the Georgetown Voice
10 September 2014
Lydia Brown (COL’ 15), GUSA undersecretary for disability affairs, expressed “cautious” optimism that the Old Jesuit Residence plans and the redesigned Library Walk had incorporated accessibility features. “[University administrators] both mentioned that this project will improve our compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act,” she said. “I prefer to emphasize that we need to move beyond compliance. We’re not actually promoting a cultural shift so that we value access and inclusion, rather than thinking, ‘We need to do this because we could … be legally liable if we don’t do this.’”
Ice Bucket Challenge Bullies Messed with the Wrong Internet
The Daily Beast
9 September 2014
While activists like Brown acknowledge social media’s potential to combat hate crime, they all agree it’s not enough. As Brown tells The Daily Beast, “If you don’t teach that disabled people are people, if you don’t teach the history of the disability rights movement, if you don’t teach that disability is part of diversity, then you perpetuate the invisibility of the disabled experience.”
Context Clues: Piecing Together the Pieces of the Georgetown Puzzle
The Georgetown Voice
28 August 2014
Lydia Brown (COL ‘15) is an autistic student at Georgetown and an activist for the disabled community. “The idea that disability can be a political identity, that disabled people can have a collective history, that disability itself is a political term in the same way [as] gender or class is not an idea that exists outside of certain communities,” she said. Brown went on to say that in her work as an activist, she has found that Georgetown is not immune to larger social ideas that propagate ableism: discrimination against disabled persons. “When I interview people at Georgetown who did not want me to use their names, chief among their reasons was the fear that if [they were] found out as disabled they would no longer be treated as a peer because disabled people, particularly mentally disabled people, do not belong here.”
People We Love: Lydia Brown, Washington, DC
Disability Visibility Project
26 August 2014
The New Idealist recently published ‘The Autism Issue.’ Lydia Brown writes about the future of the autistic rights movement. As with disability rights in general, there’s a long road ahead.
Victory Institute Names Lydia Brown as Victory Congressional Intern
Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute
10 June 2014
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute named Lydia Brown to the summer class of Victory Congressional Interns. This competitive program places LGBT college students in a semester long internship with an LGBT or LGBT friendly member of congress in their Washington, D.C. office. Brown was one of eight individuals selected, from an applicant pool of 89. During the internship Brown will be interning with the House Financial Services Committee as part of the 2014 class of Victory Congressional Interns.
Adults With Autism Find New Source for Job Interview Advice
The Wall Street Journal
19 May 2014
Parts of the job-seeking process can be missed or misinterpreted by people with autism. They may not engage in small talk to ingratiate themselves to colleagues or employers. Networking can make them anxious. Many need to hear that they should write a cover letter even if a job description only asks for a résumé, says Lydia Brown, a former project assistant at the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and an Arabic and Islamic Studies student at Georgetown University.
Protest Thrives in Diverse Forms
25 April 2014
According to Lydia Brown (COL ’15), one of the primary #BDGU organizers, #BDGU has yet to galvanize the support among Georgetown administrators that the movement would require to be successful. “In our primary aim, I believe we had limited success. A number of prominent student leaders … knew about or participated in the conversation. There is still a long way to go. So far, no official statement from the administration has been forthcoming regarding plans for a Disability Cultural Center, nor have any of the major institutional barriers to access for students with disabilities been changed,” Brown wrote in an email.
Autism in the News: Judge Rotenberg Center Petition
Autism Parenting Magazine
24 April 2014
For many years the Judge Rotenberg Center, a “special needs day, respite and residential school” for children ages three to adult, has been under investigation for “highly abusive and questionable interventions” used on students and now there is a petition that you can sign to help stop the electric abuse on Change.org. On Thursday, April 24, 2014 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommended that all electric shock devices (ESDs) be banned for behavioral control after meeting with TASH Executive Director Barb Trader and “Alliance for the Prevention of Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) who also offered testimony, as well as Lydia Brown, representing TASH New England; TASH Board members Ari Ne’eman, representing the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Emily Titon, representing Occupy JRC; and TASH members Fredda Brown, Chris Oliva, and Dina Trianello.”
How to Be a Friend to Someone With Autism
US News & World Report
9 April 2014
Don’t assume he or she doesn’t value friendship. Yes, there are communication challenges and trouble with social interactions. But that doesn’t mean friendship isn’t important. “The reality is that autistic people, like neurotypical people, are very diverse in our levels of sociability and desire for friendships,” says Lydia Brown, a junior at Georgetown University who has autism. Some people with autism are exceedingly social, while others are significantly more introverted. “But like all people, we value others who want to be our friends for the sake of who we are,” Brown says, adding that “we seek friendships based on mutual interest and respect, shared values and negotiated boundaries.”
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that diagnoses of autism in children have gone up one-third in the last two years alone but that does — that is not necessarily a rise in the number of cases. Some experts believe the higher rates reflect a heightened focus on autism by parents, doctors, and teachers that may be resulting in more children getting diagnosed. But the report also highlighted disparities in the number of white children diagnosed as autistic compared with people of color. And while 1 in 42 boys are diagnosed, the number is way lower for girls, 1 in 189. Lydia Brown is a disability advocate and student at Georgetown University who was diagnosed with autism herself at age 13. She points to our society’s stereotypes as a possible reason for the disparity.
‘You need a thick skin to cope with disability’
3 March 2014
Scouting around Twitter one morning in January, Findlay happened across the hashtag, #AbledPeopleSay, through which people with disabilities were documenting things said to them as they went about day-to-day life. The trail led back to American disability activist Lydia Brown, who coined the hashtag to share remarks made daily about her own disability, autism. Things like: ‘If you try harder, maybe it will just go away.’ Dozens of people with disabilities – physical, mental, visible, invisible – were soon chiming in from around the world, including Findlay, who has received such comments as: ‘I know exactly how it feels to have a severe skin condition, I have my eyebrows waxed monthly’, ‘It’s so good that someone like you is out there and not locked away somewhere’, and ‘Don’t you wish there was a cure so you’d look a little less … unfortunate?’
A sign of the times: The story of deaf students at Georgetown
The Georgetown Voice
27 February 2014
Disability activists on campus hope that, if established, a disability cultural center will make disabled students a visible campus community. “The disability community has not received institutional recognition,” said Lydia Brown (COL’15), disability rights activist and author of the blog Autistic Hoya. “There is so much opportunity for Georgetown to be a pioneer, to be a leader in actually putting diversity into action and yet the administration has consistently failed to put forward any plan to create a disability cultural center.” Brown said that she has approached President John DeGioia on several occasions about establishing a disability cultural center. DeGioia’s office failed to respond to multiple emails sent over the course of a month asking for a response to this claim.
Candidates Surveyed on Disability for Second Year
27 February 2014
For the second year in a row, disability advocate Lydia Brown (COL ’15) sent a survey to all Georgetown University Student Association executive candidates addressing disability issues on campus and asking how they would respond to disability-related challenges if elected to office. Brown developed a similar survey during last year’s GUSA election, posting the candidates’ responses on her blog “Autistic Hoya.” This year, the candidates were asked six questions relating to their perceptions of disability-related issues on campus, published online. Brown’s first question addressed the topic of ableism, or discrimination directed against students with disabilities.
Strong Words from GU’s Disabled
14 January 2014
Students tweeted about their experiences of being disabled at Georgetown on Monday using the hashtag #BDGU. The protest — inspired by the December #BLGU, #BAGU and #BBGU Twitter protests by minority groups — lamented that Georgetown is far from being disability friendly. Organized by Lydia Brown (COL ’15) along with Natalia Mabel Rivera-Morales (SFS ’13), Chris DeLorenzo (GRD ’17) and Carly Rosenfield (COL ’14), the online protest exposed viewers to the discrimination students with disabilities face from the administration and their peers, as well as positive experiences of support. According to Brown, the Twitter event was intended to increase awareness and acceptance of disabled students on campus.
#BDGU online conversation to bring awareness to disabled community at Georgetown
Vox Populi at The Georgetown Voice
13 January 2014
Following hashtags that discussed being black, Latino, and Asian at Georgetown, Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a disability rights activist, and several other students have organized an online conversation and protest from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. to discuss experiences in the disabled community at Georgetown. “Representing a significant percentage of all students, we have learning disabilities, are on the autism spectrum, have cerebral palsy, use wheelchairs or scooters, have mental health disabilities/mental illness, are blind or low vision, are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, and are chronically ill,” the Facebook event said, giving a sample (not a complete list) of disabilities students face.
Meeting of the Minds
1 December 2013
Ericha Scott with Diane Wiener
The DSCC’s students and affiliates, the students and others who together with Ann created the D Center, and the students at Georgetown who are starting a disability cultural center would all be on board, I imagine, with wanting to create an organization like the one I’m dis- cussing. Lydia Brown, an undergraduate activist and leader in the Autistic Rights movement, and a staff member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is lead- ing the Georgetown initiative. She is amazing. Everyone needs to read her blog, Autistic Hoya.
Lydia Brown: Looking Beyond the Pathology Paradigm
Broad Recognition: A Feminist Magazine at Yale
18 November 2013
Brown considers herself a part of the neurodiversity movement, a movement that rejects the traditional paradigm used to view disability. According to her, the “pathology paradigm” leads us to see disability as deviance from some sort of ideal, “normal” type of human being. If people’s bodies or minds do not function in accordance with this ideal, this difference in functioning is labeled a “symptom” and is assumed to be negative. Within the diversity paradigm, however, disabilities are seen as naturally occurring differences in human physiological and neurological expression. Atypical people are not diseased or in need of “fixing” in the diversity paradigm, because all people are of equal worth and all ways of being equally valid. Autism, then, is a name for atypical ways of processing that are similar to each other, and produce similar experiences in functioning.
Not crazy, just a little unwell: Mental health at Georgetown
The Georgetown Voice
14 November 2013
Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a disability rights activist, noted that this is a common experience for students with less prevalent disorders than depression, including mental disorders such as autism. “CAPS is not equipped to be responsive to a broad range of services,” she said. “There is a lack of welcoming reception and knowledge about many different disorders, which can be detrimental to the point of forcing some students to leave.” Based on her own experiences and those of others she knows, Brown concludes that the treatment style of CAPS is inflexible and medicalized rather than tailored to fit the individual patient’s needs, as she believes it should be. “Mental health services need to be person-centered, so that they’re less about trying to fix you and more about finding ways to support you,” she said.
Activist challenges social perceptions of autism
Yale Daily News
5 November 2013
For Lydia Brown, autism is not a deficiency to be cured — it is a concrete part of her identity. Brown, who is an autistic and multiply-disabled disability rights activist, as well as a student at Georgetown University, spoke to roughly 20 students and community members at a Saybrook Master’s Tea on Monday afternoon. She shared her experiences as a project assistant for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and explained why she believes people should view autism and other disabilities as an individual’s traits rather than deficits. Brown emphasized that the social view of autism as an abnormality should be changed, in order to create a more inclusive social community for autistic individuals.
Surgery To Stop Autistic Boy’s Screaming Tic Raises Ethical Questions
International Business Times
30 September 2013
But many activists, including autistic adults, are troubled by a lack of information on whether or not Kade gave consent for the operation. It’s hard not to cringe at a procedure that resembles the “debarking” operation sometimes performed on dogs. And the framing of Kade’s story in the media has largely ignored his own bodily autonomy. Autistic writer Lydia Brown pointed out on her blog that neither the Wisconsin State Journal article nor the research paper address the question of whether the tic was harmful to the patient himself, not just his parents. If the tic wasn’t harmful to Kade, “there are other ways to address the issue than forced surgery,” Brown wrote. “I’ve heard from other autistic people writing that they learned coping skills and ways to avoid some types of self-harming, for example, from other autistic people. Noticeably not from therapists, clinicians or other professionals.”
Is surgically altering an autistic boy’s voice cruel or kind?
27 September 2013
Mary Elizabeth Williams
Yet when the story of the Hanegraaf family appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal Friday, under the provocative headline “Surgery reduces autism-related screaming,” it drew a heavily divided and often deeply critical response. Was the surgery an innovative response to a deeply stressful condition — or an ethically troubling precedent that called to mind dangerous inventions of the past? On Autistic Hoya, autistic writer and advocate Lydia Brown wrote, “There are other ways to address the issue than forced surgery… The surgery was performed because Kade was an inconvenience to his parents….This is torture.”
GUSA Tackles Accessibility
6 September 2013
No Wrong Door Chief Coordinator and GUSA Undersecretary for Disabilities Lydia Brown (COL ’15), who is autistic, pointed out that the initiative shares its name with state-level policies that guarantee universal access of certain services to disabled citizens. “In a state that has a No Wrong Door policy, a person with a disability, one of their family members or a caregiver could go to any state office, and … be able to access the services [they need],” Brown said. “They can enter through any door, so to speak.” The GUSA initiative provides students and faculty with a similarly thorough list of resources and contacts from such resources to provide services for students with disabilities. Peterson said that one of the university’s main problems, historically, has been a lack of publicity for its disability services.
Talking With the Editor of Criptiques, an Exciting New Disability Anthology
22 August 2013
Kjerstin Johnson with Caitlin Wood
When most people hear “disability,” the go-to image is “straight white guy in a wheelchair,” so I wanted to make sure this book presented a broader, more accurate portrayal of disability. I was really delighted to include Kay Ulanday Barrett and Lydia Brown in the book because they’re both brilliant and write beautifully on those intersections. Essays that illuminated crip culture or gave insight into the disability art world were also a priority, just because it’s so rich and diverse and many nondisabled people don’t know it exists.
Lydia Brown of Melrose is White House Champion of Change
30 July 2013
Katherine M. Clark
Lydia Brown of Melrose was honored at the White House this week as a Champion of Change for her disability rights advocacy and embodiment of the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She was nominated for the award by the U.S. National Council on Disability.
IEL Celebrates White House Champions of Change
Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) at Institute for Educational Leadership
25 July 2013
To commemorate the 23rd Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the White House honored eight “Champions of Change,” young people with disabilities who are having a significant impact on their communities. The Champions of Change participated in an engaging panel about issues affecting this generation of disability rights leaders. The Institute for Educational Leadership’s (IEL) Center for Workforce Development (CWD) is proud to be connected with many of these emerging disability community leaders as they work across systemic and institutional boundaries to improve programs and services for people with disabilities. Lydia Brown, a former IEL Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow, discussed the improvements for people with disabilities she is making on her college campus and in her home state of Massachusetts where she has made efforts to close the Judge Rotenberg Center.
ASAN Congratulates 2013 Champions of Change
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
25 July 2013
Today at the White House, the disability community came together to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the celebration, 8 Champions of Change, representing the next generation of leaders in the Disability Rights movement, were named and honored. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is proud to say that two of our own, Zoe Gross and Lydia Brown, were among those honored. Lydia Brown, an ASAN project assistant, focused part of her time on the extensive work she has done to help close the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts. She spoke of the atrocities that occur within those walls, the deaths of individuals who were placed in the JRC, and how abuse and torture are often considered “acceptable” in the name of treatment.
Student Honored for Disability Advocacy at White House
26 July 2013
Disability rights activist Lydia Brown (COL ’15) joined seven other panelists at a White House event commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act on Thursday. The event, run through the White House Office of Public Engagement, featured remarks by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz along with the eight panelists honored as champions of change for their advocacy work for people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. The White House Champions of Change program honors Americans for innovation and positive impact in various fields each week.
Autistic Georgetown Student to Speak Today at White House Disability Rights Event
25 July 2013
Brown is one of only eight young people being recognized today for “their advocacy efforts, their innovative projects and their embodiment of the spirit of ADA. She was invited to the Jan. 25 event by the White House Office of Public Engagement. The U.S. National Council on Disability nominated Brown, whose work includes creating an online resource and advocacy website called the Autism Education Project and speaking at numerous disability conferences. “Lydia has been an enthusiastic advocate for the inclusion of all students on our campus. Her dedication and vision have been inspiring,” says Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs at Georgetown. “Our Jesuit mission calls us to be women and men for others, and Lydia exemplifies this commitment on a daily basis.”
Ableism is the discrimination against people who have physical or mental disabilities. People with disabilities make up about 15 per cent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization. Disability advocates say that unlike other forms of discrimination such as racism or sexism, ableism isn’t as widely discussed and is still prevalent in everyday language and society.
College Works to Promote Neurodiversity
The Flat Hat
15 April 2013
On April 8, disability rights activist and Georgetown University student Lydia Brown gave a lecture entitled “Politicized Disability and the Crisis of Disabled Oppression.” During her talk, Brown described the realities of life as a college student who learns differently than others. According to Brown, people shouldn’t look a cure for learning disabilities, but instead should seek to change society’s approach and understanding of neurodiversity. She wants students to become allies with those who have learning differences.
Lydia Brown Takes Us Around Autistic Community Politically & Culturally
POOR Magazine / Prensa Pobre
2 April 2013
Leroy Moore with Lydia Brown
Leroy Moore: Being a person of color is it harder to get your ethnic community around disability issue and have you experience racism in the autistic community?
Lydia Brown: I am in a unique position where I am a transracial adoptee—my parents are white. As a result, I have largely been disconnected from the Asian, Asian-American, and Chinese communities, and find myself at times a stranger everywhere. That said, I have experienced casual racism and micro aggressions in both the autism and autistic communities. For example, discussions about social attitudes toward autistic people or availability of support services frequently center and privilege North American and Western European perspectives while systematically dismissing and de-legitimizing (or else, tokenizing or appropriating) perspectives from communities outside the white North American/Western European experience. Ableism is also frequently compounded by racism and classism that result in public policies on service eligibility and provision that disproportionately deny access to necessary, quality services for autistics of color and poor autistics. Partially as a result of this phenomenon, white, upper-class autistics and their families are much more likely to be able to successfully advocate for necessary services or against unjust actions than poor autistics and autistic of color and their families.
The Media’s ‘Crazy’ Problem
Campus Progress (now known as Generation Progress)
2 April 2013
Unless you are one of the roughly 56.7 million, or one in five, Americans who have disabilities, or know someone with a disability, you’re less likely to notice the “physical, attitudinal, or systemic” discrimination built into everyday life. Unawareness of ableism is everywhere, said Lydia Brown, a student, writer, and autism activist. “There is a power structure that non-disabled people can ignore as a result of their privilege as able-bodied and neurotypical,” Brown told Campus Progress, “but which we as disabled people must confront for every moment of our existences.”
Disability Survey Reveals Support From GUSA Candidates
24 February 2013
“The fact that our issues aren’t even on the radar to begin with is evidence of the immediate need to begin having conversations in ways that aren’t relegated to the sidelines or margins on the university community,” Brown said. “It was important to me to write the questionnaire and collect and publish the responses to show that the candidates cared enough to send in responses and that these are questions that should be asked.” The questionnaire addressed the need to increase advocacy for disability-related issues and to foster effective conversations about the underrepresentation of and prejudice against disabled students. Brown also asked the tickets to develop concrete plans to mitigate oppressive and prejudiced behavior on campus and generated highly supportive responses.
Conquering Ableism: Disabled Students Face Institutional Challenges
22 February 2013
Just like any undergraduate student, Brown admits that balancing academics and extracurriculars is trying at times, but she has no plans to leave. “As much as there are things about this school that I find fundamentally problematic — and sometimes outright hostile — that I’d love to see changed, I feel adamantly that it is far more important for me to be here so that I could potentially be a part of effecting change — as well as benefitting from the many positive aspects of being a part of this university,” she said. “I want to be a part of this community.”
15 February 2013
“Just like anyone else, disabled people can be sexual beings. Disabled people can also be asexual, just as non-disabled folks can be,” Brown said. “But there is a really long history of desexualizing disabled people by assuming we are incompetent, that we do not have agency and that we are incapable of articulating or comprehending desire.”
FDA meets on school shock device, warns of violations
Fox25 / MyFoxBoston
9 January 2013
Mike Beaudet and Kevin Rothstein (producer)
The devices used by a controversial Canton school to administers painful electric shocks to its disabled students for treatment was the subject of a meeting today held by US Food and Drug Administration regulators who say the Judge Rotenberg Center is using unapproved and illegal machines. The meeting also drew a handful of protestors to the FDA’s Maryland campus. “We started the protest to remind JRC and the public that there are still people who are actively and vocally trying to end the practices that are being condoned at the JRC,” said protestor Lydia Brown. “The use of any kind of electric shock device on any person as punishment is torture.”
The Media’s Post-Newtown Autism Fail
22 December 2012
“We are a community that faces tremendous stigma and prejudice, and unfortunately when this happens, the mainstream media presents stereotypes and inaccurate information about autism and disability that only make that stigma and prejudice worse,” says Ari Ne’eman, who is the president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and himself autistic.
Petitions Are Going Viral, Sometimes To Great Success
16 March 2012
Last fall, Emily Holcomb, a 15-year-old nonverbal autistic girl from Hamilton, Ala., was charged with a felony assault after she slapped her teacher. “The sheriff’s department was standing there, served me papers and wanted to serve Emily papers until I told them that, you know, she was a child with autism that was nonverbal with a mental capacity of about a 2- to 3-year-old,” said Emily’s mother, Jenny Holcomb. When Holcomb’s friend found out about the incident, she posted it on Facebook. “And from Facebook it spread,” said Holcomb. “That’s when Lydia Brown contacted me and asked me, you know, if she could do a petition to have charges and stuff dropped.”
Autistic Student Advocates for Herself, Other Autistics
15 March 2012
In a recent post in “Autistic Hoya,” a blog written by Lydia Brown (C’15), the first-year student lists “15 Things You Should Never Say to an Autistic.” These include “Is that like being retarded?” and “Does that mean you’re really good at math/computers/numbers?” Brown, an Arabic major who hopes to one day get a Ph.D. in Islamic studies, is an advocate for herself and other autistics. One of her priorities is getting rid of the stereotypes that surround autism. “People ask, when they hear about my advocacy work, ‘So you have a family member who is autistic?’ ” Brown says. “The implication is that an autistic person couldn’t possibly be doing this. One of the most hurtful things people can say, which apparently is meant to be a compliment, is, ‘You look so normal,’ or ‘you don’t look autistic.’ ”
Brown’s advocacy work is wide-ranging. She convinced members of the legislature in her native Massachusetts to propose a bill requiring that law enforcement officers learn about autism while she was still in high school.
Special needs and legal limbo
Pensacola News Journal
15 January 2012
But nationally, it’s not rare for an autistic students to get arrested. “It’s not an isolated incident,” said Lydia Brown, who works with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in Washington, D.C. “It’s not uncommon.”
While school district employees have the right to file charges against a student, advocates like Brown — who is autistic — say the legal system is not the proper way to punish students with autism. She said students and teachers should be taught ways to cope when outbursts happen. “When charges are pressed on autistic students in school, I believe it’s almost always wrong,” Brown said. “In the vast majority of these cases, an autistic student is provoked by somebody. As an autistic person, when people touch me unexpectedly, my reaction is to hit them.” She said when an autistic person lashes out or has a tantrum, it’s usually not maliciously. “If school officials and resource officers knew that this is something very common in autistic people, they’d know it would be wrong to take it to the criminal justice system,” she said.
Mom wants changes before she’ll let autistic son return to Mercer school
4 January 2012
Baker says she saw her son in a bag Dec. 14. Since then, the case has spurred an online petition drive. The petition — started by Lydia Brown, an autistic Georgetown University freshman from Boston — has garnered 157,000 signatures, said Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a spokesman for petition Web site change.org. “This campaign has resonated with people across the country,” he said. “Without any funding or institutional support, in a matter of days, Lydia built a veritable movement of 150,000 people in all 50 states supporting a family she has never even met.” The petition mirrors Baker’s demands for comprehensive training for school personnel and dismissal of the teacher.
Mother condemns Kentucky school for putting autistic son in duffel bag
27 December 2011
Lydia Brown, 18, an intern with an autistic lobby group who began the petition after reading about the case, said she felt the story struck a chord with a lot of parents of autistic children. Brown, who is autistic, said: “If this had happened to anyone else, it would be condemned as abuse, but because it was a teacher to an autistic student it was called therapy. It was not in a therapeutic session and it was used as a restraining device. It is a reflection of a systematic problem of a lack of respectful and appropriate behaviour towards autistic people.”
School accused of putting autistic student in bag
22 December 2011
So far, almost 700 people have signed a petition on the website change.org. Lydia Brown, an autistic 18-year-old Georgetown University freshman from Boston, said she started it after reading a story about Chris. “That would not be wrong just for an autistic student. That would be wrong to do to anyone,” Brown said. Advocates for the autistic were outraged.
OP-ED: Local Autism Advocate
Lynnfield Patch / Melrose Free Press
25 August 2011
State Senator Katherine Clark
This session I have been fortunate for the opportunity to work with a high school student from Melrose who has been a dedicated advocate on issues affecting the Autism community in Massachusetts and around the country. Lydia Brown, who just graduated from high school this spring, has used her personal experience to serve as an effective leader on legislation in the Massachusetts State House. This session, I filed legislation drafted by Lydia that targets autism awareness among law enforcement. This bill would establish within the recruit basic training curriculum a course for regional and municipal police training schools for the training of law enforcement officers and correction officers in the Commonwealth. The curriculum would include guidelines for appropriate interactions with individuals with ASD, as well as guidelines for law enforcement’s response to ASD individuals who are victims, witnesses or suspects of a crime. The legislation has gained the support of many in the local law enforcement community as well as advocates for supports for those on the autism spectrum.
Police officials push insurance surcharge to fund training programs
State House News Service / The Boston Globe
20 May 2011
Other bills on the committee agenda yesterday sought to improve police training when dealing with individuals suffering from mental illnesses or autism spectrum disorder. Sampson said those bills included worthwhile goals, but may be impossible to implement without additional funding. Two teenagers with autism testified before the committee. Lydia Brown, 17, testified in favor of legislation she said was produced in response to reports from Arkansas and other states about mistaken arrests and killings of autistic people by law enforcement. “I seem very competent here because I’ve been here and I’m comfortable here, but if I were walking home and were stopped by a cop and he was talking very fast and had lights flashing, I would probably not express myself as well or be as competent,’’ Brown said.