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.)
How to Develop for Neurodiversity and Universal Design
Dev Discuss Podcast
Ben Halpern and Jess Lee
1 July 2020
Autism Is an Identity, Not a Disease: Inside the Neurodiversity Movement
Katherine Reynolds Lewis
1 July 2020
I watched as neurodivergent conference attendees’ shoulders tightened with each new paper presenting a technology aimed at getting them to conform and comply. “This research dehumanizes me and my children,” tweeted one attendee.
At the very back of the ballroom, Lydia X.Z. Brown, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology and a blogger known as Autistic Hoya, took a handheld microphone. “We’ve just heard a series of presentations that all sound to me like… we are treating disabled people’s existence as needing to be therapized, to be individually fixed or remediated,” said Brown, an Asian American with short hair and a crisp blue pantsuit, standing with their torso angled forward, as is their habit.
Lydia X. Z. Brown is an autistic attorney and disability justice advocate who specifically focuses on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people. In this episode, join us as we:
– Dive deep into how white supremacy and white privilege play out for autistic kids
– Learn how systematic racism and trauma impact the diagnosis and treatment of autistic kids, including the unexamined racism of many OTs
– Explore the role that police and prisons play in the schools and lives of autistic black, brown, indigenous, Asian, and POC kids
– Discuss concrete steps OTs can take to become anti-racist in their work
Writers, It’s Time to Talk About Diversifying Our Sources
11 June 2020
To those who say they can’t find qualified candidates, Chinese-American disability rights activist Lydia X. Z. Brown calls bullshit. “You can’t find ‘qualified candidates’ because you only talk to other rich white people,” Brown said. “If you didn’t talk to only the people that you already knew, then you might have a chance to be introduced to others.”
VIEW: Rights Are Necessary, But Not Sufficient – Lydia X. Z. Brown Highlights Need for Disability Justice
Echo Chamber Escape
13 May 2020
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a renowned disability justice advocate, organiser, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer.
They believe in the need for communities, governments, and individuals to re-assess the way “power over” or “power against” certain groups of people, including people with disabilities, is gained and sustained. Their work and experiences with disability justice urge people to consider ableism – discrimination against people with disabilities – as more than a disability rights issue.
Wake Up Call: Tesla Hires Quinn in Suit Over Closed California Plant
11 May 2020
The Washington-based nonprofit advocacy Center for Democracy & Technology is getting a new president and CEO today, seven months after its previous leader, Nuala O’Connor, left to become senior vice president & chief counsel, digital citizenship at Walmart. Hired in March, former IP & antitrust chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alexandra Reeve Givens starts the job today. The center said it also recently added attorney Lydia X.Z. Brown as policy counsel in its policy and data project; while its student privacy project added former Federal Communications Commission attorney adviser Cody Venzke as a policy counsel, and Hugh Grant-Chapman joined as research and communications associate. (CDT.org)
Morning Tech: How is the FTC protecting us during the pandemic?
Alexandra S. Levine
11 May 2020
Alexandra Reeve Givens starts today as president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology. Plus: Lydia X.Z. Brown, a former institute associate at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Tech Law and Policy, is joining CDT’s Privacy & Data Project as policy counsel; Cody Venzke, a former attorney adviser for the FCC, and Hugh Grant-Chapman, a former CSIS intern, are joining the CDT’s Student Privacy Project as policy counsel and research and communications associate, respectively.
Kenna Chic (SFS‘20) to Take an Interdisciplinary Approach To Mental Health Policy Career
Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service
7 May 2020
Throughout her academic career, Chic has had the chance to develop strong mentorship relationships with faculty across the university. “So many people have made such a great impact during my time at Georgetown but the two I want to especially thank are Professor Carol Day and Professor Lydia X.Z. Brown,” she says. “Professor Carol Day was my thesis advisor who helped me develop professionally and personally. Professor Lydia X.Z. Brown inspires me to be not just a better advocate but a better person.”
A100: Lydia X. Z. Brown (full list of honorees – 2020’s Most Impactful Asians)
Gold House Foundation
1 May 2020
Lydia X. Z. Brown (they/them) is a disability justice advocate, organizer, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. They co-lead the project on disability rights and algorithmic fairness at the Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, teach for Georgetown University’s disability studies program, and support the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network’s policy and advocacy work. They are also founder and director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment.
Mel Baggs, influential blogger on disability and autism, dies at 39
The Washington Post
29 April 2020
“Sie fought unceasingly for the principles that all people count, regardless of type or degree of disability,” said Lydia X.Z. Brown, a disability justice advocate and writer, “and that all people deserve to exercise their own agency and to receive necessary care and support, even and especially if others do not understand why. Mel also emphasized constantly that it was most important for hir, and others, to be regarded and recognized as a whole human being rather than reduced to being only the relevant labels or categories.”
Camouflaging Distress: #ActuallyAutistic Suicide Risks with Lydia X. Z. Brown and Shain A. M. Neumeier — #SPSM Chat April 19th, 2020
Suicide Prevention Social Media
Rudy Caseres, Joelle Marie, and Hudson Harris
19 April 2020
This week on #SPSM Chat co-hosts Rudy Caseres (@RudyCaseres), Joelle Marie (@LazTheLazTheLaz), and Hudson Harris (@MentalStrategy) discuss the topic “Camouflaging Distress: #ActuallyAutistic Suicide Risks” with guests Lydia X. Z. Brown (@autistichoya) and Shain A. M. Neumeier (@smneumeier).
Organizing in a Pandemic: Disability Justice Wisdom
14 April 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing real and significant disruptions to our lives, our communities, and our organizing.
The scale of this shift in our social fabric is new, but these are questions that disability justice organizers have been grappling with for years. How can we organize in a state of constant uncertainty and limitations on physical movement? How can we protect people with compromised immune systems as we work to build people power? How do we get the work done while leaving no one behind?
This episode shares stories and insights from disability justice organizers that all of us can learn from and apply to organizing in our current conditions. Thank you to JOIN for Justice, the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, for organizing this call & working with us to turn the recording into a podcast episode. You’ll hear featured voices Patty Berne, Lydia X. Z. Brown, & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, moderated by Allegra Heath-Stout.
How to Make Your Virtual Meetings and Events Accessible to the Disability Community
Rooted in Rights
13 April 2020
As a starting point, think about the scope of your virtual event and what platform you plan to host it on. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed or live in poverty, and internet access and devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets can be expensive. “Provide information on how to access the event for people with limited or no access to internet at home, and be willing to share information offline too,” says Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disabled advocate, attorney, and adjunct professor. If you’re hosting an event over video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting, offer the option for attendees to dial-in by phone and participate without a computer or internet.
Disabled Students Already Faced Learning Barriers. Then Coronavirus Forced an Abrupt Shift to Online Classes.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
7 April 2020
Accommodations are sometimes mistaken for what are called access needs, according to Lydia X. Z. Brown, an adjunct lecturer in English at Georgetown University and a longtime disability activist.
Able to lead: From neurodiversity awareness to autism activism, this disability justice advocate fights for the rights of the marginalized
Jenny B. Davis
1 April 2020
Autistic, Asian, nonbinary. Advocate, activist, organizer. Writer, speaker, educator, lawyer. Lydia X.Z. Brown is all of those things but also this: a force of nature. Brown wrote and introduced legislation on developmental disabilities training for law enforcement in Massachusetts, co-founded the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective and co-organized a protest outside the Food and Drug Administration campus in Maryland against the use of electric shock aversives for behavioral modification on autistic and other developmentally disabled people.
Brown, who prefers the pronoun “they,” has written for scholarly publications and co-edited an anthology of writing by autistic people of color. They serve as co-chair of the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Disability Rights and Elder Affairs Committee. Brown also serves as the co-director of a project on algorithmic fairness and disability rights at Georgetown University Law Center and as an adjunct lecturer of disability studies. They have been honored by the Obama White House, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and Pacific Standard magazine, which named Brown a Top Thinker Under 30 in the social and behavioral sciences. Brown turns 27 this summer.
Ride or Die
History Colorado’s Lost Highways: Dispatches from the Shadows of the Rocky Mountains
Noel Black and Tyler Hills
31 March 2020
On July 5th, 1978, nineteen disability rights activists blocked multiple buses at one of Denver’s busiest intersections, causing a 24-hour traffic jam. Their actions would revolutionize the way we think about accessibility.
The mass migration to online learning is leaving disabled students behind
Mythili Sampathkumar and Maya Shwayder
27 March 2020
Lydia X.Z. Brown, an autistic disability rights activist, educator, and associate for disability rights and algorithmic fairness at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Tech Law and Policy, told Digital Trends the picture is not as rosy for disabled students and teachers as ed tech companies would have us believe.
Brown said many of the accessibility features were implemented “because of litigation by disabled people saying ‘this is inaccessible.’” These lawsuits point to the underlying problem: “Simply because a feature promotes and enables some form of access does not mean that all people who are using that software actually take advantage of that feature,” they said.
Brown pointed to the fact that instructors can upload documents that may not be compatible with screen readers for the visually impaired or provide video lessons that may not include playback features or accurate captioning for those with cognitive disabilities. Nothing in the software, and sometimes in the organization’s procedures, actually stops an instructor when they upload such materials, which renders the course and the ed tech tool useless to disabled students.
Trans Agenda for 2020 and Beyond Launches First Pillar: Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Must Lead
Transgender Law Center
24 March 2020
Today, TLC and a national coalition of trans leaders are launching the Trans Agenda for Liberation to serve as a community-led guide towards the world trans and gender nonconforming people deserve. The Trans Agenda, developed over years of community gatherings and conversations, serves as a framework for responding to global crises like COVID-19, and more generally for rebuilding and reordering a society that for too long has marginalized and dismissed the visionary leadership and solutions of trans people. Solutions to our current global health crisis will come from those most impacted including disabled, deaf, working class, and ill Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).
“Sick and disabled people at the margins of the margins have always been working against ableism fueled by and intricately interconnected with white supremacy, anti-trans oppression, and other violent systems that work overtime to kill us. Disabled, mad, neurodivergent, and crip brilliance offers deep wisdom for those now turning to collective care, mutual aid, and access-centered organizing as a means for all our survival,” said Disability Project advisory board member, Lydia X.Z. Brown.
Shake Up the System: Advocating for Disability-Consciousness in Public Libraries
10 March 2020
Cunha also notes that Twitter serves as a hub for the wider disability community, including disability at the intersections. They recommend hashtags like #CripTheVote, #DisabilitySoWhite, #DisabledAndCute, and #DisabilityRights for the wider community discussions.
Numerous folks in the community have hashtags for specific disabilities or organizations that they want the community to know about. Lydia X. Y. Brown, Esq. (follow them at @autistichoya) was the first person Nicole knew advocating for disability rights and who introduced them to the community.
After FDA bans Judge Rotenberg Center from using electric shock devices, advocates seek public apology, reparations
9 March 2020
While the rare ban is considered a “significant step forward” and giving people with disabilities and advocates “a sigh of relief” advocates said — they also said it’s not enough.
“A ban will do nothing to undo the decades of torture that people confined to JRC have had to suffer through until now,” said Lydia Brown, Associate for Disability Rights and Algorithmic Fairness at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Tech Law and Policy. “And Massachusetts has a responsibility to make reparations to the survivors.”
Brown, also an adjunct lecturer in Disability Studies at Georgetown University, points to the multiple opportunities they believe Massachusetts has had to stop the use of ESDs.
Elizabeth Warren is out of the race, but advocates hope her disability plan is the new standard
8 March 2020
“With her departure from the race, there is a noticeable and stark difference between the two frontrunners remaining,” said Lydia Brown, an associate for disability rights and algorithmic fairness at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Tech Law and Policy.
Brown said Sanders, like Warren, has a comprehensive disability plan, but Biden’s lack of attention to disability is “concerning,” Brown said. The former vice president’s campaign has not put out a comprehensive plan yet, though one may still be forthcoming. The campaign didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about a disability plan.
Institute Associate, Lydia X.Z. Brown Gives Presentation At Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute For Advanced Study On The Ethics Of Gene Editing And Disability
Georgetown Law, Institute for Technology Law and Policy
4 March 2020
On February 10, 2020, Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study invited Institute Associate Lydia X. Z. Brown to join Joseph A. Stramondo, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at San Diego State University, for a discussion of the award-winning documentary Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. The panel discussion sought to explore the social impact of human biotechnologies and carefully consider the ethics of gene editing and disability.
EDITORIAL: Stop Failing Black Survivors
28 February 2020
Even when the university finally sits down with students, it fails to adequately listen to and address their demands.
Lydia X.Z. Brown (COL ’15), an adjunct lecturer in the disability studies program, noticed a concerning lack of respect for student organizers from Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber and Vice President for Public Affairs Erik Smulson at a meeting they attended this week.
“Smulson had opened this meeting stating that he knows it’s hard to be a person of color at a predominantly white institution, a statement that came across as patronizing and placating at best, and certainly not as a statement of support or solidarity,” Brown wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Disability Issues Enter Spotlight In 2020 Presidential Race
28 January 2020
Some people with autism have said that Yang’s perspective centers on a typically-developing family member over the person with a disability.
“Being related to a disabled person does not give a person automatic credibility, and certainly does not make that person’s perspective interchangeable with those of actually disabled people,” said Lydia X. Z. Brown, director of the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network’s Autistic People of Color Fund. “In Yang’s case, his disability policy platforms distinctly lack any real substance.”
Institute Hosts Disability Rights Leaders To Discuss The Use of Algorithms in Benefits Determinations
Georgetown Law, Institute for Technology Law and Policy
28 January 2020
The Tech Institute convened a two-day symposium to discuss a pressing issue in disability rights– the increasing use of algorithms to make benefits determinations. The workshop brought together self-advocates, attorneys and researchers from around the country, many of whom have themselves litigated cases in which benefits were reduced or terminated following the switch to an algorithmic system.
Disability and Identity: We Need To Do Better
The Council on Quality and Leadership: Capstone Newsletter
21 January 2020
How can you be proud of who you are if you do not know what that is? Everyone has multiple identities; while certain identities may be more important to each of us than others, they are part of who we are. Believing disability is negative (whether that is done consciously or not) and therefore not talking about it with the people we support does them a disservice.
Autistic disability rights advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown explains, “When I say that I am ‘disabled,’ I am not putting myself down, insulting myself, suggesting that something is wrong with me, or making a negative statement about myself. I am staking a claim in an identity that is important to who I am as a person. I am recognizing that my mind/body function atypically, and that because of this, I am constantly forced by mainstream social/cultural attitudes and the laws and policies that enforce them to choose between being othered (and then discriminated against or outright harmed) or accepting the idea that I must hide who I am by passing as an abled person. By calling myself disabled, I am rejecting the idea that it is wrong to have a mind/body like mine. When I say that I am ‘disabled,’ I am not reducing myself to my disability, just as I am not reducing myself to my gender or my race when I say that I am genderqueer or that I am Asian. Being disabled is one part, albeit an important part, of my multifaceted identity. Each of these parts overlaps with each other, blurs into each other, and intersects with each other; they are not separated or disparate. It is important for me to define who I am, and being disabled is an important part of how I define myself” (Brown, 2013).
National Coalition Announces the 2019 Inductees of the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame
National Disability Mentoring Coalition
17 January 2020
The National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) has named 31 individuals and one organization as inductees into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. Selection criteria for the Class of 2019 included demonstrated commitment to mentoring and the impact of contributions on improving the lives of people with disabilities.
The Trump Administration’s Proposed Changes To Disability Benefits Will Hurt the Disabled According To Advocates
14 January 2020
Those seemingly unnecessary barriers are why the disability community says that any changes to SSDI should center the lived experiences of disabled Americans. “This kind of policy is embedded in a set of beliefs that disabled people are faking and that says we don’t deserve [SSDI],” Lydia X.Z. Brown of Georgetown University’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy, told Supermajority News. “And if we are getting benefits, it’s somehow treated like this special entitlement.”
Brown also stressed that one of the biggest myths about SSDI was that recipients were receiving thousands of dollars a month after qualifying. “It is already very difficult to qualify for SSDI, and then you might have 800 dollars a month,” Brown said, noting that is less than a minimum wage employee would make in a month working a full time, 40-hour workweek. “Just getting that $800 requires you go through a process that is onerous and dehumanizing and, frankly, incredibly condescending.”
Andrew Yang Puts Autism In The Spotlight, But Policy Questions Linger
3 January 2020
Disability justice advocate and organizer Lydia X. Z. Brown said that Yang “falls into a very familiar pattern of non-autistic parents of autistic children using their children to support their own credibility as speakers about autism without actually consulting autistic people themselves.”
They described Yang’s proposal as “limited in scope” and “lacking” compared with the disability policy platforms released by other candidates.
“A good policy platform at the end of the day has to be one that is devised in consultation and collaboration with directly impacted people and communities and one in which if that person is to be elected to office or to hold any position of influence will be implemented, led and led by those who belong to directly impacted communities,” they said. “Yang’s platform shows that he has not done even a fraction of that work.”
Lydia X.Z.Brown (C’15) Returns to Teach in Disability Studies for 2020
13 December 2019
“I am so excited that the students of the Disability Studies program will have the opportunity to learn from Professor Brown’s expertise. I first had the privilege of hearing them speak during an on-campus disability studies event last year. It featured a special screening of the film Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement as well as a discussion of what it means for modern technology to be able to “fix” or minimize the effects of disability. I think that their experience of being a Georgetown student will foster unique relationships with their own students, and will bring critical institutional perspectives into conversations surrounding disability. It’s great to have them back!”
Making Work Accessible, Wherever It Happens
31 October 2019
Lydia recently joined the Project on Algorithmic Fairness & Disability Rights at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy as co-lead. Lydia’s work assesses how algorithmic systems impact disabled people in employment, benefits determinations, and other settings.
Through their work with people who navigate a range of disabilities and marginalized identities, Lydia has developed a deep understanding of how different workplace environments can best serve these folks. Along the way, they also learned what companies can do to make workflows and working conditions more inclusive for their diverse employee pools.
Episode 13: Attorney Lydia X. Z. Brown on Making Work More Accessible
Matt Mullenweg interviewing Lydia X. Z. Brown
31 October 2019
Because of their background in working with disabled and marginalized people, attorney and activist Lydia X. Z. Brown has a deep understanding of how different workplace environments can best serve diverse workforces. Today they join our host Matt Mullenweg to discuss what distributed companies can do to make workflows and working conditions more inclusive. Full transcript of Distributed podcast episode.
Lydia X. Z. Brown Joins Institute Project on Algorithmic Fairness & Disability Rights
Georgetown Law, Institute for Technology Law and Policy
21 October 2019
We’re proud to announce the hiring of Lydia X. Z. Brown to co-lead the Tech Institute’s work on algorithmic fairness and disability rights. Lydia is an internationally recognized disability justice advocate, organizer, attorney, educator, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing.
Lydia’s work will assess how algorithmic systems impact disabled people in areas such as employment, benefits determinations, and the many other settings where AI-driven decision-making affects people’s lives.
Community In Diversity: The GDA Wants Georgetown To Rethink Disability
The Georgetown Voice
11 October 2019
Whether the disability is hidden or apparent, disability issues have been present at Georgetown since long before any members of the GDA came to campus. Lydia Brown (COL ’15) knows from experience all about the tension between receiving accommodations and equal treatment.
“At Georgetown, I, like many other students with disabilities, faced a really constant onslaught of academic ableism and endemic ableism across campus,” Brown said. “Ableism is a system of oppression that targets and marginalizes disabled people.”
For Brown, one of the largest issues is a lack of accessibility. “Accessibility means methods of enabling people to participate or engage,” they said. Georgetown has not always had a sterling reputation when it comes to accessibility concerns. Arrupe Hall failed ADA compliance in 2018, and White-Gravenor is currently undergoing renovations to install a ramp to improve accessibility.
How a ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism
19 September 2019
In 2 Essay Collections, Writers With Disabilities Tell Their Own Stories
NPR WAMU 88.5
6 September 2019
The anthology covers a range of topics: There are clear and necessary explainers — like disability justice advocate and organizer Lydia X. Z. Brown’s “Rebel — Don’t Be Palatable: Resisting Co-optation and Fighting for the World We Want” — about what disability justice means, how we work towards it, and where such movements must resist both the pressures of systemic attacks (such as the threatened cuts to coverage expanded by the Affordable Care Act) and internal gatekeeping and horizontal oppression (such as a community member being silenced due to an unpopular or uninformed opinion). There are essays that involve the work of teaching towards a better future, such as community lawyer Talila A. Lewis’s “the birth of resistance: courageous dreams, powerful nobodies & revolutionary madness” which opens with a creative classroom writing prompt: “The year is 2050. There are no prisons. What does justice look like?” And there are, too, personal meditations on what resistance looks like for people who don’t always have the mobility or ability to march in the streets or confront their lawmakers in person, as Ojibwe writer Mari Kurisato explains[.]
Trump Considering “Neurobehavioral” Tech to Predict Mass Shooters
23 August 2019
Outside the White House, the plan has already set off alarms. “The idea of the [Trump administration] creating a new agency focused on mental health led by a Trump-appointee, all for the purpose of advancing the view that mass gun violence is a mental health problem, should alarm us all,” remarked Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the N.A.A.C.P. legal defense fund. “This is scary and dangerous,” writer and disability rights activist Lydia X.Z. Brown warned Thursday. “Negatively racialized disabled people WILL be the most likely to be victimized/targeted by increased psychiatric and police surveillance, leading to confinement or death.”
Letter: What it means to blame one community for mass shootings
Daily Record News
16 August 2019
Published author and activist Lydia X.Z. Brown expands on this in their blog Autistic Hoya, “Autism is not violence. Mental health disabilities are not violence. (And) Adults with “severe mental illness, are 11 times more likely than non-disabled adults to be victimized by crime.” (Linda A. Teplin, Gary M. McClelland, Karen M. Abram, and Dana A. Weiner, 2005.)
It is easy to understand the confusion, anger and sadness that ripple through our nation every time these mass shootings happen, but let’s not make things worse by using divisive rhetoric or casting blame upon our disabled brothers, sisters and siblings.
Small school, big agenda: School of Disability Studies celebrates 20 years of activism, changing social thinking and transforming disability education
Ryerson University Today
23 July 2019
For those who missed the activist lecture, guest speaker Lydia X.Z. Brown’s talk on Organizing for Terrible Times: Reworking and Resisting captured the changing rhetoric around disability studies. Brown, an Asian American autistic disability justice advocate, organizer and writer, pushed the conversation to include critiques of the whiteness of disability studies, the important influence of critical race studies and the intersectionality in theory and practice.
Transgender, non-binary people ‘significantly’ more likely to be autistic
Gay Star News
18 July 2019
Lydia X. Z. Brown identifies as non-binary and is also autistic.
For Brown, who is a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the link between the two is inextricable.
‘Being autistic means that I don’t have an intuitive understanding of neurotypical people’s social conventions — including their concepts of gender,’ they told Gay Star News. ‘What I have learned about gender throughout my life has never really applied to me because it didn’t match my experiences or internal understanding of myself.’
The community organizer and attorney then added: ‘So my understanding of my own gender, or genderlessness, is deeply connected to being autistic.’
And Brown is not alone.
WNYC Studios: Radiolab
Matt Kielty, Lulu Miller and Pat Walters
17 July 2019
When a law student named Mark Bold came across a Supreme Court decision from the 1920s that allowed for the forced sterilization of people deemed “unfit,” he was shocked to discover that it had never been overturned. His law professors told him the case, Buck v Bell, was nothing to worry about, that the ruling was in a kind of legal limbo and could never be used against people. But he didn’t buy it. In this episode we follow Mark on a journey to one of the darkest consequences of humanity’s attempts to measure the human mind and put people in boxes, following him through history, science fiction and a version of eugenics that’s still very much alive today, and watch as he crusades to restore a dash of moral order to the universe.
This episode was produced by Matt Kielty, Lulu Miller and Pat Walters. You can pre-order Lulu Miller’s new book Why Fish Don’t Exist here.
Special thanks to Sara Luterman, Lynn Rainville, Alex Minna Stern, Steve Silberman and Lydia X.Z. Brown.
Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.
The 2019 Queer Liberation March Reclaimed the Resistance of Pride
10 July 2019
A group of Chelsea Manning’s supporters read a statement on her behalf. “We are here because we know there should be no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us,” the statement read. Queer disability activist Lydia X.Z. Brown led their speech by asking the crowd to repeat the refrain, “This is a resistance space. No police will make us safe,” in response to the heavy police presence just outside the rally. Blair Imani, activist and ambassador of Muslims for Progressive Values, spoke about the importance of validation for queer people of faith. “You are not a sinner,” Imani said. “You are not flawed. You are not a problem.”
Celebrating My LGBTQ+ Pride Helped Me Find Disability Pride
Rooted in Rights
27 June 2019
I found online activists like Lydia X. Z. Brown and Neurowonderful that shaped my understanding of what it means to be autistic—and the reality that I could have autistic pride, that I didn’t have to constantly change who I was for the benefit of non-autistic people. Advocates like Annie Segarra and Denarii Grace taught me that I didn’t have to be ashamed when I started using a cane, and that a mobility aid can be a symbol of disability pride and visibility.
Young Activists to Look Out For: Part 2!
26 June 2019
Lydia X. Z. Brown is an autistic, nonbinary person of color who advocates for autistic POC. In their own words, they are an “educator, activist/organizer, speaker/trainer, policy advocate, and writer focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people.” Basically, they’re like a…. septuple threat?! With an undergraduate degree from Georgetown and a Law Degree in Public Interest Law from Northeastern University, they advocate for people through policy changes/hearings, workshops, essays, and art. They’re currently acting as a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law to fight for the educational rights of children with different types of psychological disabilities. Along with all of the formal policy changes they have made, they edited/envisioned the first ever anthology of writing from autistic people of color called All the Weight of Our Dreams. Brown wants to dismantle the stigmas that allow autistic people of color to be negatively racialized. They have tons of accolades (way too many to fit here) and have been recognized by many journals and even the White House for their work on basically every medium. Follow them on Twitter for updates!
Still, there’s a widespread assumption among the American public “that autism is a white man’s, and specifically white boy’s, thing,” said Lydia X.Z. Brown, a community organizer and fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
“The clinical literature and even widespread media coverage of autism all assumes that autistic people are white men who are interested in trains, math, and computers, and if you don’t fit that profile, then you’re probably not really autistic,” said Brown, who is autistic.
Reclaiming a proud legacy
Oscar Kim Bauman
18 June 2019
Northrop explained that in Reclaim Pride, “nobody has official titles, we’re just organizers. Everyone’s on equal footing,” This unconventional approach reflects Reclaim Pride’s focus on accessibility and community. Unlike the NYC Pride parade, which requires permits to join, the Queer Liberation March welcomes participants at any point along the four-mile route, which begins at Sheridan Square at 9:30 A.M. on June 30th and concludes with a rally at Central Park’s Great Lawn.
The rally will feature a plethora of guests, “both political and entertaining.” Among them will be poets Staceyann Chin and Pamela Sneed, performance artists Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, and Alok Vaid-Menon, and activists Lydia X. Z. Brown, Edafe Okporo, and Amir Ashour, along with members of the Gay Liberation Front and ACT UP. Also featured will be nightlife personalities Jose Xtravaganza and Kevin Aviance, journalist Masha Gessen, and actor John Cameron Mitchell.
It’s Perfectly OK To Call A Disabled Person ‘Disabled,’ And Here’s Why
14 June 2019
Person-first language was born out of empathy. In the 1980s, health advocates and people with disabilities championed terminology that put the person before their condition or disability. After years of enduring so-called “neutral,” clinical terms like “mental defective” or “afflicted,” person-first language was a way to reclaim humanity and personhood, according to Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disability justice community organizer and lawyer.
“Person-first language is still widely used by people with intellectual disabilities and many other communities of people with disabilities,” Brown said.
Today, the loudest proponents of person-first language are non-disabled people, including parents of disabled children, teachers and medical practitioners who may have been taught to “treat the patient, not the disease.”
“It’s a problem because they frequently shout over and dismiss actual disabled people who prefer identity-first language by insisting that the only respectful language is person-first language,” Brown said. “That’s inaccurate. Sometimes it is respectful to use person-first language, and sometimes it is respectful to use identity-first language. Neither are innately disrespectful.”
Today, many disabled people — particularly the Deaf and autistic communities — prefer identity-first language and have reclaimed what were once considered to be euphemisms like “crip,” similar to how the LGBTQ+ community reclaimed the word “queer.”
Is the phrase ‘falling on deaf ears’ offensive?
Hearing Like Me
28 May 2019
Ableist language is “part of an entire system of ableism, and doesn’t exist simply by itself,” says writer and activist Lydia X. Z. Brown. “Language reflects and influences society and culture. [It] isn’t important for silly semantic reasons, but because it cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deployed.””
‘Falling on deaf ears’: ‘Queer Eye’ star sparks conversation about ableist idioms
The Daily Dot
24 May 2019
Some pointed out that the origin of such language is rooted in systems that traditionally served the privileged. […] As writer and activist Lydia X. Z. Brown says, ableist language is “part of an entire system of ableism, and doesn’t exist simply by itself.” “Language reflects and influences society and culture. Language isn’t important for silly semantic reasons, but because it cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deployed,” she says.
“A Roadmap for Disability Rights:” UDC Law Review Convenes Disability Rights Law Symposium
University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law
7 May 2019
Lydia X. Z. Brown, Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, spoke next. Brown has fought for disability rights for almost a decade. Brown identifies as multiply disabled and has consistently confronted assumptions that “disabled people cannot be at the forefront” of disability-rights advocacy. “The work I am doing is literally for my own survival, and the survival of people I care about who are living alongside me,” Brown said. “We will die if we sit and wait for privileged people to help the disability community. We must take the initiative and speak up for ourselves.” Brown identified a number of fundamental flaws in our educational system and discussed some of the work they are doing to upend the violence inherent in an educational system that was not designed to educate students with disabilities and those students with intersecting marginalized identities.
Sexual assault survivors ‘Take Back the Night’
Miles Jay Oliver
25 April 2019
Trans, queer, black, Latinx and other survivors spoke and marched for their brothers and sisters Thursday night as they recounted the horror of their sexual assaults for a crowd of around 300 supporters gathered at the University of Oregon. Eugene was one of more than 800 other communities in more than 36 countries that stood in solidarity to put an end to sexual violence.
41st Annual Take Back The Night Rally To Highlight Disability Justice
KLCC 89.7 (NPR)
24 April 2019
The 41st annual Take Back the Night rally will be held this Thursday at the University of Oregon. Keynote speaker Lydia X. Z. Brown will address disability justice. Organizers chose to highlight this community because it’s often left out of the sexual violence conversation.
Annual Take Back the Night Rally to honor voices of disabled survivors
23 April 2019
The 41st annual Take Back the Night Rally, March and Speak Out Against Sexual and Domestic Violence will be held on Thursday. This year, the rally centers around disability justice and will feature keynote speaker Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disability rights activist. […] With disability justice as this year’s theme, organizers say the rally will be as inclusive as possible. Safe Ride will give rides during the march and back to campus after the speak out portion. Earplugs and playdough will be available for attendees if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
For lawyers with autism, the work often pairs up with things they do well
Stephanie Francis Ward
22 April 2019
“We need to overhaul the experience of the 80-hour workweek, as well as the experience that all social engagements have to involve drinking and loud bars,” says Lydia X.Z. Brown, a fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Brown identifies as an “autistic person,” rather than as someone who has autism.
If law schools want to be more supportive of their students with autism, administrators should hire and retain more faculty who have had marginalized experiences, including individuals who are openly disabled, Brown says. Changing the curriculum, which Brown describes as “archaic,” would help too.
“It doesn’t serve people who can’t function in a high-stress level for three years. That ultimately sidelines many folks,” says Brown, who disagrees with the notion that law school needs to be stressful to produce individuals who are capable of practicing law.
“Even if it’s true that the practice of law is stressful, that doesn’t mean that we have to voluntarily choose to pile stress and emotional abuse on people during the learning phase,” says Brown, who has taught as a visiting lecturer at Tufts University’s Experimental College.
“My policy was, ‘What can I do to be as supportive and affirming of everyone as possible,’ ” Brown says. “I learned from teachers and professors who were bad and thought, ‘How can I be the opposite?’ ”
All About Access: Disability Event Expands Critical Conversations
American University News
15 April 2019
Disability justice advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown gave the keynote speech in the morning, weaving together their experiences from teaching and organizing. One point Brown made clear to the audience: Sit however you like.
“We are taught from a very young age that there’s only one acceptable and appropriate way to occupy space. And we internalize that from the moment we are born, until the moment that we die,” they said.
Society expects individuals to look attentive and engaged—feet flat to the floor, shoulders back and straight, neck up—but Brown contends this is nonsense.
“I do not believe in this hegemonic representation of what bodies and minds must do in order to be allowed to quite literally occupy or take up space,” they said.
People should give themselves permission, Brown added, “to simply be and to exist in the ways that our bodies need.”
We need autism acceptance at Penn
The Daily Pennsylvanian
9 April 2019
In terms of language, most prefer identity-first language, over person-first language. As autistic activist Lydia X. Z. Brown eloquently put it while explaining the underlying subtextual differences between the two, “when we say ‘person with autism,’ we say that it is unfortunate and an accident that a person is Autistic…..When we say ‘Autistic person,’ we…are accepting that the individual is different from non-Autistic people–and that that’s not a tragedy.” Some autistic people I know, including at Penn, prefer person-first language and argue that they don’t want autism to define them. I understand that, as being autistic is often times difficult and unglamorous, and anyone who prefers to describe themselves using person-first language should have their wishes be respected. However, trying to compartmentalize my neurological hardwiring away from the rest of my identity will not solve the feeling of being constantly misunderstood, having trouble understanding the people around me, and being discriminated against. Rather, autism acceptance will.
Who Cares if Vaccines Cause Autism? (Also: They Don’t)
Gesshin Claire Greenwood
5 March 2019
Before I proceed, I should explain that I am using use the term “autistic” intentionally after reading articles and listening to autistic people who prefer that term over “person-centered language” such as “person with autism.” As Lydia X.Z Brown explains in this video about autism, “Most of us prefer ‘autistic.’ Like, if I’m not a person with Asian-ness or a person with queerness or a person trans-ness, then why the hell am I a ‘person with autism?’” If you listen to most autistic people speak about themselves, you will notice that they usually use the term “autistic.”
This is because autism is not a disease. It is a neurological condition, and a valid part of people’s identities. It forms how people see the world, how they communicate, and how they form and maintain relationships.
An Open Letter From Your Autistic Colleague
4 March 2019
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve referred to “autistic people” rather than “people with autism.” While there’s no hard and fast rule on this, autistic self-advocates tend to favor identity-firstlanguage (i.e. “autistic person”) over person-first language (i.e. “person with autism.” Calling someone a “person with autism” distances the person from the identity, implying a separation between the individual and the disability. However, many autistics consider their autism an important part of their identity and wish to embrace it in the same way that I also call myself Cambodian, Greek, and queer. If you’re truly not sure what label to use with a person, you may also default to “person on the autism spectrum.” But when in doubt, simply ask the person, and always use what they desire for themselves. You can read more about identity-first vs. person-first semantics on Lydia X.Z. Brown’s Autistic Hoya blog.
How to show up for Disabled People on #DDOM2019
1 March 2019
80% of disabled people grow up in families where it is believed they are the only one like them. Since we as children get our immediate sense of self from family, for many people with disabilities, we grow up with the knowledge that those closest to us may think of us as broken, may have lower expectations for us, or in some cases, may threaten to hurt us, and follow through on those threats. For a long time this wasn’t a topic talked about even in our community. Thanks to folks like Zoe Gross, Lydia Brown, and groups like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network we’ve pulled the window dressing back on a display of one of our community’s biggest, most shameful atrocities. And as someone who is a progressive, and has the privilege of belonging to a part of the disability community that this often doesn’t happen to (believe me, little people have our own messes), I feel like I have a responsibility to illuminate this issue for my peers.
This Woman Is the First Openly Autistic Person Admitted to the Florida Bar. Here’s Why That Matters
28 February 2019
Haley also isn’t the first openly autistic person to pass the bar in this country. Lydia X. Z. Brownis an autistic attorney, disability justice advocate, and organizer who’s a justice catalyst fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
I’m grateful to know Lydia, and they’re currently working to defend the educational civil rightsof Maryland students with disabilities who are facing disproportionate discipline — just like I did as an autistic child.
Together with Disability Advocates and Getty Images, Verizon Showcases Inaugural Disability Collection Photos
25 February 2019
People with disabilities make up about 20 percent of the population, but are featured in less than 2 percent of images we see in media. Verizon, the National Disability Leadership Alliance, and Getty Images partnered to change that with The Disability Collection, a growing collection of stock images that break stereotypes and authentically portray people with disabilities in everyday life.
For the first time The Disability Collection’s inaugural images–now totaling over 350 with hundreds more in curation–were unveiled and are being showcased at the Verizon Technology and Policy Center in Washington, D.C. A celebratory event marked the occasion and brought together leading disability advocates, photographers and media professionals for a pop-up gallery experience, networking and discussion on the importance of disability representation in the media.
The event featured many prominent members of the disability community including Helena Berger, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, Howard Rosemblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, Julia Bascom, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living, James Weisman, President and CEO of United Spinal, Lawrence Carter-Long, Comms Director for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund and disability justice advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown.
Collecting [a] home for Disability Justice in the Library
Disability Visibility Project
Dana Bishop-Root and Dustin Gibson in collaboration with Bekezela Mguni
24 February 2019
Disability Justice is a praxis that has been developed and led by Disabled people of the global majority, who are also queer and gender non-conforming. Its core principles are rooted in the recognition of disability as a natural component of identity, rather than an impairment. With the assertion that “nobody’s free, until everybody’s free”, its framework aligns with the organizing methods of Black women like Fannie Lou Hamer, who for generations, have worked to center the people on the margins of the margins.
For many, the practice of Disability Justice is an attempt to find home. An access-centered place that welcomes us to exist as we are, or create a home as Tupac described as, “a spot where we can kick it… a spot where we belong.” The quest to do so is a continual building phase that provides foundation to the world that we have yet to imagine. Home is an inherent right that has purposefully been stripped away from Disabled and other marginalized communities for generations. Historically, home has been determined by people who create and uplift systems that torture, abuse, disappear, and relegate Disabled people to confinement. To honor those who have never had or found home, we must explicitly state that the ability to explore the content of books or acquire them is not a privilege afforded to all. For those that have been or are currently imprisoned, enslaved, institutionalized, or by other means had their freedom taken away, access to books have intentionally been denied. We must also be clear that the ability to read and write should not be a determinant of value and alternative ways to access books or learning methods should be prioritized.
Lydia X. Z. Brown Talks Life In Academia At The “Margins Of Margins”
The Mac Weekly (Macalester College)
7 February 2019
Last Friday, an audience drawing from both the Macalester community and the larger Mac-Groveland neighborhood crowded Davis Court in Markim Hall to hear prominent disability activist Lydia X. Z. Brown speak. The talk, titled “Cripping Intersectionality: Neurodiversity and Disability Justice,” addressed the unique issues presented by the intersection of disability and other marginalized identities.
“In the history of disability – of understanding what it means to be a disabled person in the United States, and even more broadly, globally – is also a history of what it means to live targeted by an ableism that cannot exist without underlying capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy, Brown said. “These things work together to create places like the JRC.”
Blind N.Y. resident sues NU over website accessibility
The Huntington News (Northeastern University)
16 January 2019
The ADA was strengthened through an amendment in 2008 which reaffirmed the goals of the original act. Brown said universities have no excuse for not getting their websites up to standards.
“They’ve had almost three decades to come into compliance,” Brown said. “Universities have no shortage of money, they have full time staff and full teams of people working behind the scenes on their website, and yet they still do not think it’s worth the time. It is a shameful reflection of how little they care about people with disabilities.”
Meet The Cast Of QTPOC Documentary “I Identify as Me”
10 January 2019
Representation matters. It matters for the queer kids of color growing up right now, not knowing if their gender exploration is valid. (It is.) It matters for young Black trans women who only see trans identity talked about when violence happens. It matters because our communities deserve to have our stories told in a way that explores the beauty of our lives and our loves. The expansiveness of identity within the LGBTQ community is what makes us so strong. Directors and producers Tina Colleen and Monick Monell hope to show just that with their new documentary I Identify as Me, coming out in 2019.
As we all await the premiere of this needed documentary shining a light on QTPOC masculine of center and GNC lived experiences, GO wanted to sit down and get to know the cast a bit more. We talked with them about the process of making this film and why they believe representation is needed.
Thriving through Transitions: Disability Justice
The Carolinian (published by University of North Carolina, Greensboro)
28 November 2018
On Tuesday, Nov. 13, the EUC held an event by Lydia X. Z. Brown; an Asian American autistic disability rights activist, writer and public speaker who was honored by the White House in 2013 and is currently the chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council.
The event opened with Brown inquiring whether or not the audience was familiar with the term ‘disability justice.’ It is a multi-issue political understanding of disability and ableism, moving away from a rights-based equality model and beyond just access, to a framework that centers justice and wholeness for all disabled people and communities.
Classrooms to display “We The Future” artwork by Shepard Fairey to inspire social justice
6 October 2018
Another selected artist, Oakland, California-based community artist Kate Deciccio created three portraits—of 19 year-old youth literary activist Amanda Gorman, 25 year-old disability justice advocate Lydia X.Z. Brown and 27 year-old immigration justice advocate Isra Chaker—through stenciled images that were reproduced digitally. “Amplifier matched me with these three activists,” she said. “I met with them, and we talked about how they wanted to be represented.”
Why millennial workers are anxious and burnt out
27 August 2018
Today, much of the rhetoric that justifies disabled people living in poverty, or being denied things like migration rights and essential medical treatments, stems from flawed ideas about disabled people taking more than we are worth; thus, contemporary disability activists like Ki’tay Davidson and Lydia X. Z. Brown emphasise the idea of inherent human worth, divorced from measures of productivity.
Reproductive Violence, Judge Kavanaugh, and the Legacy of Eugenics in the United States
The Advocacy Monitor (published by National Council on Independent Living)
23 August 2018
The Supreme Court has historically been used to reinforce eugenics; for example, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Buck v Bell in 1927, in which the Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s forced sterilization against “feeble-minded” individuals, allowed states to massively expand their own eugenics programs. It is this history and context that makes Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination all the more frightening. His appointment could usher in a new era of state-sponsored eugenics.
As Autistic advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown says, “We know hate and we know violence, because it is written on our bodies and our souls.” As disabled self-advocates and allies, we must continue to recognize this violence as it comes and fight to oppose its entrance into our laws.
The Invisible Hate Crime: Violence against people with disabilities is more widespread than you think.
The Intelligence Report (published by Southern Poverty Law Center)
5 August 2018
Such atrocities are among the reasons activists on the frontlines of the disability movement sometimes bristle when non-disabled people question whether disability hatred really exists. Lydia X.Z. Brown, an Asian-American activist with autism, has put it this way: “We know hate and we know violence, because it is written on our bodies and our souls.”
To Stop Canton School From Using ‘Aversives’ — Like Skin Shocks — Mass. AG Appeals Ruling
24 July 2018, updated 7 August 2018
Many in Massachusetts and beyond argue the shocks are a form of torture, and that alternative therapies can be just as effective in these special cases, with less at risk.
Lydia X.Z. Brown, an autistic disability rights activist based in Massachusetts, maintains an online archive about the center. (Brown uses the pronouns “they” and “them.”)
“Our science and our community members,” they said, “have shown over the past several decades that we do know how to support people of all ages — with even the most intense support needs — without using aversives or punishment to do so.”
Brown has written that those other supports could include pharmaceuticals as well as “positive behavior supports,” an approach that relies on listening and affirmation rather than punishment. According to Brown, the JRC is the “tip of the iceberg” in a long-needed effort to undo institutional violence against disabled people.
Aftereffect Episode 8: “They call him Cheese” (podcast with transcript)
New York Public Radio
13 July 2018
The second thing that’s stood out to me, is the work involved in figuring out what Arnaldo wants. He doesn’t say it the way most of us are used to, and that can make his desires a lot easier to ignore. For the people caring for him, and, for journalists like me.
Lydia Brown: But did Arnaldo, when you spoke to Arnaldo, give you his consent to share more personal and private details of his life? —
The autistic self-advocate Lydia Brown pushed me on this back in episode three.
LB: — Because if he did, then by all means, share and discuss them. But if he did not, either you need to go back and get that consent, or you’re violating his consent. If you talk about his personal private experience.
‘Autistic person’ or ‘person with autism’: Is there a right way to identify people?
News @ Northeastern
12 July 2018
“Language is a really powerful tool in society,” said Brown, an autistic person who was the subject of one of the earlier stories. “It shapes how we think about and understand our world and the people in it.”
Instead, Brown said, the preference for identity-first language in the autistic, blind, and deaf communities is born of “saying, ‘You need to respect and honor our identities, there’s nothing wrong with us.’ We’re proud to be autistic, proud to be deaf or blind.”
Aftereffect Episode 3: “He was definitely a handful” (podcast with transcript)
New York Public Radio
25 June 2018
AQ: It matters to me so much to do this as well as I can. But I also, feel like I, as a journalist, as journalists we try to tell the fullest picture of the story as you we and I’m not going to like not share that there are parts of Arnaldo’s life that like, are not beautiful. Like, to me that feels like I need to go there because —
LB: Is that something that Arnaldo has given you permission to talk about publicly? Because that’s the really important question.
Intersectionality and Health: Breaking Down Barriers to Quality Care
5 June 2018
Lydia X.Z. Brown, a disability justice advocate, organizer, and writer, summarized the day’s discussions by explaining the distinction between disability rights and disability justice: while disability rights focuses on changing laws, regulations, policies, and programs, disability justice incorporates these efforts into a framework that seeks to transform the intersecting systems in society and culture that lead to patterns of abusive behavior.
“We can’t do the work without asking ourselves who’s not here and why?” Lydia said. Disability Justice asks “how we can build whole communities and value systems that challenge the current ones that devalue some of our bodies and minds?” they asked. “How can we support one another, because we all are worthy, valuable, and desirable, and we all deserve love and care. This is what disability justice has to offer us.”
Lydia called upon participants to be activists, while also showing compassion for themselves, a key message for participants to carry forward into their practice.
Why the LGBTQ+ Community Must Fight for Disability Rights
14 May 2018
“I would like to see increased focus on decriminalization, and reentry supports for those targeted by overpolicing and mass incarceration — disproportionately queer and trans Black, Latinx, and Indigenous deaf and disabled people,” says Brown. “That includes decriminalizing sex work and drug use, providing safe injection programs, offering reparations like prioritization of formerly incarcerated individuals for cannabis licensing and permitting in legalized marijuana states, repealing ‘quality of life’ laws that criminalize homelessness and precarious work, and ending use of immigration prisons.”
Disability & Intersectionality Summit: Holly Pearson and Lydia X. Z. Brown
Disability Visibility Project
13 May 2018
The upcoming Disability & Intersectionality Summit (DIS) happening Saturday October 13th in Cambridge, MA began as an idea in response to the question “but how can we be centered in our own community?” From past social movements led by marginalized communities it did not take long to realize it would require ‘we’ to center ourselves. The ‘we’ in this particular context being disabled people of color, and marginalized disabled people.
Organizing, scheming, rabble-rousing – whatever name we give this work, is work that happens wildly in bits and pieces then suddenly in what seems like leaps and gains. It is stop-and-go, it is outward exertion, demanding of accountability, much internal re-examination, and a relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo.
#RedefineAtoZ: Lydia X. Z. Brown, autistic activist, is ‘fighting oppression in all its forms’
NBC Asian America
1 May 2018
Through their writing, public speaking, and organizing work, Lydia X. Z. Brown has been advocating for disability rights, among other causes, for years.
The autistic, non-binary, queer, law student fighting for disability justice
News @ Northeastern
19 April 2018
Lydia X. Z. Brown is angry.
A gender non-binary, queer, disabled person of color, Brown is self-described as “multiply-marginalized.” And the third-year law student at Northeastern, whose resumé of activism and pro bono disability justice work spans nearly 20 pages, is angry that there is still a need for this type of effort.
“I’m angry about how I and people like me are treated,” Brown said. “I’m angry at the erasure, the isolation I and people like me have experienced. Ten years after I began doing advocacy work, I’m still saying the same damn things all the time.”
Accessibility at Tufts: For students with physical disabilities, the Hill is far from an ideal campus
13 April 2018
Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disability justice advocate, organizer and writer who taught the class “Rethinking Disability” through the Tufts Experimental College last semester, told the Daily in an electronic message that even though the ADA requires Tufts to provide equal access for everyone, Tufts is likely within its rights to keep the accessible door to Eaton locked.
“My understanding is that it is probably legal for those doors to generally be employee-only (and generally closed to the public), so long as a person with a disability is also permitted to enter through them; however, in practice, this is still a serious access barrier that could be easily remedied through making these entrances available to the public,” Brown wrote.
Notes from philoSOPHIA Conference 2018
Women in Philosophy
11 April 2018
Lydia Brown, a contributor to my book and participant in the other featured book session this year on Addressing Ableism: Philosophical Questions via Disability Studies (Lexington Books, 2017), is an award-winning advocate [here, here, and here] yet also a ‘non-philosopher.’ They mentioned in my session the real, easily observed ‘echo-chamber’ effect of academic communities (as it is also the case sometimes in advocacy communities). I don’t think that – and this is mostly by my observations and experiences as well – the larger, more recognizable and established philosophical communities like SPEP and APA (which offer themselves as inclusive, accommodating, and accessible spaces) have properly ensured themselves from Brown’s well-described echo-chamber effect.
Freedom fighter to speak at Northern Essex in Lawrence
Kathy Shiels Tully
6 April 2018
JUSTICE FOR ALL Lydia X. Z. Brown was identified as autistic in eighth grade and, since she was 16, has been advocating for disability rights.
In partnership with Northern Essex Community College’s White Fund lecture, Brown will present “They Must Not Stamp Us Out: Why We Need Disability Justice” on Thursday, April 12, in Lawrence.
“Disability oppression is deeply connected with all forms of violence,” said Brown, a former Melrose resident who attended schools in Malden and Lexington and now resides in Roxbury. “We are constantly erased and forgotten, but this is not the way things have to be.”
As Accessibility Falls Short, Students Take Charge
6 April 2018
Lydia Brown (COL ’15) — an autistic activist, writer, educator and organizer who was also a disability rights activist while at Georgetown — agreed with that characterization of Facilities Management.
Brown, who prefers they/them pronouns, was not initially planning to get involved in disability activism when they arrived at Georgetown, but a sense of responsibility drew them to advocacy.
Somoza echoed that sentiment, but, rather than viewing this advocacy role as a negative experience, she embraced the opportunity.
“I didn’t choose advocacy. Advocacy chose me,” Somoza said.
Brown, like Somoza, had to become a self-advocate during their time on campus, serving for two years as the Georgetown University Student Association’s undersecretary for disability affairs, from 2013 to 2015. In that capacity, Brown lobbied for the university’s first access coordinator and for the creation of a funding pool to cover accommodation costs for events. Brown was also involved in the early stages of the disability studies course cluster and minor, which was first offered in fall 2017.
Brown’s signature initiative was their proposed Disability Cultural Center, which would have served as a centralized hub of accessibility resources and activism. The DCC never came to fruition, despite the backing from the GUSA executive, because of a lack of widespread support and institutional discrimination against disabled individuals, according to Brown.
Developmental Disability Community Faces a Housing Crisis
5 April 2018
That said, according to an ASAN research brief, authored by Kit Albrecht and Lydia Brown, disabled people living in scattered-site housing “live in apartments or homes located in neighborhoods not specifically intended only for individuals with disabilities. They own or rent housing themselves. Residents live alone or with a small number of roommates. They may receive nursing care, assistance with activities of daily living, and/or other services, but the agency providing those services is not involved in residential provision. In congregate housing, many individuals with disabilities reside in a single housing complex. Typically, residents receive services through the agency that owns the residential facility.”
Scattered-site housing, according to Albrecht and Brown, produces better results: More autonomy, more community integration, more community participation, and more control over their own services. Moreover, settings with lower staffing levels tended to provide residents with greater choices, which is relevant since larger settings are more likely to have round-the-clock staffing even though many residents would not necessarily need that.
I’m Autistic. Here Are 5 Ways You Can Support Me at Work.
27 March 2018
As autistic disability justice organizer Lydia X. Z. Brown says, “Radical access means taking into account my baseline and fluctuating needs and capacities, and adjusting accordingly—it’s more important that I get done what needs to get done than how I do it.”
It’s important to remember that autistic people are not identical; we don’t share the same experiences with autism or with workplaces and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. As the saying that’s common among the autistic community goes: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”
Guests blame ‘crazy’ people for gun violence at CNN town hall, ignore facts
22 February 2018
Additionally, the continued demonization of individuals living with a mental illness — even in the face of tragedies like the Parkland shooting — may have disastrous, unintended effects. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, the majority of gun owners and non-gun owners supported the idea of barring people with a mental illness from accessing firearms, even if those individuals had not been determined to be dangerous; half of the study’s participants also believed that “people with serious mental illness are more dangerous than members of the general population.” Most were also “unwilling” to work with or live next to someone with a serious mental illness.
LGBTQ+ And Disabled Characters Deserve To Be Single In Literature, Too
20 February 2018
When multiply marginalized characters are introduced, their portrayal needs to be authentic. They should feel like characters, not a diversity checklist. “My goal in writing is not to draw specific attention (which can be tokenizing, distracting, and unnatural) to a character being multiply marginalized, but to have it so that multiply marginalized people are named, visible, and cast in all types of roles and personalities,” says Lydia X. Z. Brown, writer and organizer. “I want to see disabled women and non-binary people portrayed as having full agency and the full range of sexual and asexual, romantic and aromantic, experiences.”
Lydia Brown discusses disability advocacy
19 February 2018
When Lydia Brown asked audience members if they understand what disability rights are and if they know the difference between disability rights and disability justice only about six or seven people out of the 42 present raised their hands.
Brown then asked the audience what words they associate with these topics. Some associated mental health with “broken,” “diseased” and “hidden” and associated disability with “ableism,” “accommodation,” and “systemic justice.”
Brown asked these questions because of their background as an disability rights activist, writer and public speaker who is on the Autism spectrum.
On Queerness and Disability: Lydia X. Z. Brown Comes to Pittsburgh
11 February 2018
QueerPGH: Are there unique challenges to being queer and autistic?
Brown: Many people, even in queer communities, assume that being autistic invalidates my queerness, based on the idea that mental disability makes a person less competent to understand reality, make decisions, or define their own experiences. This is deeply ableist.
A US immigration history of white supremacy and ableism
31 January 2018
Kristin Garrity Şekerci and Azza Altiraifi
Underpinning many of these immigration and proto-immigration laws has been a formulation by which value and therefore worth are ascribed to people based solely on their ability to accelerate economic growth for the state. But let’s take that one step further. The notion that some people produce more (or less) for the economy and are, therefore, more (or less) valuable – is ableism.
Disability justice activist and educator Lydia X Z Brown defines ableism as “oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against disabled people on the basis of actual or presumed disability”. Furthermore, Brown argues, ableism is “the belief that people are superior or inferior, have better quality of life, or have lives more valuable or worth living on the basis of actual or perceived disability.”
Hart to Heart: Savannah conference all about acceptance for those with autism
Savannah Morning News
26 January 2018
Conference keynote speaker Lydia X.Z. Brown was identified as autistic in eighth grade and has been advocating for disability rights since the age of 16. A well-known figure in the autistic self-advocacy movement, Brown is a visiting lecturer at Tufts University, author of the blog Autistic Hoya, and lead editor of the book “All the Weight of Our Dreams.”
Brown said parents of children who are autistic should not assume their child is broken or needs to be fixed. Nor should they rush to sign up their child for every possible therapy or intervention.
“Autism is a disability, and disability is part of human diversity,’’ Brown said.
What #ActuallyAutistic People Want You To Know About “Autism Mommies” On The Internet
23 January 2018
There’s a revolution brewing. Actually, it’s been brewing a long time, but the non-autistic world — well, we weren’t paying attention. And then, thanks to Twitter, for a moment we were. The ~radical~ idea that parents are not necessarily the best advocates for Autistic children was given a push by an inflammatory book that came out this past summer. In case you missed it, here’s what happened: Judith Newman published a memoir about her autistic son called To Siri With Love, in which she said she’d seek power of attorney over her bright, affectionate, transit-system-loving son when he turned 18, to force him to have a vasectomy. For good measure, she also insulted a few autistic self-advocates. Nevertheless, the book became a bestseller, celebrities applauded it, and the non-autistic world generally received To Siri like it was the best thing since sliced bread.
But Autistic Twitter boiled over with rage. Their message? Judith Newman is on the wrong side of history. Autistic adults are tired of hurtful stereotypes depicting them as robotic and inhuman — and they’re sick of having their voices ignored. Autistic people don’t want to be called broken, and they’re tired of non-autistic parent advocacy that demonizes “autism” and wails for a “cure.”
לידיה בראון רוצה לשנות את כל מה שחשבתם על אוטיזם (Lydia Brown wants to change everything you thought you knew about autism)
11 January 2018
(נטע אלכסנדר) Neta Alexander
בגיל 24 בראון הספיקו למצב את עצמם בחזית המאבק להכרה בזכויותיהם של אוטיסטים אסייתים, אפריקאים־אמריקאים או היספאנים. ב–2013 הם הוזמנו לבית הלבן על ידי נשיא ארצות הברית ברק אובמה כדי לדבר על פעילותם הציבורית. בזמן הלימודים לתואר ראשון באוניברסיטת ג’ורג’טאון בוושינגטון די־סי, בראון כיהנו כיו”ר המועצה לזכויות סטודנטים נכים, הכינו מדריך מקיף שנועד למפות שירותים ומקומות בילוי בעיר המותאמים לבעלי מוגבלויות וסייעו לנסח ולהוביל חוק חדש שמטרתו להגן על בעלי מוגבלויות מפני אלימות משטרתית.
(At the age of 24, Brown was able to position themself at the forefront of the struggle to recognize the rights of Asian, African American, or Hispanic autistic people. In 2013, they were invited to the White House by U.S. President Barack Obama to talk about their public activities. During their undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Brown served as chair of the Council for the Rights of Disabled Students, prepared a comprehensive guide to map services and places of entertainment in the city tailored to people with disabilities, and helped formulate and lead a new law to protect people with disabilities from police violence.) Note: Potentially not great Google Translation.
Your Difficult Co-Workers Are Not “Sociopaths.” Here’s Why Words Matter.
8 January 2018
The use of ableist language employed in everyday, casual settings, is something that disability justice activist Lydia X. Z. Brown confronts regularly in their work to raise awareness around ableist violence as a broad, systemic issue. “Much of the time, people who do this aren’t having conscious thoughts demeaning people with psychosocial disabilities,” they say. “Nevertheless, they are exemplifying a socially pervasive belief system that only some people’s minds are healthy, valuable, worthy, or desirable.”
And Brown points out that the misuse of this language is detrimental to identifying the problems that may truly be underlying the conflict: “Because of ableism, it’s easier to scapegoat disability rather than naming actual problems like unchecked aggression, willful lack of empathy, racism, or misogyny.”
Announcing the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards
American Association of People with Disabilities
5 January 2018
AAPD is proud to recognize Lydia Brown and Emily Ladau as the recipients of the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards. Through the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two individuals each receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities.
With the 2018 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, Lydia plans to establish a community/peer empowerment fund in partnership with the Autism Women’s Network to award micro-grants to autistic people of color seeking support for education, professional development, art, health and safety, and community organizing.
Celebrating the Disability Community’s 2017 Wins
Rooted in Rights
2 January 2018
While many of this year’s disability rights wins were policy-focused, a lot of successes happened in creation of art by and for disabled people, as well as grassroots organizing. We need to value all kinds of activism when we’re celebrating our collective wins. “It’s important to amplify the work of all people working in disability justice space,” says Lydia X. Z. Brown, writer and organizer.
7 Civic-Minded Things You Can Do With Your Kids This Winter Break
20 December 2017
3. Study your young role models. There are so many young people doing so many amazing things. It’s important that kids know they have valuable talents and ideas to contribute today. Pick a name each day. Research and discuss who they are and what kind of work they’re doing. This is also a good time to talk about what makes a good role model and upstander. Here are a few names to get you started: Gavin Grimm, Joshua Williams, Cristina Jimenez, Lydia X. Z. Brown.
#BoycottToSiri Highlights Why Non-Autistic People Must Stop Speaking Over the Autistic Community
Rooted in Rights
18 December 2017
It’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with parents sharing their experiences raising their children, including their autistic children. As organizer and writer Lydia X. Z. Brown says, it’s all in the details of how they write it. If they’re writing from their own perspective in advocating for their child’s needs and not making assumptions about how their child feels, that’s one thing. What’s harmful, Lydia explains, is “writing about an experience that actually isn’t theirs, but putting it out there as if it is. It deliberately erases the autistic child’s experience, and presumes that they can’t have a voice of their own.”
At the Intersection of White Privilege and Disability
The Body Is Not An Apology
29 November 2017
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.
Lydia is an incredible autistic activist who blogs as the Autistic Hoya, paying homage to their school, Georgetown University. Their work is insightful, thought-provoking, and useful. Some of their pieces are, in my opinion, cornerstones of the modern disability rights movement, such as their critiques of people-first language, their posts on why they and other autistic people boycott Autism Speaks, and their ever expanding list of ableist words, complete with a separate list of non-ableist insults to use to your heart’s content. (I’m personally a huge fan of “ignoramus.”)
Bridging Disability and Mental Illness
23 October 2017
Wilson Wong and Rosy Fitzgerald
Visiting Disablity Studies lecturer Lydia X. Z. Brown, otherwise known as Autistic Hoya, defines ableism as the “oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against Disabled people,” in addition to the belief that non-Disabled people’s lives are superior, have a better quality of life, or have lives that are more valuable than Disabled people’s lives.
Jampel’s role in connecting these offices helps bridge the gap between disability and mental health, but the categorical distance remains pervasive and powerful. According to Brown, dividing mental illness from disability is an ableist way of discounting the real lived experiences of people with mental illness. Brown said, “Mental illness is considered separate from a ‘real’ disability for 80 million different ableist reasons––one being that ‘disability is only physical, and it’s only something I can see.’”
2017 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner & Merit Distinction Recipients Announced
Public Service Jobs Directory (PSJD) Blog
20 October 2017
This year’s Pro Bono Publico Award Winner is Lydia X. Z. Brown, a 3L at Northeastern University School of Law. Lydia’s record advocating for individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people of color extends across the country and begins well before law school. At Northeastern, Lydia has served on the Committee Against Institutional Racism, the Transgender Justice Task force, and the Disability Justice Caucus–of which they are a Co-Founder. Lydia’s commitment to legal service is also apparent in the impressive number of pro bono hours they have worked at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic at Northeastern, the ACLU, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Movement Advancement Project, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Disability Law Center of Massachusetts. Lydia speaks, publishes, and advocates. They serve on councils and organize vigils. They are a adjunct professor of the intersectionality between disability, gender, and minority status, a voice for change among young people, and a valued peer of many who are older. We are honored to confer our 2017 award upon Lydia.
Clashing Communities: Autistic and LGBTQ individuals fight for their right to be both
The Columbia Chronicle
11 September 2017
Brooke Pawling Stennett
In school, Lydia Brown, an autistic, genderqueer activist, writer and speaker, was marked as “not normal” by peers because of their disability, not their gender and sexual identity. “The main thing that people latched onto was ‘this person is mentally not-normal,’” Brown said. “People act like every single human has one identity or one experience. You get to be a Christian, but you don’t also get to be black and gay.”
Atypical and Yvonne Orji of Insecure: The Transcript
30 August 2017
Aisha Harris interviewing Yvonne Orji, Timotheus Gordon, Jr., and Sara Luterman
Timotheus Gordon, Jr: Reading Lydia Brown’s piece on their obsession with terrorism and the fact that even though it was more an obsession, it applies to their work later on. A lot of people see it as, “Oh no, they are bein’ a terrorist, they support terrorism.” Which is nothing more than just an interest, not an actual attempt at terrorizing people. I relate that to my own life as being interested in anime, where a lot of people say “Well, anime is garbage. Anime is perverted.” Which, there’s some anime out there that is questionable but there’s a lot of anime that has changed so much, and enjoyed. So I think their story reminds me of how our interests could be scrutinized, especially if you’re comin’ from another culture.
What Is Identity-First Language, & Should You Use It?
9 August 2017
The difference between the perspectives essentially boils down to personhood and disability: is it something that you have, or something that’s at the core of your identity? Among autistic people, identity-first language is popular, because they often feel it’s such a strong part of who they are, not something that’s happened to them. Lydia Brown of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, who is autistic, explains in an essay that while she has previously encountered arguments that because we say “person with cancer” rather than “cancerous person,” we should do the same for autism, but she argues strenuously against that point.
Why America Keeps Criminalizing Autistic Children
12 June 2017
David M. Perry
To better understand meltdowns, specifically those related to autism, I called up Lydia Brown and, separately, Finn Gardiner. Both are well-known figures in the autistic self-advocacy movement, each with personal experience growing up non-white and autistic. Both experienced plenty of issues in school with meltdowns at younger ages.
Brown explains that meltdowns can be very scary, and that force or threats will never help. “When somebody is in a meltdown,” Brown says, “that person is unable to process anything else. Every tiny stimulus can be painful and overwhelming. Even if [you] wanted to listen to what somebody said, to follow directions, you probably can’t. Everything is happening too fast, too much, all at once. The important thing is not to punish somebody for something that is literally out of their control.” Obviously, the most important step is to identify triggers and remove them as much as possible, or to create the conditions for children to quickly move to a safer context. “If one of the precursors to a meltdown is transition,” Brown says by way of example, “then it’s your responsibility for the adult to prepare the kid better. To help the kids to work step by step, to practice.” Brown acknowledges that it might take years.
I Must Use Whatever Resources I Have To Challenge Injustice: BGD Crush Of the Month Featuring Lydia Brown
Black Girl Dangerous
28 April 2017
Princess Harmony Rodriguez
Black Girl Dangerous’ Crush of the Month is a feature where we choose the most swoon-worthy and inspirational QTPoC whose work and flair has left us inspired and blushing. Then we interview them so our amazing readers can join us in crushing, fanning, and absolutely swooning over these amazing QTs.
This month’s crush is Lydia X. Z. Brown! Lydia is an autistic, nonbinary, asexual of color who does writing, organizing, and public speaking. The focus of their work is intersectional disability justice, examining institutional and personal violence against marginalized disabled people. They are also the chairperson for the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, past president of TASH New England, and a board member for the Autism Women’s Network. Plus, they’re the Lead Editor for All The Weight of Our Dreams, the first anthology of art and writing made by and for autistic people of color.
How Doctors Can Stop Shutting Marginalized Groups Out Of The Health-Care System
27 April 2017
Health-care providers also continue to misgender patients. Lydia X. Z. Brown has experienced multiple uncomfortable experiences with their doctors. Brown, who is a genderqueer, nonbinary person, shared a particularly frustrating experience where their doctor misgendered them multiple times.
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.
Portraits of the Many, Many Ways to Be Queer
21 March 2017
When you take in the sum of photographer Tom Atwood’s magnum opus, Kings & Queens in Their Castles—a 15-year-long project in which he sought to capture LGBTQ subjects in their rooms and homes—that diffusion is rendered in stark relief. “When I was younger, I would sit down in bookstores and look at photography books, and I noted that gay photography, for better or worse, was really focused on sexuality. The subjects were mostly young and trendy and urban with their shirts off,” he said. His project is meant as a correction to that stereotype, focusing on subjects both young and old, well-known (Alison Bechdel and Alan Cumming, for example) and not. Atwood trains his lens on as many retired lesbians and rural gay laborers as he does investment bankers and creative professionals. The most surprising thing about the collection is the sheer ordinariness of his subjects’ lives. These are your grandmothers, aunts, and neighbors. Some are famous and wealthy; others are poor and downtrodden. Regardless, they all make up the LGBTQ community and are presented here.
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.)
Advocates Speak On Disability At Kennedy Institute Event
The Georgetown Voice
13 February 2017
Lydia Brown (COL ‘15), an autistic activist, writer, and speaker, spoke on discrimination within the disability community. As a high-functioning autistic person, Brown has been criticized for not knowing what it is like to be genuinely disabled, and, as an asexual, queer-gender Asian American, for being unable to represent a community dominated by straight white men.
In closing, the panelists agreed that while this year’s discussion may have captured but a sliver of the full spectrum of disability ethics, beginning the discussion at all is a huge step forward.
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 Coauncil 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.
From Blog Posts to Bills, Student Advocates for the Autistic
19 January 2012
For better or for worse, Lydia Brown’s identity has been shaped in large part by her autism.
“Autism affects every aspect of my life,” she said. “I would completely not be me if I were not autistic.”
Drawing on her experiences, Brown (COL ’15) wrote and submitted two bills, one before the House of Representatives and one in the Senate in Massachusetts, proposing a mandatory training program about autism for law enforcement and correction officers in the state. The training would focus on how to recognize and communicate with autistic people in high-tension situations.
Brown began work on the bill, which was submitted to the state legislature last January, during the summer before her junior year of high school. The effort began as part of a community service project required by her 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.