People with Autism: UN Chief appeals for global solidarity
By EPHRAIM NWOSU
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has called for global solidarity for people living with autism.
Guterres appeal came in his message for World Autism Day, observed annually on April 2.
“It’s World Autism Awareness Day. People with autism are often subject to stigma, unjust deprivation of health services, education and opportunities to participate in their communities,” Guterres said.
“We call on everyone to help us build a supportive environment for children and adults with autism.This year’s observance underscores the importance of affordable assistive technology so to help people with autism live independently and exercise their basic human rights,” he added.
However, the UN Chief pointed out that there are still “major barriers to accessing such technologies”, including high costs, unavailability and lack of their potential.
“On World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to these values-which include equality, equity and inclusion-and to promoting the full participation of all people with autism by ensuring that they have the necessary tools to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms,” Guterres opined.
This year’s commemoration is being held as countries grapple with Corona Virus pandemic, which is placing persons with autism at disproportionate risk of the new wave of Corona Virus and its impacts.
“Persons with autism have the right to self determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on equal basis with others. But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of covid-19 exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights,” the UN Chief noted.
“We must ensure that a prolonged disruption caused by the emergency does not result in rollbacks of the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance.”
The Secretary-General stressed that the rights of persons with disabilities must not be infringed upon during times like the current pandemic.
“Governments have a responsibility to ensure that their response includes persons with autism.Persons with autism should never face discrimination when seeking medical care.
“They must continue to have access to the support systems required to remain in their homes and communities of crisis, instead of facing the prospect of forced institutionalization,” Guterres submitted.
UN headquarters in New York observed the Day with a special event that focused on leveraging technology to remove barriers for people with autism so that they can participate in society; and to promote equality and equity.
” These technologies are much more than tools that are useful or nice to have. Reliable access to affordable assistive technologies is a fundamental human rights issue,” Alison Smale, the UN Global Communications Chief who chaired the commemoration pointed out.