World Autism Awareness Day - 2021
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the second of April as World Autism Awareness Day with the aim of raising awareness and highlighting the necessity in improving the quality of life of persons with autism (A/RES/62/139).
Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts the nervous system and consequently impairs the ability to communicate and interact. That could result in a variety of different social, communication and behavioral challenges such as repetitive behaviors, social skills, speech and nonverbal communication. Considering that autism is a spectrum disorder, the strengths and weaknesses of persons with autism, as well as the learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities may differ from person to another.
According to the UN, more than 80% of adults with autism are unemployed and face inequalities particularly in regards to income distribution, access to health care and political inclusion. Even in countries where awareness on autism is the most advanced, these challenges persist and were further exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic, illuminating long existing discriminatory employment practices and hostility in work environments and placing new and unique strains on the lives of those with autism.
Furthermore, the stigmatization and discrimination associated with autism creates barriers in diagnosis, therapy as well as the total realization of the human rights of autistic individuals.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a blueprint for addressing and overcoming the major challenges plaguing the world to date, including strategies with a focus on reducing inequalities that hinder human and social development.
Goal 8 of the SDGs - pertinent to ensuring decent work and economic growth - promotes inclusive and sustainable employment and decent work for all, including persons with disabilities. Similarly, article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others”, and further highlights that the labor market and work environment should be “open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.”
Within that context, the theme of 2021 is “Inclusion in the Workplace '', with the aim of fostering support and encouraging inclusion at all levels of public life. This could be achieved by the launching of programs aimed at investing resources in hiring persons with autism, as well as raising awareness among employees. The integration of technology in inclusion programs could be a vital key in enhancing and supporting such initiatives.
The Geneva Institute for Human Rights, in accordance with its intrinsic mission of ensuring justice for all, views this day as an ideal opportunity to appreciate the multitude of ways that persons with autism contribute to our communities and advocate for the equal treatment and opportunities for autistic individuals.
Moreover, the Institute calls on States, governmental and nongovernmental organizations to unify efforts in dismantling systemic barriers faced by autistic individuals in their daily lives and ensure that they can live full lives of dignity and respect.
Finally, the Geneva Institute for Human rights appeals to all countries to diligently work towards expanding possibilities for all people with autism, advancing equity in accessing justice and other vital services and ensuring their full and independent participation in their communities.