If you haven't already heard, a delay has happened in the confirmation of autistic self-advocate Ari Ne'eman's nomination to the National Council on Disability, the youngest nominee in US history. As Ari has demonstrated, age is not a barrier to experience.
Ari is most known for founding the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a non-profit organization run by and for autistic people to provide support and services to autistic individuals while working to change public views of autism through community education. Embracing the principles of the cross-disability community, ASAN promotes inclusive education, community living, and the inclusion of autistic individuals in the national conversations and decision making that concerns autistic people. Currently, ASAN has chapters in several states in the US, as well as in Australia and Canada, and is engaged in initiatives on both state and federal levels.
While Ari certainly does not work alone as founding President of ASAN, he also has his own personal contributions and outstanding achievements. He has served on the New Jersey Special Education Review Commission, was appointed by Governor Jon Corzine to serve as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, was the Policy Workgroup Leader for the Youth Advisory Council to the National Council on Disability, is a board member of TASH and the Autism National Committee, and has served as the first Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership. During his time serving on the New Jersey Special Education Review Commission, he wrote a minority report on aversives, restraint and seclusion.
He has been recognized for his work, having received the HSC Foundation "Advocates in Disability" Award and the United Cerebral Palsy's "Expanding Horizons" Award.
Recently, Ari has been involved in the passing of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247) and on the investigation of the abusive practices of the Judge Rotenberg Center. He has expressed personal interest in the case of Zakh Price, and has been involved with the protests and cross-disability outcry of Autism Speaks derogatory portrayal of autistic people.
On top of it all, Ari is a senior student of Political Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he is finishing up his studies for May 2010.
In comparison to the other nominees that were confirmed, Ari's involvement in the autistic and cross-disability fields, plus his own experiences in a secluded special needs education program and post-secondary education makes him an excellent addition to the National Council on Disability. His own achievements and mission statements are very similar to the goals of the NCD, "to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, and that empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society."(NCD)
I am sure that I am not alone in the autistic and cross-disability community when I say that I am confident that the US Senate will not hesitate to maintain the purpose of the National Council on Disability, will not create barriers for all persons to have an active role in society and the government, and will participate in empowering autistic and disabled persons in being included in national discourse.