Meet Wanda Deschamps
Though these are challenging times for our community and so many others, we continue to share authentic stories of autistic Canadians and their families. We hope these will offer a look into the many diverse perspectives in our community and provide inspiring and uplifting stories when we need it most.
Wanda Deschamps, proud autistic Canadian, advocate, and “inclusion revolutionist”, shares her thoughts on advocating for autism acceptance, celebration and recognition during these extraordinary times. For Wanda there is a silver lining, Covid-19 has created truly inclusive workplaces in an unprecedented manner.
We are living in an extraordinary time in extraordinary times. COVID-19 may have changed our society forever. Considering the advances technology has brought us, the world was in a state of disruption long before the onset of COVID-19. We track our steps through watches and order takeout on phones while reading Tweets from world leaders.
Mass social change is another dimension of our time. Notices of upcoming mass protest rallies are commonplace. Environmental degradation for example, has garnered unprecedented profile and the cause’s fearless leader, teenage activist and openly autistic female, Greta Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year for 2019. Her recognition three months ago (though it feels like longer) thrust the neuro-diverse population and especially females with autism into the spotlight.
Then a major pause button was pushed on all things Greta. Not only can we not participate in climate marches, we cannot even walk to our local coffee shop with a friend. As we process this “new normal” some folks are re-examining, rethinking, re-evaluating and reimagining much of their lives. By contrast, I have spent a large part of my life looking at the world through various prisms. This was not always by choice but rather because of what I felt forced to do trying to make sense of the world through my state of mind. At the age of 46, I learned why the world is not wired for the way I think. Like Greta Thunberg, I have autism.
Speaking for myself and many fellow autistics, an often foreign and unwelcoming space is the modern workplace. From ambiguous position responsibilities to expectations around traditional gender norms to institutional lighting to office rituals the 9-5 office routine can fall somewhere between disorienting and completely destabilizing. This is one reason behind why most autistics are unemployed or underemployed. Now the modern workplace has abruptly modified and adapted as individuals work remotely, integrate work and family (including furry members) and vary their hours to suit everything from Zoom calls to their new commute (the trek to their home office). All of a sudden, options that disability advocates have been championing for years - protocols around health disclosures and workplace accommodations - are being recognized for what they are truly meant to enable – playing to employees’ strengths and allowing for the highest levels of productivity. Moreover; the benefits of doing this is already evidencing itself as employees continue working and contributing to the economy and society at large. Alas, the business case for equitable and inclusive workplaces hard fought by so many for so long is now set to stand on its own.
So, in this extraordinary time within extraordinary times I see an opportunity: to advocate for autism acceptance, celebration and recognition within truly inclusive workplaces in an unprecedented manner. As an “inclusion revolutionary” I will continue to promote the skills, talents and contributions of my fellow autistics all while being unashamed, unafraid and undeterred. And if I ever need a shot of encouragement, I am going to make the trek to my home office and Zoom a certain teenage activist!
Disclaimer: Information provided is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks Canada provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties.