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AutismBC Earns a Stigma-Free Zone Designation

The Stigma-Free Society is proud to announce AutismBC’s official designation as a Stigma-Free Zone!

Over the past year, AutismBC has been working with Stigma-Free Society in order to overcome barriers to full inclusion, diversity and equity within the organization. Having the awareness that their organization has room to grow in these areas was a powerful starting point to becoming stigma-free. From there, they have been working with Stigma-Free Society to make changes to their organization. Their efforts have not gone unrecognized by Stigma-Free Society, and we are so excited to announce their Stigma-Free Zone designation.

AutismBC has taken on inclusivity initiatives and made fundamental changes to their organization in order to achieve this designation.

Some of these important initiatives include:

  • Electing two new board members that will help them better represent their community’s diversity, launching a new website with inclusive language and content;
  • Supporting staff through the challenges of COVID-19 by doing staff polls;
  • Having open conversations about self-care;
  • Allowing for staff-led scheduling and workload adjustments;
  • Adding additional team connection meetings weekly; and
  • Showcasing a diverse range of community stories on their social media.

AutismBC’s Commitment to Inclusivity

Not only have there been practical changes made in the organization, there has also been a discernible cultural shift that has highlights inclusion, diversity and fostering a deeper sense of community. AutismBC is committed to continuing to embed a learning culture by having ongoing conversations about how to stay engaged in progressive discussions, receive feedback, and remain open to suggestions on improving.

All of these efforts and actions are why AutismBC has now been given the official title of a Stigma-Free Zone. These changes have occurred because of the work of individuals who are committed to ensuring that anyone seeking support from AutismBC feels as though they are being heard, acknowledged and represented by and within the organization. Understanding the importance of culturally reflective programming, stories, staff and resources to meet the needs of the diverse populations seeking support from AutismBC has driven these changes and created a new culture within the organization.

Julia Boyle, Executive Director at AutismBC, shares,

“I can see that the changes we’ve made and the culture we are building are working. We still have a lot of work to do, but luckily, we have great people to support us at Stigma-Free Society, and we get valuable feedback from our members and followers. Creating a safe space for non-judgmental discussion is at the heart of it; we’ve all been both humbled and empowered.”

AutismBC is committed to continuing to learn, listen and grow as an organization and Stigma-Free Society will be alongside them on this journey, supporting their efforts in every way we can. We are so grateful to be associated with an organization that is making tangible changes better serve their community.

AutismBC is Working Towards a Stigma-Free Zone Designation

Over the past year, AutismBC has worked to create an internal cultural shift. With new leadership in place, the organization has committed to an in-depth process of identifying organizational gaps on matters of inclusion.

Not wanting to sit back, and assume, or defend that they are inclusive, staff and board members have dedicated themselves to fostering an impacting culture of learning. They aim to serve as an ally to marginalized individuals and community groups, and have planned concrete actions that will be seen, heard and felt by community members.

In March 2019, AutismBC reached out to the Stigma-Free Society to request support and we are so proud of their significant progress. We commend their commitment to fully value and respect the diverse identities, perspectives and experiences of their community members. AutismBC’s initial step was to create a safe space where their board members and staff are encouraged to ask honest and vulnerable questions about what inclusion means to them and the community at large.

Andrea Paquette, President of the Stigma-Free Society states:

“By doing this work as a team,  AutismBC has become better equipped to build inclusive spaces in the community that foster well-being, connection, belonging, and are free from stigma, discrimination and harassment. This organization’s commitment in establishing their Stigma-Free Zone has been extremely inspiring, motivating and authentic.”

Over the summer, AutismBC developed an annual Stigma-Free Zone Action Plan to outline their ongoing commitments to their community. Some of the action items include the following:

  • Identifying and adopting inclusive terms and language,
  • Supporting a Staff Champion to organize ongoing learning opportunities for staff and board members,
  • Developing inclusive recruitment strategies,
  • Branding the workspace with Stigma-Free Zone window decals and Stigma-Free ACTION posters.
  • Staff and board members have also used the online Stigma-Free Tool to help them better understand what being Stigma-Free truly means,
  • Finally, they have taken the Stigma-Free Pledge and have engaged in meaningful conversations on stigma and inclusion.

All of this progress has been done in just a few short months and the Stigma Free Society applauds AutismBC for they are well on their way to becoming a designated Stigma-Free Zone.

AutismBC has forged ahead after listening to feedback, concerns and criticisms with regards to their former Board President’s personal stance on a matter of inclusivity. While AutismBC did not support the statements and position of their former Board President, the organization was publicly criticized on social media for how they handled the issue.

Over the next few months, AutismBC and the Stigma-Free Society will continue to work on the organization’s actions items and becoming an officially designated Stigma-Free Zone. The Society’s Presenter, EJ Weston, has already presented their own personal story to Autism BC’s staff and board members, in regards to their mental health journey and experiences with identifying as non-binary. The presentation was a grand success and ignited a great amount of discussion, reflection and learnings within the organization. Subsequent to reviewing AutismBC’s Action Plan, we expect to award them with a designation plaque before the end of 2019.

Stay tuned for this exciting announcement in the coming months!

It can be difficult to move forward in the face of controversy and lack of knowledge, but it has been inspiring and extremely uplifting to see how committed AutismBC is to authentic change.