Part 1: An Open Letter to The Mighty on Their Continued Support of The Hate Group Autism Speaks
Part 2: The Response
Thank you so much for reaching out about your concerns. Unfortunately, there is some misinformation circulating regarding the nature of our relationship with Autism Speaks.
The Mighty has a non-profit partnership program which takes a variety of forms. The purpose of the partner program (which does not involve money) is to bring free resources to people through stories on our site. We partner with hundreds of organizations, including but not limited to the following autism-related organizations: National Autism Association, Sesame Street, The Art of Autism, ACT! Today, Geek Club Books, Asperger Experts, AutismTalk, The Color of Autism, Global Autism Project, Autism Speaks, and STAR Institute for SPD.
We do understand the concerns about Autism Speaks. We added them to our partnership program only after they announced the change to their mission in the fall of last year. As a company, we believe autistic people and their families need acceptance and understanding, and we do not support curing or eradicating autism.
We do believe a crucial element of our partnership program is that our site and community helps the partners’ audiences. By us sharing more content by autistic writers and autism community advocates, it can help educate and change perspectives for the better both within and beyond our Mighty community. We are now one of the largest platforms for autistic writers, and sharing our writers’ stories with Autism Speaks can help their readers who may still be struggling to understand and accept autism.
All of our partners have a “partner box” (we sometimes refer to it as a “module”), which can appear at the bottom of stories and offers links and resources on the partner’s website. We generally add one of these boxes to stories based on the content, but writers who are associated with a partner as employees, volunteers, or supporters can choose to have that box displayed below their stories. Autism Speaks’ partner box is only supposed to be used when a contributor has expressed support of the organization — we do have a number of autistic writers who are affiliated with them. However, an oversight led to the box being added to an autistic writer who does not want to be affiliated with Autism Speaks. When this individual contacted us, we immediately removed the partner box and apologized. We want to assure you we will work harder to make sure contributors are always comfortable with the partner organizations in their stories.
We are open to feedback regarding our partnership program and would especially like to add additional partners in the autism space that you, our writers and readers, support. So if you are part of an organization or can recommend one, please let us know!
Our health and disability community is very diverse, and opinions differ on important issues. We do evaluate our partnerships periodically, and we never compromise our editorial standards for a partner. We actively work to fight ableism and content that disparages the disability community. We are committed to sharing the voices of autistic writers and the diverse voices of the larger disability and health community.
We hope this helps to alleviate your concerns.
— The Mighty Staff
- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- The Autism National Committee
- Autism Network International
- Autism Women’s Network
- American Association of People with Disabilities
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Youth Leadership Network
- Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE)
- HSC Foundation
- Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
Part 3: The Facebook-ening
I am Disability Editor at The Mighty. I’m not the person writing this article, but I wanted to ask if you would reconsider. I have spoken to her about her project and I think it’s amazing. What she’s looking for in this situation is a person to interview and get a few key quotes, as it’s a News/Lifestyle feature about sex and disability.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation out there about The Mighty. Most of it is not true. Most employees have a disability or chronic illness of some kind, including the person who wants to interview you. I wouldn’t disclose further without her permission, but I’m sure you could talk to her about it if it would ease your mind. I’ve been working hard at editing and promoting quality disability content since March 2016. We have been covering very important issues, like Medicaid and marriage, the lack of actors with disabilities in TV/movies, the boycott “To Siri With Love” campaign, and so much more. We reach millions of people every month. I review all disability-related submissions and also consult daily with our parenting editor to make sure ableist content does not get published. I also assist other editors/sections with these issues.
While I personally do not like That Autism Organization, The Mighty’s connection with them is extremely minor. They don’t get any money from The Mighty or vice versa; all they get is a directory listing, and writers who want to include info on them in their post can do so. Honestly it’s been months since I have seen their info in a post, and I always choose a different organization to feature because as I said… I’m not a fan either. That said, we have at least two autistic authors (not parents) who have worked for That Organization or been volunteers, and I do find it frustrating when their perspectives and existence are not even acknowledged amidst the cries of Everybody Hates That Organization. Bottom line, the disability community is diverse and I believe it’s important for each person to think for themselves. I encourage you to check out some of our articles and decide for yourself! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have…message me anytime.
Despite the outcry of many of us — including those of us who have asked for our articles to be removed from The Mighty in correlation to partnerships with A$ (which has not happened) — there is still a partnership with A$ which is an organization that has openly supported torture for those of us who are neurodivergent. I’m not sure why any disability organization would EVER feel comfortable having any sort of link to them.
The Mighty would still have someone who writes on these topics [sex and disability] if they took concerns that I shared seriously. I’ve asked several times for my articles to be taken down from your site due to this unholy partnership, and I get no reply much less action taken on my requests.
There is outcry among most disabled people about this and yet TM refuses to acknowledge this, save in letters to those of us who complain (whose follow-up emails — like mine — get ignored).
Furthermore, it’s condescending to claim that those of us who are upset and frustrated are spouting misinformation. We know the situation — it’s still horrendous. Why? Any organization that ignores writers’ wishes, blocks them from groups, refuses to pay them despite making money, and downplays these issues isn’t working for *justice* for disabled people. Period.
My understanding is that our (as I said very small) connection with them only began after they changed their mission statement and hired autistic board members. Prior to that they had been turned down for any connection. Certain people in the company I think feel they deserve the opportunity to change. Personally I don’t think they are worth having any connection to because even with them making improvements, there are far better organizations out there. But at the same time, I don’t see why the Mighty is the target of such extreme anger. I mean, are people going around to every other disabilities site that has a link to AS and getting angry about it? Because that is what the so called partnership amounts to. They get their link and in exchange they share some of the Mighty’s articles on social media… which is getting good autism acceptance content out there to people who need to see it. If it were up to me we would not bother with them because they are such a lightning rod, but at the same time I do feel the connection is overblown. Not the criticisms of that organization, but the blaming of the Mighty for stuff AS did in the past.
Despite changing their mission statement, they haven’t actually changed at all and continue to promote harmful rhetoric that everyone in the disability community should be afraid of and angry about. I’m not sure why people think not explicitly stating that they want XYZ doesn’t mean they won’t still participate. Trump isn’t a Nazi explicitly and he still acts like one.
PP has problems — but they also acknowledge them and work on them. A$ and TM seem to refuse to hear any dissenting opinions. That’s not how to run a successful organization, but what do I know? I just run my own business, have a side gig with a major EHR company, and work with major organizations.
If y’all checked your emails and actually read dissenting ones, you’d have heard this last April from many of us.
I have definitely heard the opinions… And like I said if it were up to me we wouldn’t have any connection with AS, but it’s not. I have shared my recommendation of not having a connection with them repeatedly, though. If and when anything changes I will be sure to let you know. I do know that other concerns have been heard and acted on, especially regarding parents sharing ableist narratives and inappropriate information about their kids with disabilities. That has been a big focus for me since day one. You would not believe the stuff I and the parenting editor turn down for publication. There are some great parents out there but there are some seriously messed up ones too. We’ve also discontinued using the phrase “special needs” except in direct quotes or to critique it, though it still appears in older content. And we have so many more disabled writers that the content even in disability and autism categories is mostly by people with conditions rather than parents. So I just wish people would stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater over the AS issue.
It seems like this all comes down to a disagreement about whether AS has changed, is changing, can change. Some people interpret their new direction as changing, some don’t believe they will ever change, and some think perhaps they will but it’s too soon to support them. It seems like most people here don’t think they will ever change. My bosses think they have changed and are continuing to improve. I think they’re at the beginning of changing but I’m not comfortable supporting them right now. But someone believing they have changed, whether you agree or not, does not equate to supporting eugenics and/or hatred of autistic people. It’s simply a matter of giving them more credit than they perhaps deserve.
What went wrong here?
- Your organization should be accessible and willing to have a dialogue with writers. You should not be ignoring writers who share concerns about partnerships. A partnership with A$ in this context legitimizes it as an organization rather than a hate group.
- Don’t play kumbaya. Disability rights/justice peeps aren’t having it. My existence isn’t up for debate, and neither is my humanity. I shouldn’t have to preach to another disabled person essentially from a pulpit about why this connection with A$ is dangerous.
- If you’re FB friends with someone and you’re trying to persuade them to do something — and telling them they should message you to talk more about it — you should be the one messaging them in the first place. You don’t make this a comment on an open post. This is especially true if others commenting have shared their disdain for your organization or company.
- Respect boundaries. Period.
- a better medical system
- a government that doesn’t love eugenics and white cishet abled neurotypical supremacy
- mental health care
- mass transit systems that don’t fucking suck
- a guaranteed national income
- captions, sign language, and CAR-T
- empathy *gasp*
- people to believe us at our word
Looking for more about how The Mighty sucks?
- An open letter to The Mighty: being mighty outspoken means getting mightily shut out
- #CrippingTheMighty: Our stories and labor have value
- Some disabled writers angered by their removal from The Mighty’s Facebook group
- The problems with The Mighty, and my suggestions for improvement
- One year since Cripping The Mighty
- If You Like It Then You Shoulda Put a Paycheck On It: My Real Problem With The Mighty (#CrippingTheMighty)
- Oops, The Mighty did it again…and again…and again
- A Mighty Mess
- Looking Back at #CrippingTheMighty
- Two Ethical Futures for The Mighty
- Some Real Talk About The Mighty
- Extended Interview: Inspiration Porn Resolution & #CrippingTheMighty