Disability activists (including neurodiversity activists) are rarely granted the chance to move beyond accommodation. In a world built for certain types of people, accommodations tend to be necessary for people who fall outside of the narrow group whose needs are considered in the stages of design. Focus lands on accommodations simply because they are immediate needs.
But a world that’s built only for certain types of people can be isolating even with decent accommodations. People deserve more than the right to participate. They deserve to decide what they do and don’t participate in. They deserve to have spaces that are ready for them in their entirety. They deserve respect.
Respect can be hard to come by in a society that tends to value productivity, social “skill,” and conformity over comfort, safety, and individuality. Statements that certain traits are undesirable “except for disabled people” are inherently exclusionary. Often, and somewhat worse, these words come without that exception. They are sometimes spoken by people who have authority over disabled people’s work, home, or school lives. Unfair and coercive use of authority thrives when these statements go unchallenged. Plus, respect can be particularly difficult to win when requests for it are not received respectfully. Expressions of autonomy are often treated as behaviors with no valid communicative intent attached or as markers of a chronic, undesirable willfulness.
Neurodiversity is respect, and respect is everything that comes with a world built for the diverse people who inhabit it. It is widespread access to many forms of communication. It is systems built and modified with the involvement of the diverse people those systems will serve. It is the assumption that disabled people will need to access the world’s many opportunities and spaces, and the knowledge that many already are regardless of the systemic barriers in place to doing so. It is considering the concerns of a community toward which a therapy is directed as part of evidence-based practice rather than using EBP as a buzzword to shut down those concerns. Neurodiversity is respect. And both are crucial.