A post, from Austin Harney, a member of this Steering Group

We are delighted to put up this post from Austin, written on 3rd June 2017, with his full permission.

“Dear All,
Labour is the first political party to endorse Autism/Neuro – Diversity in its manifesto. John McDonnell , the Shadow Chancellor, and Janine Booth (RMT and TUC Disabled Members Committee) were the driving force behind this policy. This move by the Labour Party is, extremely, important to me as I, first, publicly, declared in 2013 that I was diagnosed with Quasi – Autism at the age of 4 in 1972. This condition was, quite, extreme in its day. Also, society was very hash in its attitudes towards disabled people, especially as Asperger Syndrome (a mild form of Autism) was not recognised until 1994. Before 2013, I had been active in the Trade Union movement and the Labour Party. I was accustomed to public speaking but never had the nerve to come out in the open about my Autism! I thank John McDonnell and Janine Booth for helping me to, publicly, reveal this disability!
When I received the diagnosis, the authorities recommended that I was taken away from mainstream education against my wishes. The top professional medical experts stated that I had sub – normal intelligence that was unfit for mainstream society, education and employment. I was sent to an Autistic compound at the back of Grasvenor Infants School in Barnet. At a time, when there was no air conditioning in those days, we had to spend hours confined to the building on a very hot sunny day. When I was collected, my parents demanded an explanation. The response from the teaching staff was that due to the Harvest Festival, the parents of the normal children were there, that day. If these parents knew about anything this compound on the back of the playground, they would take their children away from this school. No doubt, it explains the extreme prejudice that one had to undergo in those days! After a couple of years, it was clear that I was not improving and my family decided to take me away from the school. I was not in a school for quite a few months until I was returned to my former mainstream place of infant education.
Growing up during those years was very difficult in adapting to mainstream society, especially in secondary education. It was not easy seeking employment, either, after I left school. I was dismissed from the civil service at a time when reasonable adjustments did not exist as it was before the Disability Discrimination Act became law in 1995. If there had been a reasonable adjustment to accommodate my neurological condition which affected my ability to learn, I could have been beneficial to the organisation!
However, I appealed against dismissal and thanks to the Trade Union, I successfully sought re – employment in the civil service but, unfortunately, on a lesser grade. I have paid back this gratitude to the Trade Union by representing all members of different grades in the civil service. I have been a delegate to many Trade Union conferences including the televised TUC and spoke on the rostrum on more than one occasion. All these years, I kept quiet about my condition but, today, I hope that we can boost hope and inspiration for all Autistic people including the parents of the children who have received the same diagnosis!
No doubt, a golden opportunity could await us in order to transform the lives of Autistic people by eradicating the prejudices of previous centuries! It is the reason that I ask you to vote the Labour Party in the general election on Thursday 8th June 2017!
Austin Harney,
Secretary of the Labour Party Autism/Neuro – Diversity Steering Committee.”

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Thank you, Austin! A meaningful and beautifully written post…



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