Open letter to Dr. Strack-Zimmermann

By Heta Pukki, President of EUCAP

Dear Dr. Strack-Zimmermann,
You have chosen to use the expression ‘autistic traits’ as a pejorative, to describe qualities you consider unsuitable for someone engaging in politics.

As an autistic European, with the privilege of working with many brilliant autistic colleagues from across the continent, it is my impression that more autistic people, as well as autistic ways of approaching problems, would greatly enrich European political life.

There are autistic strengths, and there are impairments that many autistic people live with. Strengths are obviously no reason to exclude someone from politics, and excluding on the basis of impairment is discrimination, an act that creates or exacerbates disability.

In the autistic people’s organisations I work with, we strive to encourage autistic people, youth especially, to take their rightful place in public discourse and participate on every political forum. It would be greatly appreciated if you could consider your use of the term in the future to reflect respect for our work, and awareness of the difficult situations we face.

You have issued an apology, stating that greater sensitivity is needed. To move towards more fundamental change, challenging the underlying assumptions and perceptions that have led to you as well as many others to make such mistakes, I recommend learning  more about how actual autistic people engage in politics. I encourage you to read our Manifesto for the European Elections. We welcome you, along with all other European Parliament candidates who care about our rights and well-being, to pledge to support the goals expressed in this document.

Heta Pukki
President, European Council of Autistic People