Show me the money! Autistic speakers and speaking gigs 

Important, key fundamentals from Jeanette Purkis.

My own experience since returning to Singapore has been a mixed bag of outright exploitation and subtle disrespect. There’ve been people demanding I speak for free at their terribly named ‘Autism exposing’ events because it will give me “exposure” (as if I needed to pay out of my own pocket for any exposure in their tiny weeny blatantly exploitative event), people writing books and asking me to contribute a chapter but refusing to either pay an honorarium or a percentage of royalties just as gestures of respect (I actually told them frankly that they ought to offer some respectful gesture, but “I don’t make much from it” was their paltry and stolidly unmoved excuse), and organisations using an autistic person with a PhD as a token mascot, always polite and always ‘nice’ but no pay whatsoever, not even reimbursement for transport.

There also have been organisations asking me to speak and offering one-tenth of market rate because of ‘budgeting issues’.

As outlined by Jeanette, there are the obvious ones to avoid, but also many less obvious ones that perhaps genuinely cannot afford market rate – or perhaps their bosses do not want to sign the cheques for something deemed of lower value. The spirit of neuro-colonialism is dominant here in Singapore. Autistics are deemed unfit to work in certain professions, no matter how qualified or experienced (where experience is garnered overseas). And in general, an autistic person with a PhD is in their eyes worth only one-tenth of a non-autistic person with a PhD.

Change is needed. But it is no easy task to unravel all the knotted threads of entrenched discrimination and disrespect. Autistic adults and professionals need to practice what we preach, but we also need to have a joint vision for the future supported by non-autistic allies, especially parents of autistic children. Is this marginalising status quo what you parents wish for your autistic children to face when they grow up, or do you want something better? Time to wake up, stand up, eschew all the inspirational porn videos being churned out to make you all feel so gooooood, and start asking for equity and respect. For us now, and most of all for your children’s future.

YennPurkis

I recently posted on social media about how I feel people delivering a service as a public speaker should be paid for it, regardless of whether the person is autistic or allistic. I understand that there are a number of considerations around being paid and maybe it isn’t always as simple as ‘pay me,’ so I thought a post unpacking some of the issues was in order. 

In some instances there is a really clear case of injustice and exploitation. I remember being invited to speak at a conference some years ago. When I asked about my fee the organisation said they couldn’t pay, so I asked about having my flights and accommodation paid for and they apologised once more before telling me that the non-autistic expert speaker was charging several thousand dollars for their appearance and they had no money to pay other, autistic speakers. Needless to say…

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