Niantic, Inc: Revoke your support and sponsorship of Autism Speaks

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We of the Pokemon GO community and Autistic Community have recently been made aware that Niantic is supporting an Autism Speaks Walk in Arizona, raising money for the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Centre. Half of the money raised during this walk, however, goes directly towards Autism Speaks itself.

For reasons that will follow many of us are incredibly disappointed to hear that Niantic have made this decision, as the group you have elected to support not only have a history of causing harm to autistic children and ignoring autistic adults, but are dedicated to a cause that stands against our existence, promotes abuse and has no care for the wellbeing of the autistic people it claims to support.

Autism Speaks is not considered a supportive group by a vast majority of autistic people. In contrast to how they appear, Autism Speaks is considered a hate group by many autistics, with a history of demonising autism through their ideology and campaigns - such as their “I Am Autism” video, released in 2009. They are a group that have refused to respect autistic people’s identity throughout their lifetime, causing their only autistic board member to resign due to their experience. There are many posts online in which autistic and disabled people discuss why Autism Speaks is a poor choice in this regard, for instance, a link to a roundup of posts discussing Autism Speaks, put together by Kirsten Schultz, for example.

For many autistic - and otherwise disabled - people, Pokemon Go and Ingress have been an amazing tool for getting out of the house and socializing with others. For many, it’s been the reason that we’ve made friends. For many, it’s been a way to get back into Pokemon and get back into a community. Rather than reinforcing your support of autistic people, your support of Autism Speaks pushes us away. It makes us feel like we are not welcome in a space that you have created. Simply put, it makes a noticeable amount of your player base not want to play your game.

It is genuinely as serious as many autistic activists will say - this group, whether we want to see it as such or not, can harm or kill us. For this reason we are fully willing to take actions, including directly and loudly boycotting your game and company. Many of us, Autistic or not - have reluctantly deleted your application until a statement is made. The fact that Pokemon, a franchise created by notable autistic game developer Satoshi Tajiri, is being used to stifle autistic identities, is beyond distasteful.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many autistic people - myself included - enjoy your game, and want to actively work with you! However, so long as you support a group such as Autism Speaks, you will continue to lose the support of both autistic people and non-autistic players. It also shows a vast number of other disabled people and groups that you’re not really aware of how to support us.

We will implore you to reconsider your decision to support Autism Speaks on October 28th and work towards supporting alternative groups or directly working with autistic-led organisations to promote a healthy attitude towards autistic people.