August 29, 2017
BENEFITING: AUTISTIC SELF ADVOCACY NETWORK
EVENT DATE: Jul 13, 2017
My name is Michael Wedd. This August I’m going to bicycle 1,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay Alaska, an oil town in the Arctic Circle, to Anchorage. Help me reach my goal of raising $10 per mile—toward a total target of $10,000—for Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). All donors will get a link to follow me live on my GPS as I ride across Alaska for autism.
Long distance bicycling is not new to me. Three years ago, my brother and I rode unsupported for 6,000 miles over three months from New York, to the southern Alaskan border, and then south to San Francisco (check out our blog at www.faroutguys.com). It changed our lives. Now, by challenging myself to ride solo without any external support from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Alaska, I’ll apply my passion for cycling to support a charity about which I am equally passionate. ASAN is a foundation working tirelessly to promote autistic civil rights from the perspective of autistic people themselves.
Just as cycling is a genuine interest of mine, so too is autism—personally and professionally. I have several family members and friends on the spectrum. I have seen firsthand not only the challenges that some on the spectrum face, but also their often profound gifts. Most importantly, though, everyday I see their sheer humanity in the alternative perspectives and experiences each contributes to the world. Getting to know autistic people inspired my research. At Columbia University, I’m trying to understand how the diagnosis of autism evolved in certain post-WWII economic and political conditions, and in particular how current music therapy treatments for autism reflect those political agenda. Immediately before embarking on this Alaskan journey, I’ll spend two weeks at the Music Settlement in Cleveland doing fieldwork for an ethnography on music therapy for autistic children as Ella Deloria Fellow of Columbia University. I’ll also volunteer at the center. In September, after this ride for ASAN, I’m founding a student-led organization at Columbia for autistic people and their allies. It’s called the Spectra Collective.
As a member of ASAN, I believe our society’s way of framing autism and supporting autistic lives is the best we currently have. ASAN can be understood by the pronouns we use: “we” and “us” instead of “they” and “them” to advocate for autistic civil rights. ASAN and I want to help autistic people get involved in and assume a degree of control over the political, economic, and communal initiatives relevant to them. ASAN doesn’t speak for autistics, but as autistics and close allies from within an emerging autistic political culture. As autistic self-advocates and allies, we promote autistic rights from the perspective of neurodiversity, describing autism as a form of human difference that should not be erased, but respected and understood. We empower autistic people to stand up and get involved in federal, state and local policy decisions, and to connect with an emergent global autistic community.
My goal in this campaign for ASAN is to collect $10 for each mile of my 1,000-mile bicycle ride. If we can achieve our target of $10,000, I’ll dust off all of the gear I brought on my last tour of North America and head up to the Arctic. I can keep costs for this trip low by reusing the bicycle touring gear I already own. And because one generous donor is covering round trip airfare, I’ll only need to use $1,500 of the $10,000-plus we raise to complete the trip. That small portion will go toward additional survival gear, transport from Fairbanks to the Arctic, and lots and lots of freeze dried food! The other $8,500-plus we raise will go directly to ASAN to support the work they do for autistic self-advocates.
If we can achieve our fundraising goal, starting on August 9th I’ll ride southward from Prudhoe Bay for 18 days through endless northern tundra and the remote Brooks Range. I'll sleep under the midnight sun in silent forest kingdoms ruled by stern elk, majestic bear, and watchful eagles. If you donate to this campaign, I’ll donate my time, energy, and willpower to mastering this challenging adventure. And together, you, ASAN and I can master the more important challenge: making the world a place in which autistic people can thrive and lead meaningful lives.
If you have any questions about this campaign, my ride, or ASAN, don't hesitate to reach out to me directly!
Phone: (518) 821-4021