Controversy forces Edinburgh Castle to drop charity partner
The famous landmark had initially planned to light up blue tomorrow (April 2) in support of an awareness campaign by controversial US-based Autism Speaks.
But a backlash on Twitter prompted a hasty rethink today and the fortress will be lit-up purple instead - to mark neurodiversity.
“Just seen that Autism Speaks thinks @edinburghcastle is ‘lighting it up blue’ on the 2nd of April,” one Twitter user wrote.
“No, Edinburgh Castle. No, no, no. Autism Speaks is a hate organisation; every instance of #LightItUpBlue is an attack on the autistic community. It’s not too late to go #RedInstead.”
The Autism Speaks organisation has caused outrage in the past for describing the condition as an “unmitigated disaster for families” and campaigning for a cure.
Opponents argued that such a stance stigmatises those with autism and called for quality services to help them live independent lives instead.
Set-up by American grandparents of a child with autism in 2005 with a massive donation from billionaire DIY magnate Bernie Marcus, the charity has also sparked controversy over its finances.
In 2009, the Disability Scoop website revealed its chief science officer, Geri Dawson, was paid more than £470,000.
“Autistic and disabled activists, as well as our allies, have for years criticized Autism Speaks’ long history of dehumanizing rhetoric about autistic people, irresponsible financial practices, and unconscionable claim to represent autistic people without including any autistic people in their leadership — in direct contradiction to the principles of the disability rights movement,” wrote campaigner Lydia Brown.
Bosses at Edinburgh Castle drew praise from autism campaign supporters on social media for their swift action in dropping the Light It Up Blue campaign.
Laurabelle tweeted: “Fantastic!! I was dreading you might light up blue. Thank you for listening. Reason number 357,221,875 that I love my city.”
And Leo Arthur Capella added: “Excellent, thank you for thinking critically about what is a tricky subject. Commiserations @autismspeaks .
“However you can’t do things like this over the heads of people on the ground. I believe an invitation to debate Light It Up Blue in the future could still stand.”
A spokeswoman for Historic Environment Scotland, which runs the castle, said: “Following feedback we received from the public, the Edinburgh Castle team reviewed the lighting request from Autism Speaks.
“We always aim to be inclusive for our staff and visitors, and on that basis the Castle will be lit purple, as a symbol of neurodiversity.”
An Autism Speaks spokeswoman said: “The Light It Up Blue campaign promotes understanding and acceptance of people all across the vast autism spectrum, each of whom has a unique story to tell.”
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