Break barriers together for autism Let's build an accessible society

On World Autism Awareness Day 2017 (April 2nd), Autism-Europe (ae) launched a long-running awareness campaign titled “Break barriers together fort autism - Let’s build an accessible society” to understand what barriers to inclusion autistic people are up against and to identify how society can work to overcome and remove them.


March 2017 marks ten years since the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and its optional protocol. However, despite the fact that it has been ratified by the EU and almost all Member States, its implementation is still lacking in many areas.

In line with the obligations set out by the UN CRPD, on the 2 December 2015 the European Commission published a proposal for a European Accessibility Act.

AE urges decision-makers, professionals, business leaders and the general public to consult and to cooperate with people on the autism spectrum and their representative organisations to make society more autism-friendly in all areas of life, in order to ensure compliance with the UN CRPD

AE calls on policy makers at the EU and Member State level to ensure that a strong and effective Accessibility Act is adopted, in line with the recommendations of the disability movement.

The motto

The slogan “Break barriers together for autism- Let’s build an accessible society” is both a call for action, and equally an invitation to work on improving accessibility together in cooperation with autistic people. Breaking barriers to inclusion requires the guidance and experience of people with autism and their families, and they must be involved in the development of solutions for accessibility (nothing about us, without us).

It is crucial that decision-makers across Europe, as well as society as a whole, gain a better understanding of autism, and act to remove existing obstacles preventing the full inclusion and participation of autistic people.

Breaking through paper

To help show support for our campaign, we ask people to symbolically break barriers by writing a short description of what makes society inaccessible for them on a banner or a piece of paper. They could then photograph or film themselves holding their banner, before showing themselves breaking through it or ripping it up.

Infographic of the campaign

To get people involved in the campaign, Autism-Europe produced a toolkit indicating how to most effectively bring the subject to the attention of the general public.


To help promote the campaign, Autism-Europe set up a Thunderclap. Thunderclap is programme that allows campaign organisers to register people’s messages of support and to pre-programme them to be released simultaneously via social media on a given date. In the case of the “Break barriers together for autism” campaign, all of the messages became visible on the morning of the 2 April. With the help of the Thunderclap, the campaign message achieved a total reach of over 345,131 social media users.


The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen publicly showed her support by appearing with our campaign logo.

Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.

Furthermore, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all over Europe supported the campaign by symbolically breaking barriers for autism.

From top to bottom and from left to right: MEP Miriam Dalli (Malta), MEP Olga Sehnalová (Czech Republic), MEP Ádám Kósa (Hungary), MEP Helga Stevens (Belgium), MEP Brando Benifei (Italy), MEP Kostadinka Kuneva (Greece), MEP Nicola Caputo (Italy), MEP Rosa Estaràs (Spain), MEP Florent Marcellesi (Spain), MEP Jana Žitňanská (Slovakia), MEP Lojze Peterle (Slovenia), MEP Brando Benifei (Italy), MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland), and MEP Therese Comodini Cachia (Malta).


A wide array of public figures participated in the campaign. Sporting personalities, such us the players of FC Bayern München and Manchester City F. C, joined the campaign by symbolically breaking barriers for autism.

Players of Manchester City FC such us David Silva (Spain), Fabian Delph (UK), Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium), Leory Sané (Germany), Willy Caballero (Argentina) and coach Josep Guardiola (Spain), among others, joint the campaign by breaking barriers for autism/ Pictures by @jltvioque ‬

A wide range of other stakeholders and public figures also publicly showed their support for the campaign, such as the Queen of Spain Letizia.

Queen of Spain Letizia/Picture by Autismo Soria
The campaing builds momentum throughout Europe and beyond


Event held by Autismo España in Madrid on April 1
Children with autism breaking the barrier "fearful looks"
Mayor of Jerez and friends from Autismo Cadiz passing through paper


Players of Autistic Football Club holding the campaign banner in Rome


The Autism-Europe team, self-advocates, decision-makers, professionals and other members of the civil society symbolically broke barriers for autism at the EU Economic and Social Committee in Brussels


Young lady with autism supporting the campaign


Members of the Lithuanian Association of Autism 'Rain Children' support the campaign in Vilnius


Young people with autism and staff from the Centar za Autizam break barriers for autism in Zagreb


Activities organised by Savez Autizam Srbija to mark World Autism Awareness Day displaying the campaign banner

fyr of macedonia

The Vice-President of the Macedonian Scientific Society for Autism holding the campaign banner in Skopje


Public Centre for Social Welfare in Baia Mare displays the campaign banner to mark World Autism Awareness Day


Members of the Lebanese Autism Society support the campaign in Beirut


Members of the HACE Foundation support the campaign in Guadalajara


Members of the Citea Center support the campaign in San Rafael


On the 31st of March, The UN held its 2017 Observance of World Autism Awareness Day. Key to the day’s proceedings was the keynote speech given by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre - University of Cambridge​. Along with major associations such as Autism-Europe, Baron-Cohen calls for an investigation into the violation of human rights of people with autism, and to increase surveillance of the needs of autistic people, so that each year on World Autism Awareness Day we can look forward to seeing a reduction in such violations.

Autism-Europe was honored to attend the United Nations events in New York. The event, “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination", discussed the path to ensuring access to self-determination and legal capacity for autistic people. AE Member of the Executive Committee Maria Wroniszewska spoke as part of the panel "Vocational Training and Employment: A Key to Independence and Self-Sufficiency".

The same day, AE President Zsuzsanna Szilvasy spoke at the event “Populations in Movement: Addressing the Opportunities and Challenges to Ensure Care and Services to Migrants with Autism and Developmental Disabilities”, organised by the United Nations Department of Public Information and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

A photo exhibition in Brussels to mark World Autism Awareness Day

In the framework of its World Autism Awareness Day campaign 2017, AE organised a photography exhibition in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. The topic of the exhibition was accessibility for people with autism in society. Pictures were taken by three photographers from the UK, Poland and Luxembourg, all aiming to help people understand what accessibility means for those on the autism spectrum and what kind of obstacles they face in their everyday lives.

Pierre at age 6

Pierre does not speak but he loves to sing. Singing and humming all the time is his way of communicating. Sometimes it sounds to me as if he is trying out new pitches or harmonies. He is very interested in the way we respond to his singing, with deep anxious regards. I think he wants to be sure that we ‘understand’ his singing.

André Weisgerber - Luxembourg

Alex studied for two years at a local Catering College and qualified at the end of that time. It was many months before he could secure a job and is now working in a bakery shop. He enjoys it but is qualified to do more.

Graham Miller – Royaume-Uni

Spock, Feynman, Monty Python

“I live and breathe the future, which is why I value visionaries. Richard Feynman always taught me physics, Spock has been a logical support, while the Monty Python group let me distance myself from life and fight my fears. An endless variety in endless combinations. This is how I see the world, so all my life I’ve been looking for a formula for it.”

Michał Awin - Poland

Thank you for your support. It’s your participation that makes the difference!

Created By
Autism Europe



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