There is this restrictive ideology that those who are disabled, whether physically and/or mentally, are incapable of obtaining an ideal future for themselves. This mentality often robs the disabled community of many opportunities for them to follow and succeed in their aspirations. However, it does not completely prevent the many different communities of those with disabilities from achieving their dreams. For this assignment, I focused on the members of the autistic community. My goal was to create digital art posters depicting people on the autism spectrum who are leading active and successful lives whose contributions have enriched society. I hope to further convey to those who view these caricatures that the neurodiverse community are capable of so much than the limiting predetermined futures of “pain, isolation, and bitterness” that the neurotypical majority predicts (Kafer 2).
All the steps leading up to the final results were integral to the authenticity and significance of getting this message across. The first part of the process required research of famous autists. I expanded the field to throughout history, countries, and occupations. Finding autistics in the past turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Autism did not become a term until the early 1900s, so while there were many examples of prominent figures who have done extraordinary things in their lifetimes and that were speculated to be on the spectrum, I could not choose them as a focus on any of the posters since there is no way of officially diagnosing them. Even after the 1900s, where diagnosis of autism and access of information about it became more readily available to the public, I also could not pick those who self-diagnosed themselves. Unless they were officially diagnosed by a credible medical professional, I could not consider them for this project as a viable representation of those with autism “leading an engaging and satisfying life” (Kafer 2). After much research, I decided to illustrate Temple Grandin, Satoshi Tajiri, and Greta Thunberg. Once I had decided on who my muses would be, the next step of the process was to examine various photos of them to give me a few ideas for their sketches. I would then draw a few rough sketches that depicted them, and other props related to their respective professions. When I was satisfied with the concepts, I would then create the final sketches to be used as references for the digital drawings. Each of these individuals featured on the posters come from different places around the world and have unique jobs. Temple Grandin is a “professor of animal science” from Boston, Maryland who has reformed the methods conducted at slaughterhouses to make them more humane to the treatment of cattle (UMSL). Satoshi Tajiri, from Tokyo, Japan, transformed his hobby of bug collecting into the beloved world of Pokémon that continues to evolve and bring joy to all ages. Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist from Sweden, confronted the world leaders at the United Nations about climate change and the dire need for action against it.
The significance of the final results of this project is that it removes autism from the “medical framework” that disability is often boxed into with this idea that whatever the impairment is must be cured or a “problem” that has “to be eradicated” (Kafer 9). Instead, the posters highlight the autists’ achievements within the frameworks of politics and social involvement. These posters are my counter-argument to those who are neurotypical and think that people on the autism spectrum have nothing but these “grim imagined futures” of being “abandon[ed]” by friends and family, “drug addiction,” and “suicide” (Kafer 1-2). People with autism are more than capable of making a lasting positive impact in society as well as leading their best lives.
Kafer. “Imagined Futures.” pp. 1–24.
Temple Grandin, www.umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/Temple%20Grandin/tempgrandin.html.