Lydia X. Z. Brown

Keynote Title: Affirmation, Empowerment, and Justice: What the Neurodiversity Movement Teaches Us

Breakout session (3 hrs): Understanding and Challenging Ableism in Autism Advocacy

Purpose Statement: This workshop will explore how ableism affects both individual autistic people both on an individual level and a broader policy level.

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, organizer, and writer whose work has focused on violence against disabled people (particularly those who are multiply marginalized) in schools, disability institutions, prisons, and by police. As a disabled, genderqueer, Chinese-American transnational and transracial adoptee, Lydia has worked to advance transformative change through organizing in the streets, writing legislation, conducting anti-ableism workshops, testifying at regulatory and policy hearings, and disrupting institutional complacency everywhere from the academy to state agencies and the nonprofit-industrial complex. Lydia has also advocated around radical inclusion, access, and participation for disabled people in higher education as well as implementation of the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services regulations.

Lydia is a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University’s Experimental College, where they teach a course on critical disability theory, public policy, and social movements. Lydia is a founding board member of the Alliance for Citizen-Directed Services and a board member of the Autism Women’s Network. In collaboration with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Lydia is the lead editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color, published in summer 2017 by the Autism Women’s Network. Currently, they serve on the state’s One Care Implementation Council responsible for overseeing the insurance program for people eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as the National Disability Leadership Alliance’s recently convened task force on combating racism and discrimination within the disability advocacy community. Lydia served as chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council from 2015 – 2017. Lydia is also a past Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership, where they focused on employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities, and past Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where they focused on reproductive justice and disability rights policy issues. Additionally, Lydia worked for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network for several years, most recently as part of the national public policy team, where they worked on various issues relating to criminal justice and disability, healthcare disparities and service delivery models, and research and employment disparities. 

Lydia has been honored by the White House, the Washington Peace Center, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts, and the National Association for Law Placement Public Service Jobs Directory. In 2015, Pacific Standard named Lydia a Top 30 Thinker under 30, and Mic named Lydia to its inaugural list of 50 impactful leaders, cultural influencers, and breakthrough innovators. Lydia’s work has been featured in various publications, including Addressing Ableism: Philosophical Questions via Disability StudiesReligion, Disability, and Interpersonal ViolenceBarriers & Belonging: Personal Narratives of DisabilityThe Asian American Literary ReviewFeminist Perspectives on Orange is the New BlackCriptiquesTorture in Healthcare SettingsQDA: A Queer Disability AnthologyFilms for the Feminist Classroom; TikkunDisability IntersectionsBlack Girl Dangeroushardboiled magazinePOOR MagazineThe Washington PostSojournersThe Establishment; Al Jazeera America; NBC News Asian America; HerCampus; AfterEllen; and Vice Broadly. Lydia is now a Public Interest Law Scholar at Northeastern University School of Law, where they serve as an active member of the Committee Against Institutional Racism (representing the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association), the Transgender Justice Task Force, and the Faculty Appointments Committee, and are a founding core collective member of the Disability Justice Caucus.