WAO THEME:  World Autism Awareness Day 2019


The rapid growth in the percentage of people with autism across the entire world has now given the
World Autism Organisation (WAO) a high responsibility to coordinate as many countries as possible to find ways to diminish the disparity in autism awareness and access to services.

WAO aims to incorporate many more individuals and organisations worldwide to work for autism with only a sole mantra in mind to “REACH” autism.

It is a well-known fact that currently autism has no cure, but the health of an individual with autism can be significantly improved by treating those medical conditions that aggravate his/her autism symptoms. For this the family of the individual with autism must first understand Autism & here is where WAO members need to play a significant role.

Every four years, WAO holds an international conference in a different part of the world. After thorough study of the bids received they decide which would be the best place to create more awareness about autism and to reach more people through the conference.  WAO started this in 2002 (Melbourne-Australia), 2006 (Cape Town- South Africa), 2010 (Monterrey-Mexico), 2014 (Kuwait), 2018 (Houston-USA) and in 2022, the next one will be in Malaysia. This helps people with autism, professionals, parents and others to share information and best practice in the autism field. It is an opportunity for self-advocacy, and, in reaching out to autism, empowers parents all over the world to help themselves first, then help their children and to beneficially educate their community.  By political participation & advocacy, the rights of people with autism will have their rights be heard. Furthermore, reaching out to autism is an opportunity for discussions within society to improve access and inclusion  to education, training and employment. This is an opportunity to underpin the UN Secretary General’s strategy for 2019 World Autism Awareness Day “Assistive Technology – Access to Participation”, that will focus on the use of high-tech and low-tech assistive technology as a tool in removing the barriers to their full social economic & political participation in society, promoting equality, equity, & inclusion.

Hopefully we are not far from what world leaders adopted for the 2030 agenda for sustainable development (in 2015), with the international community reaffirmed its strong commitment to inclusive, accessible & sustainable development and pledged that no one would be left behind. People with autism are obviously included in this vision.

There are many goals we want to work towards together to “Reach” autism, by enabling people with autism to achieve a happy and fulfilling life, and to be their voice, including the non-verbal person with autism.

Dr. Samira Al Saad: President




“On World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to be able to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Secretary-General António Guterres

UNITED NATIONS THEME:  “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”

Tuesday, 2 April 2019
United Nations Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

Autism awareness has grown worldwide in recent years. For the United Nations, the rights of persons with disabilities, including persons with autism, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), are an integral part of its mandate.

When world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the international community reaffirmed its strong commitment to inclusive, accessible and sustainable development, and pledged that no one would be left behind. In this context, the participation of persons with autism as both agents and beneficiaries is essential for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For many people on the autism spectrum, access to affordable assistive technologies is a prerequisite to being able to exercise their basic human rights and participate fully in the life of their communities, and thereby contribute to the realization of the SDGs. Assistive technology can reduce or eliminate the barriers to their participation on an equal basis with others.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges the instrumental role of assistive technologies in enabling persons with disabilities to exercise their rights and freedoms. It obliges States that are party to the Convention to promote availability and use of such technologies at an affordable cost, to facilitate access to them, and to undertake or promote research and development into new such technologies.

While technological advances are continuous, there are still major barriers to the use of assistive technologies, including high costs, lack of availability, lack of awareness of their potential, and a lack of training in their use. Available data indicates that, in several developing countries, more than 50% of the persons with disabilities who need assistive devices are not able to receive them.

In September 2018, the UN Secretary-General launched a new Strategy on New Technologies, which aims to define how the United Nations system will support the use of these technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Strategy is also intended to facilitate the alignment of these technologies with the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the norms and standards of International Law, including the CRPD and other human rights conventions. These values include equality and equity, inclusion and transparency. Design and use of new technologies, according to the Strategy, should be guided by a rights-based and ethical perspective.

In the context of the Secretary-General’s Strategy, the 2019 World Autism Awareness Day observance at UN Headquarters in New York will focus on leveraging the use of assistive technologies for persons with autism as a tool in removing the barriers to their full social, economic and political participation in society, and in promoting equality, equity and inclusion. Topics to be addressed through discussions with self-advocates and experts include:

  • The Internet and digital communities: Leveling the playing field
  • Independent living: Smart home technology and more
  • Education and employment: Communication and executive functioning
  • Telemedicine: Opening the doors to healthcare
  • The right to be heard: Political participation and advocacy
  • In 2008, The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day. The 2019 observance of the Day at UN Headquarters is organized by the UN Department of Global Communications and Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in close cooperation with persons with autism and their representative organizations