IE University Legal Clinic recently collaborated with the Spanish Confederation of Autism to strengthen advocacy for the ASD community in Spain. With the goal of supporting people with autism and their families, as well as creating awareness, this partnership has made definitive strides towards establishing a new framework for inclusion. 

Created in 1994, Confederación de Autismo España—or the Spanish Confederation of Autism—is a state body that is committed to providing support and specialized services to family members of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Currently, the confederation represents close to 160 entities of the Third Sector of Social Action. 

María Pindado Galán, the organization’s public affairs delegate, explained that its mission is “to promote the recognition and effective practice” of the rights of people with autism, “with the purpose of enhancing their quality of life and achieving equal opportunities.” The confederation is a vital pillar of the ASD community in Spain because it creates an institutional organization that helps families, develops and defends the rights of people with autism, raises awareness and conducts research. 

IE University and the Confederation partner for good

This year, the IE University Legal Clinic decided to partner up with the Spanish Confederation of Autism to further the latter’s advocacy work on behalf of the ASD community. Maria notes that, because of this partnership, the confederation will now have “new resources to defend the rights of our families and to continue working on employment policy advocacy.” This is a core goal for the organization, as she notes that “approximately 90% of our collective suffers unemployment.”  

What’s more, participants of the Legal Clinic work on an entirely voluntary basis, freeing up more funding and allowing the confederation to “allocate funds to other major needs within the collective.” The expert advice and excellent service received would have been out of their reach otherwise. Showing her appreciation, Maria declares that “it is important for them to know that the effort and the hours they have dedicated will help others a lot.” 

Towards a framework for inclusivity

Giulia Aranols was one such participant in the Legal Clinic and played a major role in the success of this partnership. The second-year student is pursuing a Bachelor in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics at IE University’s campus in Segovia

Already a veteran of the Legal Clinic, Giulia joined in her first year and found the entire experience rewarding beyond belief. Motivated by her “limited experience about law and its application in the workplace,” she found that The Clinic provided the perfect chance to explore the field through a “combination of legal lessons, collaboration with the IE University Start-Up Lab and—most importantly—hands-on experience with real-life clients.”

This year, Giulia was assigned to work with the Spanish Confederation of Autism. Alongside two other students, she was required to work on two main reports: first, a claimants’ guide establishing a variety of actions and remedies available in case the rights of an individual with autism are violated; and, second, a comprehensive research report with a detailed overview of the normative framework in which autism and disability are regulated at both the local and international levels.

The completion of these concurrent projects will go a long way in helping the confederation achieve its goals. As Maria notes that while employment is a key to fostering independence, it is still an “insurmountable barrier for most people with ASD in Spain.” Thus, these projects serve as the first step toward improving the regulatory frameworks governing employment policy and discrimination. In the end, they will “serve as a tool for self-advocacy and the empowerment of people with ASD and their families.”

Spreading positive impact

For Giulia, the experience was life-changing, saying that “it was a priceless opportunity to work with such a respected organization.” The partnership has not only enhanced her professional profile, but has also given Giulia the chance to gain knowledge and invaluable insight, connect with practicing legal professionals, and sharpen her skill set. 

Giulia explains that participants in the Legal Clinic were able to tackle real-world problems under the supervision of a master’s degree student, a professor, and a practicing lawyer. After completing this project under such expert guidance, she notes that her writing and report drafting skills have greatly improved and that she has also become more meticulous in both preparing and delivering up-to-date and well-researched presentations. What’s more, she has become more educated about the laws representing people with autism and other disabilities.

On the other hand, the Confederation was able to prepare a definitive guide for people with autism in Spain, detailing “the main areas in which the ASD community suffers discrimination, what their rights are, and how they can assert them and report these situations.” It is a foundational work that has helped the organization gain invaluable insight into the gaps within the existing regulatory framework, as well as tools for self-advocacy—empowering the ASD community as a whole.

A new voice for the community

All in all, Giulia notes that, while the experience was quite challenging, it was also truly inspiring. Taking on client projects alongside her regular lectures and other extracurricular activities provided her with a very well-rounded, formative experience. 

Best of all, the innovative partnership between IE University and the Spanish Confederation of Autism has given the ASD community a voice, expanding their platform and giving them better tools to advocate for their rights.