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Improving the lives of autistic people

A University of Brighton student has won a £1300 grant to develop a project that provides support and guidance for autistic young people.

Software Engineering student Mark Blake received the Unltd ‘Do It Award’, the prize money of which will go towards funding his initiative The Autism League.

The Autism League is a collaboration between writers, filmmakers, photographers, social media talent and activists with the objective of improving the lives of those on the autistic spectrum.

Over the next year, Mark will cooperate with other autistic students to create content which will be hosted on The Autism League website:

The website offers information about what autism is and how it affects people, as well as showcasing creative work and public talks from members of the autistic community.

The Unltd grant will primarily be spent on equipment and travel expenses for volunteers.

Beepurple, the University’s entrepreneurship support service, has supplied guidance to Mark throughout his university life. Last year, The Autism League was ‘highly commended’ in the Santander University of Brighton Ideas Competition.

Mark said: “I am passionate about building a website that provides strategies to support autistic people in their daily lives.

“I want to help autistic people navigate the challenges of living in a world that is not built for autistic people, to achieve political and cultural change for autistic reform, and destigmatise autistic experiences and autistic difficulties.

“I also want to at least make a start in helping autistic people appreciate themselves. To any autistic person who is struggling, please do reach out and we will do our best to help or signpost.”

Mark’s work extends to advising policy-makers about autism and providing awareness training for employers. To this end Mark recently met with Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, to discuss greater representation for autistic people in employment and equalities legislation, and to set up a mentorship scheme for autistic children in Brighton and Hove.

Mark added: “To support our activities and grow, we are moving into professional coaching to teach companies what autism is and help them maximise the potential of employees.

“We’re also running a targeted campaign to have autism covered by the Equality Act in UK law, ensuring companies do not discriminate on the basis of autism and overhauling the Autism Act of 2009 to establish a standard of care for autistic people – which the act is sorely lacking.”

Mark’s advice about launching a start-up is to be “prepared to fail”. He added: “Most entrepreneurs succeed through experience, learning from mistakes. I was no exception. It’s important that your motivation is strong and meaningful enough to get you through the tough times.” Link to our website for more information about Beepurple.

Laura Ruby • October 4, 2019

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