Joshua Collins, a 26-year-old Washington State resident, has his sights set on becoming the first autistic member of Congress, according to a report this month by The Hill. Collins, who is running to succeed retiring Rep. Denny Heck, cited climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who is also on the autism spectrum, as one of his inspirations.
Collins identifies as a socialist, and is campaigning on a platform of structural reform. On his campaign site, for instance, Collins explains that his views have been shaped by his experience working as a professional truck driver, and navigating a complex and insufficient safety system.
“This system has been created and maintained by the people who own basically everything to protect their power,” Collins writes. “If we’re well-paid, secure in our housing, and educated, we demand a far bigger share.”
Collins is also the only declared Democratic candidate in the race for Washington’s 10th District.
In addition to Collins, other people on the autism spectrum are campaigning for office. Earlier this year, Pittsburgh-area activist and grad student Jessica Benham announced she would be challenging Pennsylvania State Representative Harry Readshaw, who has represented Pennsylvania’s 36th District for 25 years. If elected, Collins would be the first openly autistic woman elected to a state legislature.
“Disabled people make up approximately 20 percent of the population in the United States, but emerging research confirms what we’ve known on the ground — we don’t have equitable representation in government,” Benham said earlier this year. “I want to use my perspective to ensure that disabled people have the same access and opportunities as everyone else in our district.”