Date of this Version
Honors in Practice 12 (2016), pp 79-94
When Temple Grandin spoke to the College of Engineering’s advisors on my campus, I was working as associate director of the university’s faculty development center. Not long before, I had attended a conference in Tucson, the National Faculty Center Institute for Facilitating the Success of Diverse Learners, where I first realized what seems obvious now: that freedom from discrimination on the basis of disability, including social disability, is a matter of civil rights, on a par with freedom from racism or sexism. While at the faculty development center, I also learned about the concept of universal design, that is, the creation of processes or structures that work for everyone because they are designed for the diverse and unpredictable “universe” of users. Electriceye doors provide a simple model of universal design: no one, with or without a shopping cart, child in arms, or wheelchair, needs to worry about opening them. Universal design, as the work of Sheryl Burgstahler and others makes clear, is a powerful concept in higher education. Put simply, it is of great value to students to have their teachers keep in mind the needs of every person in the classroom. These two basic ideas—respect for the rights of students with disabilities and the value of course planning for a diverse group of students— have shaped my thinking about students with autism in higher education.