Universal Design & Making Spaces for All Bodies

Filed Under (Uncategorized, Universal Design) by Estee on 12-10-2013

I’m in Denver at the AutCOM conference, having posited the question of who gets to occupy space (and how)? At many autism-friendly conferences I attend, autistic people are permitted to get up, make noise, sleep under the table. How many times, I think, do I discipline my body to fit into spaces – in the classroom, at a luncheon, at a conference. In fact, I sit so long as a student, for instance, that I’m developing sciatica! Universal Design is about bodies – the way bodies live in space. Autistic people teach me that I’ve been trained from the time I’ve been young, to be a docile and compliant body.

There are many ways that universal design is good for business because it creates permission for bodies to act and be as they are. As a simple example, an automatic door opening is good for strollers, for when my hands are full. Thinking about universal design for all bodies is to also consider how people’s bodies can take breaks, work comfortably.

I’m putting up the video on the Ed Robert’s Campus because it helps us to reconsider space, but also permission and the disabling affects that current design restricts people from living with and among others. Although this is still a segregated campus that is arguably affordable to attend for only a few, it is an example of how easy it is to design creative spaces that enable all types of bodies to contribute and participate in society outside of restrictive normative constructs. And accommodation isn’t difficult – while designing spaces is an inclusive and creative necessity, as I mentioned, permission to allow people to use their bodies the way they need to use them, enables participation. Does anyone want to sit upside down now, or take a break under the table?

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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.