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Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Disability Studies/Rights for Engineering Students

That's a thing I'm creating a syllabus for. It's going into a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly! (Yay, I'm doing things!)

I know a bunch of things I think need to be in there (social model of disability, all technology is assistive technology, universal/inclusive design, disabled people involved in designing own things, how not to be terrible to disabled colleagues, etc.)


I am one person. A person in most of the right fields for this (education experience, engineering student, disability studies person,) but still one person. My perspectives are absolutely affected by which kind of engineering I do (I'm a mechanical engineering student with some interest in nanotechnology and some in assistive technology and a lot in computers) and the ways I am disabled!

So, I want to know what you think should get covered. That can be things you think a class introducing disability to engineering students should read, topics you think should be discussed, activities you think should/shouldn't be done, whatever opinions you have on creating a class like that are welcome.

I asked about this on Quora, too, if you'd rather answer there, and you can email me at if you want to talk that way.


  1. Scent stuff! Cuz it's a major thing of accessibility for respiratory disorders that most people ignore. Important for ChemEng types.

    Also why you should minimize airborne irritants both from a workplace safety POV and from an accessibility POV (airborne irritants can cause occupational lung injury leading to COPD and asthma). See also: irritants and sensitizers should be avoided where possible if people are gonna handle them. Sensitizers are esp dangerous for people w/ autoimmune and atopic disorders.

    Ambidextrous design (dunno if that's the right mechanical engineering word but designing stuff so lefties and righties can use it equally easily) because "ergonomic" design often ignores lefties entirely, which makes them more likely to get occupational injuries. This results from cost-benefit POV, in lost productivity and increased insurance costs.

    Manuals: Why "plain English" should be used in writing manuals as much as possible, why necessary jargon should be defined, and why parts should be given a sensible part number (coworker of mine literally can't order parts for most things because part numbers are all like Part 5SA234B89P and xe's dyslexic and that's all squiggles to hir), and why, when in doubt, add a figure. Writing from the "befuddle with bullshit" school of arrogance is pretty near impossible for me to decipher, so I often rely on in-text figures to understand what I'm supposed to do since most manuals are terribly written. I also re-write the manuals at my work into plain English when I have spare time, which everyone loves since mine are both complete and understandable, which the standard manuals often aren't on both fronts.

    Activities to avoid: Disability simulations. IME these build arrogance and perceived understanding more than actual understanding, while encouraging pitying ableism. (asthma, frex, feels pretty much nothing like breathing through a straw while doing 50 squats & I have no idea what that's supposed to convey anyway but kids in my school felt obliged to tell me endlessly that b/c they could do the 50 squats, I should be able to run).

    Apologies for any typos - I have a wrist injury right now and typing is hard.

    1. Oh! Don't want to forget: Alt-text: What it is and why it should be included for figures.

  2. tactile and color-independent features for blind and colorblind people. i think that is something often overlooked in any kind of interface design.

  3. (You alluded to this above, but I'll spell out my take on it.) When designing tech for disabled users, include them early - often that doesn't happen until the prototype stage, which risks either solving for an imagined problem the user group doesn't have, or being unaware that your chosen problem has already been solved.

    Likewise, there may be externalities your user group is aware of that you aren't - maintenance concerns, cost ("that's a very nice wheelchair, but you're not planning on getting it classified as Durable Medical Equipment so it could be covered by insurance? Good luck selling it."), that sort of thing.

    1. Yuuup.

      Heck, I'm disabled and I didn't know the Durable Medical Equipment thing because my specific disabilities aren't ones where I need to think about that.

      Include from the stage of defining the problem statements and choosing which ones to pursue, I'd say.


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