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People with a particular profile of strengths and weaknesses—typically involving prodigious skill in one area (such as calendar or arithmetical calculation, art, or music) and a general “mental deficiency”—have long been categorized as “idiots savants,” or with other, similar labels. For the autistic person, the special interests or skills arise not in spite of the autism but precisely because of it: autism enables the skill; the skill makes the autism visible. Instead of enfreaking people as super-crips, I propose to celebrate them in a realistic mode, as autistic people who are good at things.
A DSE perspective sees the educational environment, not students with disabilities, as the "problem" and calls for a Universal Design for Learning approach to education, or the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities and backgrounds. Agreeing with this DSE perspective, this article uses an autoethnographic approach to reexamine inclusive education and to consider how university classrooms, pedagogy, and curricular materials can be improved in order to accommodate all students, not just those with disabilities.
To expand knowledge on the accessibility of higher education to students with disabilities, the study compared 170 such students in higher education institutions in Israel with 156 students without disabilities for formal achievements and overall participation in higher education. Results revealed that academic achievements of students with disabilities were almost as high as those of students without disabilities, and overall students' experiences were similar. But the two groups of students differed in areas of experiences, as did students with various disabilities among themselves. Analysis of the data indicates that students with disabilities invested more time to meet the demands of their studies, participated in fewer social and extra-curricular activities, and used computers and information technology less. Higher education institutes still have a long way to go to reduce the gap in social inclusion of students with disabilities and to adjust academic standards for their needs.
Much progress has been made in the past three
decades to improve the quality of education for
students with disabilities. Although services have dramatically
improved, there remain frequent barriers to successful
inclusion that can be summarized in three main areas:
organizational, attitudinal, and knowledge (Kochhar & West, 1996).