University of York apologises for using controversial symbol to highlight autism

York University
University of York.

A university has apologised after using a symbol deemed offensive to people with autism.

The University of York shared a post on its social media pages on Tuesday, 2 April, to highlight World Autism Awareness Day.

The post included an image of a jigsaw puzzle piece, formerly widely used as a representation of autism awareness.

In recent years the symbol has become a subject of controversy.

Social media users criticised the university following the post and it has since been removed.

The university apologised and said it has "clear gaps in our knowledge and understanding".

The statement added: "Yesterday, we shared an autism awareness post. Within the image, we used a puzzle piece symbol, which understandably caused upset to some people. We are very sorry to have caused this.

"We are constantly learning and are grateful to those who drew this to our attention.

"We will seek input and advice from our community, as we work to improve our understanding and actions in the future."

Why is the jigsaw puzzle piece controversial?

The puzzle piece was designed in the 1960s by Gerald Gasson, a board member for the Autistic Children Association, and became adopted as the symbol of autism.

He said people with autism were "full of unknowns like puzzle pieces".

But the symbol later became criticised because of the perceived implication that people with autism were "missing" something or "incomplete" and need to be "solved".

In February 2018, the puzzle piece was replaced with a rainbow-colored infinity symbol to represent a spectrum, diversity, and difference.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.