For some time at Rhythmix we have been struggling with the terms SEN/D and Special Educational Needs and/or Disability. And then we read Becky Morris Knight’s Drake Music blog! We are joining them in moving away from using the term SEN/D - we are going to END talking about SEN/D!
The term SEN/D, is often used within the education sector and we aren’t the only organisation feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the term. It is a term that has been placed upon people, rather than originating from within the Disability Rights Movement.
What does it matter?
Language and words matter.
Discrimination against people with disabilities comes not just through lack of access to services or inadequate provision of support, but also through the language that we use. There are different models of understanding disability (some more great Drake Music blogs about them here).
The term SEN/D fits the Medical Model of disability, which views disability as inherent in the body of the disabled person. Many consider that this way of conceptualising disability has led to disempowering practices.
The Social Model instead understands disability as something that is constructed by society. Ableism is built into the fabric of society and society puts up various disabling barriers. These barriers need breaking down so that society can instead enable people.
To give an example, people with impaired vision have access to glasses, which enable them and they are not thought of as being disabled. Conversely, people who use wheelchairs often do not have their access requirements met and are considered to be disabled. Therefore, existing buildings should be adapted in order to enable wheelchair users and new buildings should be designed with the requirements of wheelchair users in mind.
In light of this ongoing conversation, we are currently changing how we write about disability in all of our communications, from funding bids to tweets to blog posts.
If you notice us still using the term SEN/D, then please pull us up on it!