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What's in a Name - why "Students With Disabilities"?


You have probably noticed that most organisations are using the term: "Disabled Students". The phrase: "Students With Disabilities" is rather old-fashioned but was popular in the 1990's.

We don't use the newer term because...

1) The term, "Disabled Students" went out of fashion in the 1980's because people felt it emphasised "disability" too much and the person not enough (many people felt they were being treated like they were a medical condition or a problem). Some people might still feel this way about this terminology.

2) The new use of the term, "Disabled Students" relies for its validity on people being aware of the "Social Model" of thinking about what "Disability" means - it only makes sense when one understands that it's intended to convey "A person 'disabled' by the faults in society" as opposed to "A person with a disabling condition". We're not convinced everyone out there knows the details of the "Social Model" let alone the semantic reasoning arising from it.

3) We don't want to push any particular model of thinking onto you, so we don't want to use a term that only has meaning under one socio-political way of looking at the world.

We still use "Students With Disabilities" because...

1) So far, no student has complained or fed back that we should change. If you're one of our members and you disagree, please let us know.

2) The term doesn't rely on any unusual interpretations in order for people to understand that it emphasises the word "Student".

3) One of our previous SWD officers [sic] was really keen on it because it was the opposite of "Students Without Disabilities" who are by implication 'missing out'.

You're welcome to disagree with any or all of this. In individual interactions: we would never try to put any "label" on any individual and will be happy to reflect whatever language you use about yourself. In terms of the site: do let us know if you'd prefer us to use different language, but please bear in mind that we'll probably not listen too hard unless you're one of our members: the views of anyone else aren't as important for us as the views of our actual membership.