Our Story

The story of how ATLAS grew out of SEND Youth Advisors Surrey.

Where it all began …

In 2015, SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) Youth Advisors Surrey (SYAS) was first started. Some of our current members have been a member of this group for many years and have watched it grow and change over time!

Towards the end of 2020, members started consulting on the stigma surrounding additional needs and disabilities and associated Ablest language.

In particular, the acronym SEND came up:

“I try to forget that the special part exists. I don’t mind the term”

“Special should be replaced with additional needs”

 “I think you should take the special out and put additional”

“It shouldn’t say SEND; it should just say additional. It is not just in school but out in society. People might make fun if they don’t know what it means!”

“Are additional needs alone enough? … I call myself disabled”

The naming of ATLAS

Summary: Members decided that they would like to remove the acronym SEND from the name of their participation group. Together they came up with a new acronym that they feel represents the values of the members. They decided on ATLAS: Accept, Teach, Listen, Access, Support

Members had time before session to think about the name they would like the group to have. Rowan Foster, a member of the User Voice and Participation Team and member of ATLAS, talks about how ATLAS became one of options she suggested in group:

“I wanted to go for a name that didn’t have any clear pre-existing meanings, or any negative connotations, because I thought it was really valuable that we got to define it ourselves, and I wanted to make sure that the name could be used in casual conversation without it revealing anything about a young person being disabled, since that information should be shared when you’re ready and not before.”

“From that, space and astronomy came to mind, since it’s so much bigger than us, and doesn’t really have any negative connotations because STARS ARE COOL”

“Atlas is a moon of Saturn, but it’s also the name of a book of maps – which is very appropriate considering that we want to redraw the map, we want to redefine how disability is seen and how it is treated within Surrey.”

“On top of that, it’s also the name of a Greek demigod, who held the world on his shoulders. This is really powerful because it represents that invisible burden that I and so many other people with AN&D experience, living in a world that’s not designed for us, and also the worries and responsibilities that might fall on you from a very young age.”

“In so many ways it feels like holding the world on our shoulders, and this name is representative of that”.

In a virtual ATLAS session, Rowan asked the other member’s what they thought of the name ATLAS among a list of other space themed names. Everyone liked ATLAS and so the members decided to work further on this name.

Taking inspiration from FLARE, in terms of having each letter mean something, ATLAS members created a mind map of words relating to additional needs and disabilities or experiencing them in some way ​that began with A, T, L or S.

Image Description: A screenshot of the Zoom whiteboard function. It shows the ideas the members discussed during the re-naming and re-branding of SYAS to ATLAS. ATLAS is written in the middle and lines point from each letter. The A's have arrows pointing to Acceptance, Accessibility and Ability. The T points to Talent, Think(ing), tenacious, teach. There is a suggestion that the second A could be replaced by a U for understanding. The S points to Surrey, which is crossed out. Support(ive) and strength are written above it. There are note made on using colour blind friendly colours and the words endure and redefine world are also written. In a circle on the left hand corner there is a drawing of the titan god Atlas.
Screenshot of the mind map made by ATLAS members when creating the new name

There was some discussion about whether the second A in ATLAS could be replaced with a U, but a few members said that the incorrect spelling really bothered them.

“[The words are] kind of in order of how we need professionals to act around the concept of participation. First, you must accept the existence of additional needs and disabilities, then you must be somehow taught about the importance of this (either through personal experiences, hearing experiences, or traditional learning), then you need to listen to young people with additional needs and disabilities about how they experience your services and the world, then make your services accessible, and support both young people with additional needs and disabilities in the service you provide and support the fight for equality generally.”

  • Accept: there’s a level of professionals and society needing to accept that people with additional needs and disabilities are present and that their needs are important and that they are valuable members of society. And for people with additional needs and disabilities, acceptance is an important part of maintaining good mental health etc, as often for disabled people “recovery” etc is not the aim, they will always have their condition and they need to accept that.
  • Teach: ATLAS teach professionals about their lived experience and give feedback on consultation work and also teaching each other and the UVP staff similarly.
  • Listen: core concept of participation groups. Listen to each other, our team listening to them, professionals listening to the young people and vice versa. Active listening is just extremely important.
  • Access: accessibility is a core part of the feedback that ATLAS give professionals and there is still a lot of work to be done to make society less disabling
  • Support: the group support each other, we support the group, the group supports the professionals with their participation and that work supports society in making more accessible services.

The Logo

During the mind mapping session it was decided that the logo would be based loosely on the god Atlas, only instead of one man holding up the world, it is several people with different needs (everyone).

The ATLAS logo was designed by one of our members of the group following the discussion on the name ATLAS in group. They drew several different logos and showed it to the group for everyone to give their feedback!

A design of the ATLAS logo drawn by a young person in ATLAS. There are 3 silhouettes of people drawn holding up a large bright orange circle. The silhouettes are drawn in a stylistic rather than realistic way with their arms raised up above they head towards the orange circle. On the left the silhouette is blue and on the right is the tallest silhouette which is yellow. In the middle is a purple silhouette in a wheelchair. Across the middle of the orange circle “ATLAS” is written in large font.
One of the final drawings drawn by an ATLAS member during the design of the Logo

The final logo involved a few changes to make sure that the logo was as accessible as possible, showed up well on the colour branding (which had been previously chosen by members), and was converted into a different file format.

Image button encouraging you to get involved. In the middle there is the ATLAS logo and surrounding it, It reads: Get Involved! "No Decision About Us Without Us!