Discrimination and inclusion: the glossary

We are in 2022 and even today we often hear a lot of people, even at school, using words inappropriately in the most delicate fields. Therefore, the brief “glossary on discrimination and inclusion” that explains which expressions should be preferred to the others and why is very useful. Made by CBM Italia – a humanitarian organization committed to the prevention and treatment of blindness and of preventable disability yeninclusion of people with disabilities in the south of the world and in Italy – is a handbook of the most widely used terms in the field of discrimination and inclusion.

In order to always keep in mind its meaning and the impact that words can have on communication and the relationship between people, the manual also includes the most commonly used expressions, often incorrectly, in the field of disability, together with which they should be used to avoid discrimination, offense and prejudice.

For example, we often say “disabled” but it’s a mistake: you have to say “disabled person”, an expression that puts the person first and, only as a characteristic, the disability (first language person) or is often called “disabled person”, an expression that emphasizes disability as an identity trait (first language identity). Every individual, before being, for example, blind, is first and foremost a person, a unique and unrepeatable being. We try to avoid generalizations, reducing people to homogeneous categories, without distinction: “you women”, “your men”, “your disabilities”. In general, avoid using the word “abnormal” to describe people. Disability is a condition, a state, a characteristic. This is why the term disability and those that indicate the types of disability (e.g., blind, deaf, etc.) should be used as adjectives and not as nouns. Disability is a characteristic, it is one of the possible conditions in which a human being can be found. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), disability is the result of the interaction between persons with disabilities and the context in which they live and which limits their activities and possibilities with environmental barriers, cultural and social. Disability is a condition that can be improved with the right tools and devices.

Expressions such as “disability” or “special”, even if well-intentioned, may be received as condescending, compassionate, or offensive. People with disabilities claim their right to be normal people, not superheroes! The use of appropriate and respectful communication (words and actions) is an important gesture of awareness towards a culture of inclusion that must be shared and applied every day.

It avoids the expression “disability”, “person with a disability” or, worse, “disability”: it has an incorrect meaning, in addition to being negative, offensive and seeks to belittle the person to whom it refers. In addition, disability is not synonymous with disability but is a disadvantage caused by a specific context / situation. For a person with a disability, the disability may be represented by a non-inclusive environment (e.g., a ladder without a ramp compared to a person with a motor disability) that does not have the appropriate physical, cognitive, mental, or sensory characteristics.

The term deficit is often confused or used instead of disability, but the former refers to the person, the latter to context. For a person with a disability, the deficit may be represented by the biological situation that arises from an illness, trauma or that is present from birth. However, the term “person with a disability” should not be used because it refers only to a person’s state of health, while “person with a disability” connotes the relationship between medical and biopsychosocial aspects. of the environment and context in which the individual lives.

With regard to discrimination, the glossary defines capabilities: discrimination against people with disabilities, to be considered in the same way as other discriminations of specific social categories: racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. The term derives from the idea that people with disabilities are inferior (less able, less gifted) than people without disabilities.

Be careful not to use the term wheelchair as a synonym for a wheelchair, but a wheelchair. The carriage is, in fact, the horse-drawn carriage as a lure in tourist cities.


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