Inclusive Language

An Inclusive University

The construction of an inclusive context requires the use of a language that refers to the most accredited conceptual models and what is supported by international bodies to which Italy also refers, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the European Community.

Inclusive language is part of a new way of conceiving disabilities, vulnerabilities, difficult conditions and diversity as a whole. It can help us to overcome obsolete modes, which conveys stigmatized, distorted - and often offensive - images.

Some expressions are considered 'highly stigmatizing', such as “disabled”, “handicapped”, “paraplegic”, “dyslexic”, and “autistic”, as they identify the person with just one of the attributes that characterize them. On the contrary, the presence of a disability is only one aspect of someone's life.

The word 'disabled' is not only stigmatizing, but also incorrect from a scientific point of view. While hiding behind a façade of respectability and political correctness, this expression is actually charged, in the best of cases, with paternalism and pietism.
In fact, we are all disabled, as each one of us can be categorized and defined within the so-called “Gaussian distribution” or “Law of errors”, and any group, regardless of trait or aspect, manifests inter-individual variability.

Similarly, expressions such as ‘suffers from’ and 'is affected by' are considered inadequate as they imply the belief that the person is 'sick', 'suffering' and a 'victim' of a disability that resides within them.

Today, the most accredited conceptual models on inclusion and disabilities - such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - invite to give attention and value firstly to people and only at a later stage, and if necessary, to the attributes that characterize only part of their life.

Example of inclusive language

  • Marco Rossi, or name surname of a person
  • Abha Kumar, or name surname of a person
  • Person with disability
  • Person with hearing impairment
  • Person with visual impairment
  • Person with autism
  • Person with Down Syndrome
  • Person with motor impairment
  • Person with a mental health condition
  • Person with a story of addiction
  • Person with a story of migration
  • Person with dyslexia
  • Student with specific learning difficulties (SLD)
  • Student with linguistic difficulties
  • Worker with disability

In this area, further resources regarding inclusive language will be provided, allowing us to broaden our thoughts, stimulate conversation and promote the use of a language that respects all people, making communication more effective and respectful of the dignity of everyone.

  Letter from the Rector

Letter from the Rector

Padua, Italy
May 25, 2018
The academic staff
The technical and administrative staff
The entire student body

Dear all,

Our University has long been committed to promoting inclusiveness, a place where attention is paid to the diversity or uniqueness of people. A place where each individual component finds the conditions to give the best of themselves. This can be possible not only through the enhancement of everyone’s own strengths, but also through the practice of virtues such as kindness, creativity, courage and gratitude. A central role is played by language, which witnesses the way we represent and conceive reality. Therefore, it is important that our adherence to these values emerges from the choice of vocabulary that we use in our daily lives. What we ask you, from now on, is to use the expression "person with disabilities” in interpersonal relations, in administrative documentation, in drafting texts, in the website platform and whenever the situation requires it. Adopting the terminology used in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not just a matter of style, it is something much deeper. It means to give value to the person and to consider their “disability” as an attribute that only partially concerns them. We need everyone’s commitment to ensure that no one will ever feel excluded from our Community.

Rector Rosario Rizzuto