The court of justice in Colombia is taking concrete steps to change terminology used in the drafting of Colombian legislation. The Constitutional Court in Bogota has declared that words used to refer to persons with disabilities must shift towards more sensitive and ethically correct language that does not marginalise or stigmatise. This helps to replace the marginalization of individuals with their recognition as legal subjects faced day to day with obstacles imposed by society
This helps to replace the marginalization of individuals with their recognition as legal subjects faced day to day with obstacles imposed by society
The high court declared that terms such as ‘handicapped’, or ‘people with limitations or impairments’ among others, that are found in various provisions of the national legislation, should be replaced with more adequate language such as ‘persons with a disability’ or ‘persons with physical, mental or intellectual disability’ or ‘hearing disabilities’.
The Constitutional Court, in Judgment C-548 of 2015 recognized the importance of language in the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Sebastián Senior, researcher at the Universidad del Rosario highlighted that appropriate use of language prevents words from being used for discriminatory purposes.
Senior went on to explain that this move is aligned with international developments in disability and human rights:
“with the judgment expressed, the Court welcomes international language that has been developing in this field and puts our legal system in line with the international instruments in the field of human rights”.
The judgment represents a step forward in the protection of human rights, especially human dignity, equality, social integration and allows the country to move forward when it comes to encouraging greater inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Additionally, this shift gives greater recognition to the importance of the use of language for the protection of these rights, contributing to the removal of structural barriers, one of which is great awareness of disability.
Senior stressed how this is a positive move away from marginalisation towards recognition:
“This helps to replace the marginalization of individuals with their recognition as legal subjects faced day to day with obstacles imposed by society”