September 23rd, 2010
Would eliminate term ‘mentally retarded’ from federal law
Acting unanimously, the House of Representatives last night approved a bill to remove the terms “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” from federal education, health and labor laws. The measure, called “Rosas’ Law” in honor of a Maryland girl who has Down syndrome, has already passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.
“This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), one of the measure’s sponsors. “This change will have a positive effect on more than 6 million Americans.” She said the law will make the language of federal law consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control and the United Nations, and will not affect any services, rights, responsibilities or educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
Rosa’s law substitutes the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” for the earlier terms, now considered outdated and stigmatizing by many self-advocates and their families. It does not cover entitlement programs, which include SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Peter V. Berns, CEO of The ARC of the United States, hailed the measure’s passage as “another historic milestone in our movement.”
“We understand that language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society,” Berns said in a statement. “Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.”