Law Removes "Mental Retardation" from Gov't Documents

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The following is a press release from The Arc of the United States. It discusses a new law which will change the wording in many governmental uses from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability”.


E-Newsletter Issue Date: Monday, October 11, 2010


On Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama put his pen to work signing the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 into law, delivering brief remarks on the impact of the law on people with disabilities and celebrating Rosa’s Law. The law, which was enacted by the President on Tuesday, substitutes the term “intellectual disabilities” for “mental retardation” in many federal laws.

Self-advocates William Washington (The Arc’s national office receptionist), Jill Egle (Co-Executive Director, The Arc of Northern Virginia) and Jeremy Jacobson (son of The Arc’s Chief Development and Marketing Officer Trudy Jacobson) joined Paul Marchand, Director of the Disability Policy Collaboration, to represent the intellectual and developmental disability community whose advocacy resulted in this bill.

Nine-year-old Rosa Marcellino, for whom the law was named, was in attendance with her family and received a hug from the President. Also in attendance were the bill’s sponsors, key policy leaders and musician Stevie Wonder.

Rosa’s Law was passed by the Senate earlier this year and passed the House in September. Self-advocates and The Arc have led the effort to get the bill enacted as part of a nationwide effort to remove the stigma of the “r-word.” The majority of states have altered their terminology by replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in state laws and in the names of state agencies that serve this population.

Changes in terminology are another stepping stone toward realizing a more inclusive society. The Arc was instrumental in the passage of Rosa’s Law by galvanizing support across the nation and through vigorous advocacy. “We have achieved 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. Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act increases accessibility for people with sensory disabilities to modern communications, such as internet access over smart phones. The Arc also advocated strongly for this legislation and celebrates its enactment.