Legislation to change the language

To stop the use of the R-word:

Inclusive Language Legislation

Special Olympics athletes advocate for all people with intellectual disabilities on a local and national level. 

Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the word “retard(ed).” In our ongoing effort to create communities of respect where all people are valued, it is important to change the language of our laws at the state and Federal levels.

On October 5, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama officially signed bill S. 2781 into federal law. Rosa’s Law removes the terms “mental retardation” and « mentally retarded » from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.”

While we’ve made great strides in changing language on the national level, we still need help encouraging local and state governments to make similar changes. As of March 2012, all but seven states in the United States have at least introduced legislation to change the language in their state from ‘mental retardation’ to people first language.

UPDATE: On July 1, 2013, the state of Florida became the latest to join our dignity revolution as Senate Bill 142, the Intellectual Disabilities Bill, went into effect. The bill, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, passed the Florida Legislature unanimously in April 2013 and was sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne.) The House version of the bill, House Bill 1119, was sponsored by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach.)

Use the list below to determine if your home state has made language changes official in your local government. If your state is in the process of making the change – or they haven’t begun – contact your local government representatives and tell them:

As a constituent of [your state], I demand respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities and I encourage you to [introduce/support] a measure to change the state’s official language from ‘mental retardation’ to ‘people with intellectual disabilities’.  

In addition to passing legislation that promotes inclusive language; many states have offered an annual proclamation around our annual day of awareness to help bring attention to our mission. As of March 2012, the following states have issued proclamations during the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign history: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.

You can see some of the proclamations from 2011 in our Local Government Support slideshow.

Read more on the website Spread the word to end the word.

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