The Arc of Florida is working to make changes to state laws that are long overdue. Senate Bill 142 and House Bill 1119 the Intellectual Disabilities Bill, would remove the term “mental retardation” and replace it with “intellectual disabilities” in state statutes.
The field of intellectual disabilities has evolved over the last few decades. Thirty years ago, when an individual was born with an intellectual disability, he or she would usually be institutionalized. Today, we understand that people with intellectual disabilities can live a full and rewarding life in their community.
Terminology used by medical professionals has also evolved over time. An example of this is the term “mental retardation.” The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities replaced its official diagnosis with “intellectual disabilities.” The American Psychiatric Association recently made a similar change. In late January, the Social Security Administration announced its intent to make the adjustment to its official “Listing of Impairments.”
Once considered a valid medical term, the R-word has become a hurtful slang that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. It makes individuals with intellectual disabilities feel bullied.
Changing public attitudes about the R-word is not easy. Numerous celebrities and public figures have been criticized in recent years for using the R-word. They include political commentator Ann Coulter, comedian Tracy Morgan, NBA star LeBron James, actresses Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Aniston and Kirstie Alley, singers Lady Gaga and Madonna. Tampa-based radio host Mike “Cowhead” Calta received complaints for his news segments that used the R-word.
Federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress passed and President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law.” 39 states have also changed their laws.
Everyone has the right to be treated with respect. This is an opportunity for Floridians to do just that. Please join the movement. Contact your state senator and representative. Encourage them to support the Intellectual Disabilities Bill and End the R-word in Florida!