Removing the “R-Word” from our Vocabulary

June 27, 2010

Through my various volunteer and professional experiences in the world of intellectual disabilities, I have met many wonderful people. People like myself who are family members advocate for their loved ones with disabilities. Professionals like myself advocate for “consumers” with disabilities. The most spectacular people I have met in the field are those who are disabled who advocate for themselves. Last year, I attended a conference on the efforts to remove the “R-Word” from our vocabulary.  There are petitions, bumper stickers, t-shirts and posters encouraging this effort. But most amazing is the effort taking place on Capitol Hill to remove the “R-word”. There is a bill sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Senator Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming which was recently approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. The bill replaces the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” and “Individual with an intellectual disability”.  This bill makes the language consistent with that of the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. What I find remarkable is that this effort began at the grassroots with the consumer who was offended by the term “retarded” and its derivatives and has reached the House, the Senate and the White House.  Similar efforts are taking place in the Garden State of New Jersey. So hats off to these advocates for stepping up and saying “We are not Retarded”.