California bill ending the use of the “r word”

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The California state Assembly and Senate have unanimously passed a bill that  phases out the word “retarded” from state regulations and other publications, joining 42 other states with similar measures.

With the passage of Rosa’s Law in 2010, the federal government also ended the use of term.

The California bill, which is expected to be assigned soon by Gov. Jerry Brown, would replace “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” and “person with an intellectual disability.”

“As a former school teacher I can tell you that words do matter,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, in a statement issued to California Watch on August 28. “The use of the ‘r word’ can be very offensive to many people with intellectual disabilities and their families, and as people have become accustomed to casually using the ‘R-word’ as a joke or to demean someone, it’s shaped the perception of and, undoubtedly, the self-worth of these individuals.”

Though used in the medical context for decades, the term is considered pejorative and demeaning to people with disabilities.

“It’s often used when people are being victimized,” Tony Anderson, executive director of the ARC of California, told California Watch. “It’s attached to a long history of abuse and crime against people with disabilities that we’re continuing to fight now.”

For more information on the “R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign and people-first language read here.