State programs in Hawaii must now use the term “intellectual disabilities” in place of “mental retardation” under a new law signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on July 11.
“Words are very, very important. We’ve all heard that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ And that’s not true,” Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “Names can hurt. Words are attached to feeling. Words are a reflection of culture.”
The bill comes nine months after President Barack Obama signed into law “Rosa’s Law,” which ended the use of the word “retard” in federal programs. Congress unanimously passed the bill.
The law was named after a law adopted in the state of Maryland, which named the bill after the family of Rosa Marcellino, a nine-year-old girl with Down Syndrome.
Disability rights groups have been advocating for the elimination of the R-word for years, arguing that it has an offensive connotation and is degrading to people with disabilities. The Special Olympics is currently pushing a “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to spread awareness of the word’s harmful effects.