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Interpretations of Rosa’s Law Confusing: Clarification From the DPC

There has been some confusion among intellectual and developmental disability advocates over varied interpretations of the language in Rosa’s Law and how it will be implemented at local, state, and federal levels. The Disability Policy Collaboration has offered some clarification on key points in the legislation to help chapters of The Arc respond to questions by their constituents.

Rosa's Law Signing image 1

President Barack Obama speaks at the official ceremony of the signing of Rosa’s Law Friday, October 8.

Quick Facts about Rosa’s Law

  • The term “mental retardation” will be replaced with the term “intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor statutes. Rosa’s Law applies only to programs under the jurisdiction of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, such as IDEA, vocational rehabilitation, ADA, health care, and a few others.
  • The law does not require any terminology change in state law. However, since many of the affected federal laws relate to state programs, the states will likely begin using the new term for these programs. More importantly, when a program covered by Rosa’s Law, such as IDEA, is reauthorized, any rules to implement the changes will then use “intellectual disability” instead of “mental retardation.”
  • While most states have changed some terminology voluntarily and by statute, the changes vary in scope. For example, the vast majority of states have changed the names of their respective state agencies, using the term “developmental disabilities” in the agency name. But many of the programs overseen by these agencies still use the term “mentally retarded” (for example: Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Mental Retardation (ICF/MR)).

A goal of The Arc is to get a similar bill introduced in the 2011-2012 Congress, which will apply to other programs that are just as important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, namely Medicaid.

To download these quick facts as a PDF, click here.