Washington, DC – In an historic change for people with intellectual disabilities (ID), the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation” and start using “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments.
This change, which The Arc and many other organizations advocated for, comes a little over two years after President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law. In 2010, The Arc was very involved in efforts to end the use of the “r-word” and worked to enact Rosa’s Law, which substituted the stigmatizing word with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor policy statutes. While the legislation did not cover programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it was an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation and efforts that will transform these outdated terms in all federal laws. The Social Security Administration’s actions are a welcome result of the success of Rosa’s Law.
“Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights. This is an important moment for people with disabilities because Social Security is a lifeline to so many – it allows people with ID to live in their communities and be as independent as possible. And now, the language the agency uses will reflect the respect people with ID deserve,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
The proposed regulation published today has a 30-day comment period, and we encourage people to submit comments in support of the proposed regulation online by February 27, 2013.