Washington, DC – In a huge victory for self-advocates and The Arc, Rosa’s Law – legislation that substitutes the term “intellectual disabilities” for the term “mental retardation” in many federal laws – passed the House last night.
The Senate passed Rosa’s Law earlier this year. Passage by the House will send the measure to President Obama for his signature. The Obama administration supports this legislation and it is anticipated that the President will sign the bill into law shortly.
This is an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation that will transform these outdated terms in entitlement programs. This legislation substitutes the outdated, stigmatizing terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy statutes. The legislation does not cover entitlement programs, which includes SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The Arc was instrumental in the passage of Rosa’s Law by galvanizing support across the nation and through vigorous advocacy. “When President Obama signs this into law we will have achieved another historic milestone in our movement. We understand that language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society. Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Joe Meadours, Executive Director of People First of California and a member of the board of directors of The Arc of the United States said, “As a self-advocate, passing Rosa’s Law sends a powerful message that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve respect. We want the same things everyone wants and deserve to live in the community just like everyone else. We want to take advantage of our constitutional rights to access education, employment and independent living in the communities we call home.”
Self-advocates and The Arc have led the effort to get the bill enacted into law as part of a nationwide effort to remove the stigma of the “R-word.” The majority of states have altered their terminology by replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in state laws and in the names of state agencies that serve this population.
“Adoption of people first language by the federal government encourages the general public to follow suit and is a major step forward in changing attitudes, which will ultimately result in increased opportunities for people with I/DD to be fully included in society,” said Berns.