Ohio Makes Move to Outlaw R-Word in State Law

One state is making moves to remove the R-word from language in state law.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday to remove references to “mental retardation” from state law and replace the phrase with terminology such as “intellectual disability.”

The bill, HB 158, was a bipartisan effort and, after being passed on a vote of 95-0, will now head to the Ohio State Senate for further consideration.

Other similar changes have been made in Ohio in recent years, according to the Alliance Review. Lawmakers have removed terms like “idiot,” “imbecile” and “drunkard,” because the meanings and stigmas associated with such terms have changed over time. Recently, the legislature also removed “retardation” from state and county agency names.

In 2010, President Obama officially signed bill S. 2781,Rosa’s Law, into federal law, removing the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policy and replacing them with people-first language like “individual with an intellectual disability,” according to Spread The Word To End The Word, an ongoing campaign by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other supporters to eliminate the use of the “R” word.

In addition to passing legislation that promotes inclusive language, many states have offered an annual proclamation to help bring attention to the mission of Spread the Word to End the Word, including California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.

Both Indiana and Texas have passed respectful language bills into law which are similar to Ohio’s. Texas passed one in May of 2011 and Indiana passed one in July 2015 to unanimous support in the general assembly.

As we learn more about those with disabilities and we work towards making Ohio a better and more responsive state for the developmentally disabled in our communities, our laws should reflect that collective wisdom,” Rep. Jonathan Dever, one of the sponsors of the bill said, according to the Statehouse News Bureau.

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