Thursday, April 19, 2012

California Senate Bill Strips the “R-Word” and Supersedes with Intellectual Disability

The California Senate on Friday morning unanimously approved a bill drafted by Senator Fran Pavley entitled as Senate Bill 1381 which seeks to strip the R-word from the term “mentally retarded”.

According to Senator Pavley, she introduced the bill upon her strong intent of making a significant terminology change for the disabled community throughout the Golden state.

In the existing law, a certain psychological condition was referred to as “mental retardation”, or “mentally retarded” person, in provisions relating to educational and social services, commitment to state facilities, and felonious punishment.

Senator Pavley explained that the use of “R-word” is seriously offensive to many people with intellectual disabilities and to their families as well.

While using the “R-word” as a joke or to humiliate someone has been common to other people, such words have molded the understanding and self-worth of people who suffer from intellectual disabilities.

It is further explained that the term “mentally retarded” or “mental retardation” was originally used as a medical connotation but nowadays, this term is most commonly used to humiliate or insult people and strengthen hurtful stereotypes of intellectually disabled people.

Based on statistics, seven to eight million Americans, or one out of ten families in US, experience intellectual disabilities.

The bill seeks to modify the provisions to refer instead to “intellectual disability” or “a person with intellectual disability”. No additional costs are expected to be incurred by the state once the changes during usual revisions to laws and documents occur over the next few years.

As the 42 other states have, the federal government of California has finally removed the use of the “retarded” word. The word “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” have been stripped from the federal health, education, and labor policies, and were replaced with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability”, respectively.

The bill, which was sponsored by The Arc of California, was backed by United Cerebral Palsy in California. California disability attorneys are definitely monitoring the legalization of the said bill since it can be considered as one of the significant changes constituted in the California’s disability codes.