31 for 21, Day 5, by Angie WIlley
Six years ago today, President Barack Obama signed bill S.2781 into federal law. Also known as “Rosa’s Law”, this legislation became a significant milestone in the ongoing battle for dignity, inclusion and respect of all people with intellectual disabilities. The law removes the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” While not being formally required many schools and medical facilities have followed suit and have adopted similar wording. In 6 years a lot of progress has been made.
Personally, I have been aware of Rosa’s Law for a few years and always appreciate when others choose their words carefully and purposefully use people first language. Yet it was still a shock to me when taking the boys to the dentist this week and filling out the form to update their medical history, when it asked if there was a history of “mental retardation”. As I filled out the form I contemplated what to do. Should I bring it to their attention or not? In the end, I decided to speak up. So when I took the forms back up, I said, “I’m not sure if this is a pre-printed form, or if you can make changes to, but the term “mental retardation” is out dated. The federal government has officially replaced that word with the term “intellectual disability” based on Rosa’s Law passed in 2010. I would think your office would want to be up to date on the current terminology”. The receptionist looked a bit shell shocked, but graciously thanked me for bringing it to their attention, and assured me that she would let her boss know.
Speak up advocate whenever you can. .
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Down Syndrome Advocates in Action Nebraska, is a group for parents run by parents.