And Now, Social Security Ditches The R-Word

Every so often, I come upon disability associations with the word “retarded” in their names or I get a Google alert for a newspaper using the word “mentally retarded” to describe a person, and it unnerves me. The word “retard” has evolved into a slur; it disparages people who are cognitively impaired. Many have quit using the word, most noticeably Congress; two years ago, it expunged the words “retardation” and “retardation” from federal health, education and labor laws, instead using “intellectual disability.” The Special Olympics itself launched a dedicated campaign and pledge, Spread The Word To End The Word.

And now, the Social Security Administration has announced that it intends to start using the term “intellectual disability” in place of “mental retardation.” That term, along with “mentally retarded,” would no longer be used in the department’s Listing of Impairments, and other rules. As Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, said, “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.”

As a parent of a child with intellectual disability, I’m heartened by this. Many people out there still don’t get why the word “retard” is offensive. As more and more agencies and groups quit using it, hopefully it’ll raise not just awareness but consciousness—and respect for our kids.

From my other blog:

Let’s talk about people who cling to the word retard

Video: Would you call my child a retard?

If you ask people not to use the word “retard” 


Image: Banner,

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