published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Florida leaders end the R-word
Special to the News-Sun
AVON PARK - Self-advocates in the Central Region are thanking Gov. Rick Scott for signing Senate Bill 142, the Intellectual Disabilities Bill, into law last week in Tallahassee. The bill, which was passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature in April, removes the phrase "mental retardation" from state statutes and replaces it with "intellectual disabilities." The changes take effect July 1.
Ralph Meyers of Sebring said, "I feel great that he signed it. It's been a long time coming. I thank everyone who supported the bill."
Meyers, a self-advocate and Ridge Area Arc board member, wrote a letter expressing how it felt to be made fun of and be called the R-word as he was growing up.
Ridge Area Arc and The Arc of Florida, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, spent three years working to pass the Intellectual Disabilities Bill. Senate Bill 142 was sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne). The House version of the bill, House Bill 1119, was sponsored by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach).
"Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature are to be commended for taking a stand against the R-word," said Rhonda Beckman, chief executive officer of Ridge Area Arc and board member of The Arc of Florida. "This is a significant step forward in the fight to end bullying against people with intellectual disabilities."
"Mental retardation" was once considered a valid medical term, but over the years, it was twisted into a hurtful slang word that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and American Psychiatric Association changed their official diagnoses from "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability."
Federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress unanimously passed and President Obama signed "Rosa's Law." The Social Security Administration recently announced its intent to make the change to its official "Listing of Impairments."
For more information on the End the R-word in Florida campaign, visit http://www.norword.org/.
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