Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Senate Bill Fights to Ban Use of "Mentally Retarded"

Rosa's Law Would Eliminate "Mental Retardation" and "Mentally Retarded" From the Federal Lexicon

The ongoing campaign to mainstream individuals with disabilities and reduce the stigma attached to outdated labels such as “mentally retarded”, “retarded”, and “retard” picked up some considerable support with the introduction of “Rosa’s Bill”.   U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) introduced to the Senate a bipartisan bill on November 17, 2009 that would eliminate the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.

The bill is called "Rosa's Law", after a constituent of Sen. Mikulski's, a child diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The bill calls for the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" to be replaced with "intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability" in federal education, health and labor law. The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities. It simply makes the federal law language consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President of the United States, through his Committee on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.  It was the family of 8 year-old Rosa Marcellino, including her 13 year-old brother and 12 and 10 year-old sisters, that provided the impetus for the law as they grew less and less tolerant of the language they heard even their friends use when speaking of Rosa.  The family started the movement locally by insisting that the words “mentally retarded” be removed from Rosa’s school documents.   The issue was then brought to the attention of a local Maryland politician who in turn brought it to the attention of Senator Mikulski.  Sinergia supports legislation such as this and looks forward to the day when all people are looked at as individuals first and foremost.

Photo: Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale, poses with Rosa Marcellino, 7 of Edgewater on the photo to the left, at a hearing for “Rosa’s Law” in the Maryland General Assembly in January 2009.

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