Obama signs Rosa's Law

Mirroring a Massachusetts law passed earlier this year, President Obama recently signed Rosa’s Law, mandating the removal of the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from all federal education, health and labor laws and replacing them with the words “intellectual disability.”

The bill was proposed because many Americans feel after years of misuse the word ‘retarded’ now qualifies as  hurtful speech.

“This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones. It was driven by a passion for social justice and compassion for the human condition,” said the bill’s sponsor Senator Barbara Mikulski (D- Md.), in a press release. “It’s a perfect example of citizen advocacy.”

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, a specialist in Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program had this to say about Rosa’s Law and the impact the R-word can have on people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

“At last, the R-word has now been banished from the Oval Office.  When President Obama signed the U.S. Congress’s law to retire the R-word from federal statutes, our nation took one more step to bury a word that has come to stigmatize an important segment of our society.  People with disabilities can and do make important contributions to our communities, and my earnest hope is that we can now all embrace another “r” word–respect.”

To read more from Dr. Skotko’s on the importance of sensitive language as it relates to people with intellectual disabilities, please click here.