September 27th, 2010
02:23 PM ET

Congress eliminates the R-word

The word has rankled Sarah Palin. Using it landed Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, in hot water. And actress Jennifer Aniston got slammed by advocates for saying it in slang.

And now, it’s a step closer to elimination from the federal government language.

The House of Representatives approved a bill that eliminates the use of the words “retarded” and “retardation” in health, education and labor laws.

The bill changes the terms from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability” and “mentally retarded individual” to “individual with an intellectual disability.” This shift would make it more consistent with the language already used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations, and the White House.

Rosa’s Law passed in the Senate in August, and now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk. The bill was proposed by Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland.

Rosa Marcellino is a girl from Edgewater, Maryland, who has Down syndrome. She had been labeled retarded by her school - a term that her mother does not permit her children to use, according to a news release from Mikulski’s office.

Read the bill here.

“What you call people is how you treat them,” her older brother, Nick Marcellino had said. “What you call my sister is how you will treat her. If you believe she’s ‘retarded,’ it invites taunting, stigma. It invites bullying and it also invites the slammed doors of being treated with respect and dignity.”

Advocates consider the term a stinging label that is outdated and stigmatizing.

“We understand that language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc in a statement. “Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.”

The Arc, which promotes and protects rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has been advocating the use of “intellectual disability."

“We strongly believe the only 'r-word' that should be used when referring to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is ‘Respect,’” according to the website.

The Arc of the United States originated as the National Association for Retarded Children and adopted its current name in 1992, dropping the term as “pejorative, derogatory and demeaning in usage.”

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a professional association working with intellectual and developmental disabilities, also dropped the word “mental retardation” from its names and titles of two flagship journals.

“The language we use when talking about disabilities in general, and intellectual disabilities in particular, has changed over time,” said Margaret A. Nygren, executive director and CEO of AAIDD in a statement. “These changes reflect a cultural shift in understanding that people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are entitled to the same dignity and human rights as every other member of society. The passage of the Rosa’s Law legislation to use the term “intellectual disabilities” within federal education, health, and labor laws is likely to have a far reaching impact on the language used in our society.”

But not everyone is embracing the shift. Critics say that changing the word is an act of political correctness, rather than any substantive change.

Christopher M. Fairman is a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University and author of a book subtitled "Word Taboo and Protecting Our First Amendment Liberties” wrote in a Washington Post column earlier this year: “If interest groups want to pour resources into cleaning up unintentional insults, more power to them; we surely would benefit from greater kindness to one another. But we must not let "retard" go without a requiem. If the goal is to protect intellectually disabled individuals from put-downs and prejudice, it won't succeed. New words of insult will replace old ones.”

soundoff (1,022 Responses)
  1. Window Cleaning Service Lincoln Park, Denver, CO

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    April 10, 2021 at 05:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Auraria, Denver, CO

    I really like this post


    April 10, 2021 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Window Washing Service Berkeley, Denver, CO

    Interesting stuff to read. Keep it up.


    April 10, 2021 at 06:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Capitol Hill, Denver, CO

    carry on, dont stop


    April 10, 2021 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Window Cleaning Service Golden Triangle, Denver, CO

    I really like this post


    April 10, 2021 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Window Cleaning Service Baker, Denver, CO

    nice information for a new blogger. it is really helpful


    April 10, 2021 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me LoDo, Denver, CO

    I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic.


    April 10, 2021 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Podatki

    This post has been extremely helpful to me. Thank you.


    April 10, 2021 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kendall Neathery

    good show, I love thechart.blogs.cnn.com !


    April 10, 2021 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Best Window Washing Service Near Me Auraria, Denver, CO

    this is very informative and intersting for those who are interested in blogging field.


    April 11, 2021 at 06:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Window Cleaning Service Barnum West, Denver, CO

    very nice! Ireally like your blog


    April 11, 2021 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. where to buy online vardenafil with out prescribed

    buy generic vardenafil over the counter with no pres. online https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil 40 mg generic

    April 11, 2021 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. buy zithromax 500mg

    z pak wiki https://zithromaxes.com/ generic zithromax 500mg

    April 12, 2021 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kristopher Pluhar

    excellent issues altogether, you simply received a brand new reader. What could you recommend about your publish that you made a few days ago? Any certain?


    April 13, 2021 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. sildenafil canadian online pharmacy

    how much is sildenafil 25 mg https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ sildenafil tablets uk

    April 13, 2021 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. AC Repair Apopka

    very nice! Ireally like your blog


    April 14, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. signature window cleaning denver CO

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    April 15, 2021 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. generic viagra cost walmart canada

    buy viagra online from canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ is it safe to get viagra from canada

    April 15, 2021 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. what is tadalafil

    buy tadalafil us https://elitadalafill.com/ tadalafil generic

    April 15, 2021 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. alternative to alprostadil

    ed medications injectable https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil drug guide nursing implication

    April 16, 2021 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. download 918kiss plus

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you
    write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you
    who aren't afraid to say how they believe. Always follow
    your heart.

    my webpage – download 918kiss plus

    April 21, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. signature window cleaning denver CO

    This blog is great check it out


    April 21, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. BbdfMile

    what does viagra look like https://gensitecil.com/ viagra in stores

    April 22, 2021 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RfvbZisse

    cheap cialis canada http://cileve.com/ cialis best price

    April 22, 2021 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. NOuPwliqvjhaKB


    April 23, 2021 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AbdgEncox

    Diflucan http://canadianeve21.com/ prescription drug assistance

    April 23, 2021 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. New Forklifts


    April 23, 2021 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. realtors coeur d alene id


    April 23, 2021 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Maintenance Orange County

    This is the right webpage for everyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for ages. Great stuff, just excellent!


    April 23, 2021 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. LhdvZisse

    cheapest cialis 20mg https://asciled.com/ cialis usa

    April 23, 2021 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. LrbsEncox

    how much does levitra cost https://uslevitraanna.com/ levitra 20mg reviews

    April 24, 2021 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. BNknaIsoYJgzAd


    April 24, 2021 at 07:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. LhdvZisse

    cialis pharmacy mastercard https://asciled.com/ cialis canada pharmacy

    April 24, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. JbsdEncox

    canada pharmacies online https://onlinecanda21.com/ mexican pharmacies

    April 24, 2021 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. AC Repair Orlando

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.


    April 24, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. camper van restoration

    This excellent website really has all the information and facts I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    April 24, 2021 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. BbdfMile

    how long will viagra last http://gensitecil.com/ non prescription viagra alternative

    April 24, 2021 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Parts Near Me


    April 24, 2021 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Leak Near Me


    April 24, 2021 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. homes for sale riverstone

    Howdy, I believe your blog could be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, great blog!


    April 24, 2021 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. FbsfEncox

    Buspar https://uspharmus.com/ Fosamax

    April 24, 2021 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Used Forklift Repair California


    April 24, 2021 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. GvdbCrulk

    vidalista tadalafil reviews https://boxtadafil.com/ max dose of tadalafil

    April 25, 2021 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. JbsdEncox

    Urispas https://onlinecanda21.com/ Diltiazem

    April 25, 2021 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. GvdbCrulk

    elitenet tadalafil http://boxtadafil.com/ tadalafil wiki

    April 25, 2021 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. orange county car upholstery

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and the rest of the site is also very good.


    April 25, 2021 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Renovation Orange County


    April 25, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RfvbZisse

    buy voucher for cialis daily online http://cileve.com/ – canada pharmacy generic cialis cialis for cheap

    April 26, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. signature window washing denver

    I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic.


    April 26, 2021 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. AbdgEncox

    Cardizem http://canadianeve21.com/ drug price

    April 26, 2021 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Leave a Reply to Justin Beeeberr


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.