Bill Signed Removing 'Mentally Retarded' From Federal Laws

President Obama has signed into law a bill eliminating use of the phrase "mentally retarded" from all federal law. The the law is named Rosa's Law after the Maryland 8-year-old with Down syndrome whose family initially advocated for the change.

Rosa's Law was proposed on the heals of several notorious incidents involving celebrities using the "r-word" in interviews, and gained national momentum as more states, including Maryland and Massachusetts, removed "retardation" from the names of departments serving people with intellectual disabilities. The law amends several prominent pieces of legislation affecting people with special needs, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), striking all references to "mental retardation" and replacing them with "intellectual disabilities." It also prohibits the federal agencies from using "mental retardation" when creating regulations to enforce these laws.

In an article on, Peter Berns, the CEO of the ARC (which used to be called the National Association for Retarded Children until it changed its name in 1992) explained the impact of Rosa's Law. According to Berns, "language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society. Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.

To read the full text of Rosa's Law, click here.

Article Last Modified: 10/25/2010