Home Politics Bill banning the “R-word” clears Ohio House

Bill banning the “R-word” clears Ohio House

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A bill that would replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in Ohio’s state laws passed unanimously in the Ohio House on Tuesday.  

House Bill 158, sponsored by Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) and Stephanie D. Howse (D-Cleveland) would also differentiate an intellectual disability from the broader developmental disability, as well as modify the standards used to determine if someone has a moderate level of intellectual disability, Dever said.

“The term ‘mentally retarded’ has a negative connotation and many find the term offensive. It is time that we ensure these individuals are able to hold their heads high and not be labeled with demeaning terms,” Dever said in a press release. “Those with intellectual disabilities continue to face a certain derogatory stigma in our society and we must do our part to combat that stigma.”

The name of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities was changed in 2009 from the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. No other changes to the legal language used in bills was changed at that time, partially due to the length of the original bill, which totaled 894 pages.

“It wasn’t as straightforward as simply replacing ‘mental retardation’ with ‘person with an intellectual disability,’” said Kerry Francis, chief public information officer for the Department of Developmental Disabilities. “Each instance had to be reviewed to ensure that updating the language didn’t change the intent of the statute. Changing the Department’s name, as well as the names of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, was more straightforward.”

After the department’s 2009 name change, past General Assemblies attempted to amend the language used within the bill. They were unable to decide upon a change due to the term “developmental disabilities” being defined differently in different spaces.

Finishing work on HB 158 was easier, however, because of the effort already started by others. Even with the help, legislators have been working on the bill for nearly a year, Dever said.

“There’s almost 900 pages and every line had to be gone through to make sure that the terms didn’t interfere with the definition, and that the definitions stayed where they were and that there’s clarity in the statute,” Dever said. “Quite frankly, modernizing the statute seems like a lot easier than it is. It took a lot of work from a lot of different people to make sure that it’s correct.”

The changes echo the ideas expressed in Rosa’s Law, a 2010 initiative signed into law under President Obama. The law changed the terminology used in federal health, education and labor laws from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability.”

Rosa’s law helped to instigate change at the statewide level. Francis is optimistic that change for those with developmental disabilities will continue in Ohio.

“Since taking office, Gov. John Kasich has made it clear that he cares deeply about issues that affect individuals with developmental disabilities and their families,” Francis said. “The Administration is continually working with the legislature to advocate for legislation that enhances the lives of Ohioans with developmental disabilities.”

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One Comment

  1. Sakura

    February 5, 2016 at 2:58 AM

    This is so, retarded. This country is full of crybabies just looking for something to be offended by. I have Aspergers and I use the term mentally retarded because that is what it is. Get over it.


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