New Jersey looks to remove words such as ‘retarded' and ‘idiot' from state law | State | -- Your State. Your News.

Jul 04th
  • Login
  • Create an account
  • Search
  • Local Business Deals

New Jersey looks to remove words such as ‘retarded' and ‘idiot' from state law

njseal051309_optThe state Senate Health and Senior Services Committee has approved legislation that would remove demeaning and disrespectful terms for individuals with developmental disabilities from state law.

Senators sponsoring the bill said that removing such references as "retardation" would help break down exclusionary barriers for New Jerseyans with intellectual or other developmental disabilities.

"Quite simply, words matter," Senate President Stephen M Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said. His daughter, Lauren, has Down syndrome. "For far too long, the words used to describe individuals with developmental disabilities have served only to marginalize these residents,'' Sweeney said. "The reality is that persons with disabilities contribute greatly to our society. Our laws, at the least, must recognize that."

The measure (S-1982) would delete all references to the terms "mental retardation," "mentally retarded," "idiot," and "feeble-minded" in statutes and regulations and replace them with the term "intellectual disability."

The bill also would update state law which deals with institutions and agencies – to replace the terms "mentally retarded" and "mental retardation" with the broader terms "developmentally disabled" and "developmental disability" to reflect the Division of Developmental Disabilities' services for persons with developmental disabilities, not just persons with intellectual disabilities.

"Schoolyard pejoratives have no place in our law books," Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), the health committee's vice-chair, said. "Individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities must be recognized first and foremost as people - their individual disability should not be what defines them."

The bill was unanimous approved by the committee and is poised for a vote in the full Senate.


Comments (2)
2 Thursday, 17 June 2010 11:06
Gena_disabled and living up to my full potential
You object to terminology that unfairly marginalizes YOUR son, but think this same terminology should be applied to other children - who in your uneducated opinion, do not have the same "potential" as your son?

In case you didn't know, people with intellectual disabilities - including Down Syndrome - go to college, get jobs, vote, and have families. They are contributing members of society. The assumption that people who you classify as "mentally retarded" have nothing to to offer socially, culturally or economically is both false and offensive.

Furthermore, the history of such terminology illustrates that these are not fixed categories (reflecting ability or impairment) but rather categories that shift and are shaped and reconstructed socially over time. It is clear that you do not have a grasp on the intricacies of the social constructs of language, yet I do think this is worth noting as your son would have surly worn this label historically.

Let's call children what they are: CHILDREN, or here is a novel idea, lets call them by THEIR NAMES. In no way is it appropriate (as you seem to suggest) for children to be socialized to shout out descriptive names for what other children "are" on the playground (you have notes disability - does this extend to race, gender, class, religion as well)? The idea that the problem on the playground is what other children choose to call one another just speaks to your own ignorance on this subject.

Language does matter - the history of disability oppression quite clearly illustrates this. Your attitude merely illustrates how pervasive misconceptions about disability are and how these misconceptions are integrally tied to the language we use.

Good luck to the senate in moving forward with this important step. Hopefully in time, such a move will rid us ignorant opinions similar to those expressed above.
1 Wednesday, 09 June 2010 13:14
C NJ Mom
I can see doing away with the term "idiot" or "feeble-minded", although I know some people (adults) that would fit these descriptions very well. However....

My 10 year old son is "developmentally disabled." He has high-functioning Autism with ADHD, but despite his social skills issues, he is bright and will grow up to go to college and have a career and possibly a family. To paint children with disabilities like Downs, mentally retarded, etc. with the same color "developmentally disabled" brush puts my son in the same category. I don't want that. He has so much more potential, and I don't want a label to get in the way of that.

I'm sorry if this offends parents with a sensitivity towards this subject, but if your kid is retarded mentally and will not progress beyond the ability, as an example, of a 6 year old, is it really fair to lump in my kid with yours? I don't think so. Now, instead of kids shouting on the playground "You're retarded!", it will be "You're DD!" How soon until we outlaw the term "developmentally disabled" just so we don't hurt anyone's feelings?

Forget the broad definition; we should call the kids what they are, whether autistic, afflicted by Downs, or otherwise. To make the terminology less hurtful to us doesn't erase the truth of our children's afflictions. It is by our interventions and assistance alone that our children will be all they can be. Ignorance will always be out there beyond our homes and schools, and we have to teach our children how to deal with that. That's the reality, so let's focus on teaching our kids to live in the real world rather than trying to force change on the playground.

Add your comment

Your name:

Follow/join us

Twitter: njnewsroom Linked In Group: 2483509