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.
– TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM