March 8, 2011 |

House, Senate bills will remove term ‘mentally retarded' from PA laws

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, and state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester/Montgomery, have called for passage of their legislation that would redefine the term "mental retardation" as "intellectual disability" in state laws.

At a Capitol news conference, Rep. Wheatley said: "Throughout history, other more pejorative terms were used to refer to people with intellectual disabilities. New terms were periodically developed which reflected a deeper and more compassionate understanding of the condition. As such, I believe it is now time we make it the official policy of the Commonwealth to use the term intellectual disability in place of mental retardation."

"The point is this: Words do matter. They carry weight and they carry power. It's time that we abandon the use of this archaic and derisive terminology in favor of language that is inclusive and accepted by the physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities community," Sen. Dinniman.

Rep. Wheatley and Sen. Dinniman have introduced H.B. 789 and S.B. 458, respectively. Rep. Wheatley's bill would update three portions of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Titles 1 (General Provisions), 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 23 (Domestic Relations). Sen. Dinniman's bill would update and rename the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, which would become the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act.

Mr. Wheatley's bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and Mr. Dinniman's bill has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

The event coincided with Special Olympics' "Ban the R Word" Day. Similar legislation has become law in several other states and at the federal level.

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