Millions of Americans have an intellectual disability, for years they were known as living with mental retardation; a new law in Florida is changing that.
23-year-old Brittany Norman works like most other adults in America. Her hard work is also helping put an end to a stigma for people who are intellectually disabled.
One day at school Norman recalls, “One of my friends called me retard, I told the teacher about them to stop. So, I told him do not say the ‘r-word’ or I’ll tell the teacher.”
The Arc, a group for people living with intellectual disabilities, has worked to change the stigma by eliminating the ‘r-word’. The organization says the word was outdated and offensive.
The Arc’s Executive Director Debroah Linton said, ”It’s really a matter of respect there’s a long history in this field with different types of diagnostic labels.”
The group lead by example three years ago, changing its name from the Association for Retarded Citizens to the Arc of Florida.
”For three years advocates have been trying to change the wording of the law. This year with the help from people living with intellectual disabilities it passed unanimously.” Linton said.
Norman met with lawmakers this past legislative session; sharing stories she endured growing up.
“The story for them, they were sad about the ‘r-word’.”
Her work helps make Florida the 40th state in the nation to remove the word “retarded” from all of its state laws. President Barack Obama signed a similar law, called Rosa’s law in 2010 removing the r-word in federal policy.
When asked about the law being passed Linton said, ”I’m ecstatic we’ve now joined the rank of the rest of the states to say respect and we want everyone included in our society,”
Even though their condition may not change, how people view the intellectually disabled may change if their no longer considered retarded. The phrase will change to intellectually disabled for 22 laws, the meanings of the statues will remain the same.