Floridians with Intellectual Disabilities ask lawmakers to end the R-word

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Individuals with intellectual disabilities from across Florida gathered in The Capitol on Thursday to launch a statewide campaign to End the R-word in Florida.  The Arc of Florida, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called on lawmakers to pass the Intellectual Disabilities Bill. 

“When I was growing up, kids picked on me.  Today, I’m an adult, but it still happens.  People call me the R-word,” said Moira Rossi, a self-advocate from Jacksonville with Down Syndrome.  “It makes me feel sad and bullied, but we have an opportunity to change that.” 

Senate Bill 142, sponsored by Senator Thad Altman and House Bill 1119, sponsored by Representative Janet Adkins would remove all references to “mental retardation” in state law and replace them with “intellectual disability.” 

“Once considered a valid medical term, the R-word has become a hurtful slang that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Altman.  “We must work to change this harmful environment and the Intellectual Disabilities Bill will help us do that.” 

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and American Psychiatric Association changed their official diagnoses from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability.”  Federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress passed and President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law.”  The Social Security Administration recently announced its intent to make the change to its official “Listing of Impairments.” 

“Thirty-nine other states have already changed their laws,” said Adkins.  “People with intellectual disabilities deserve respect, and this bill is one way to give them that respect.” 

“For far too long, Floridians with intellectual disabilities have been subjected to teasing and bullying when people call them the R-word,” said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida.  “We are grateful to Senator Altman and Representative Adkins for taking a stand and working on solutions to this important issue.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.