Time to get rid of the R-word

State lawmakers want to to remove the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from state law.

The legislation in Lansing incorporates some recent recommendations from a mental health commission appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bipartisan bills would strike references to outdated language such as “retarded” from various statutes and instead use terms such as “developmentally disabled” or “intellectually disabled.”

We feel this is legislation that should have been adopted a long time ago. Currently, Michigan is one of only seven states that haven’t replaced the R-word state law. Congress removed the R-word from various federal laws in 2010.

Legislation removing the terms from state law unanimously passed the state Senate. A similar package of bills is expected to easily pass the House.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is a supporter of the effort. Snyder proclaimed March 5 as “Spread the Word to End the Word Day” in Michigan. The day was devoted to educating and raising awareness of the positive impact individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have in our communities and why the use of the R-word, “retard(ed)”, is hurtful, even in casual conversation.

The Michigan House and Senate also passed resolution proclaiming March 5 as “Spread the Word to End the Word Day” in Michigan.

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is an ongoing national effort by Special Olympics and its supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourages people to pledge to stop using it.

The R-word exists in 17 state statutes at the present time. Last month, the Mental Health and Wellness Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, whose daughter has autism, released a 29-page report that included a recommendation to remove the word from state law.

Words can be hurtful, and the R-word has no place in the laws of Michigan. Let’s hope it disappears from both the lawbooks and our language.