Inclusive Language Legislation

Special Olympics athletes advocate for all people with intellectual disabilities on a local and national level. 

Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the word “retard(ed).” In our ongoing effort to create communities of respect where all people are valued, it is important to change the language of our laws at the state and Federal levels.

On October 5, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama officially signed bill S. 2781 into federal law. Rosa’s Law removes the terms “mental retardation” and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.”

In addition to passing legislation that promotes inclusive language; many states have offered an annual proclamation around our annual day of awareness to help bring attention to our mission. As of March 2012, the following states have issued proclamations during the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign history: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont. 

While we’ve made great strides in changing language on the national level, we still need help encouraging local and state governments to make similar changes. 




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  • 3 of my brothers have disabilities, so I always correct people when they use the r-word. I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from ev...

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    Rheannan

    Canberra, Australia
    615 hours ago

  • Every day I hear people throw around the word like is nothing, and every time I hear the word I ask them to "choose a different word." Most people when I say that choose ...

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    Andrea Nickle

    Elkton, Maryland
    647 hours ago

  • As an educator, and one who grew up around those with special needs I see the vitality of all human lives to treated with equal respect and love!

    Emily Bogenschutz

    Dallas, Texas
    668 hours ago

  • For my two time State Special Olympian Steffanie, I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance...

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    Jeffrey Zimnickas

    Sterling Heights, MI, Michigan
    668 hours ago

  • My students and I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with inte...

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    Emily Tupi & Room 203

    Carnegie, Pennsylvania
    1449 hours ago

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