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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  • I pledge and cross my heart to never allow the "R" word to cross my mind again and I pledge to correct people if they do happen to say the "R" word because they areen't o...

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    Sydney

    Chicago, Illinois
    585 hours ago

  • I volunteer at a camp for people of all ages with various disabilities and I won hate to see any one of them hurt because of a peer using the r-word. I pledge and support...

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    Angela Sutch

    Levittown, New York
    599 hours ago

  • My brother and I both have forms of Autism and we are constantly informing people that the r-word is not only misused it's also extremely demeaning to any person with spe...

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    Brittney Cathcart

    Arlington, Texas
    672 hours ago

  • 10+ years ago I volunteered for organizations that work with wonderful and intelligent special needs children and teens. Although I'm involved less now, I'm frequently d...

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    Sarah Rosenthal

    Township of Washington, New Jersey
    729 hours ago

  • I have a sister with Downs and I know that words can hurt. I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the ...

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    Peter Collins

    Crystal Lake, Illinois
    746 hours ago

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