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 have a brother who has Muscular Dystrophy and is continually fighting for his life. I hear the r word all the time with him. I can't stand it. I pledge to end the R wor...

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    Paul Davis

    Edmond , Oklahoma
    2006 hours ago

  • As a father with a child on the Autism Spectrum I have come to know the broad reach of both the word itsrlf and the pain in which it inflicts. I pledge and support the el...

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    Aaron White

    Shelbyville , Tennessee
    2023 hours ago

  • As an advocate for children and adults with special needs, I pledge to stand up and give voice, to make the R-word RESPECT. Spread the word to end the word!

    Salyssa

    Tampa, Florida
    2029 hours ago

  • I help my best friends and I will promote to r-word in all front of the people. Best regards : Stephanie Handojo-IGM

    Stephanie Handojo

    Jakarta Utara, Indonesia
    2056 hours ago

  • As an advocate for kids and adults with special needs, I pledge to always fight for the rights of my students and peers, and will promote "spread the word to end the word...

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    Willow Lessman

    Lincoln, Nebraska
    2078 hours ago

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