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 support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabil...

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    christine collica

    New York, New York
    175 hours ago

  • 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 intellectual disabil...

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    David Eichman

    Derby, Kansas
    185 hours ago

  • My family and I are very close to someone who is autistic. His mothers love and dedication is amazing and the r-word is so hurtful. Not only to the child, but her also. I...

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    Kyah Grubb

    Bedford , Indiana
    360 hours ago

  • I know that it HURTS to be treated like you are different when you are an equal person. We are all people. I pledge to FIGHT the use of the r-word. I pledge to LOVE and...

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    Alyssa

    Spanaway, Washington
    644 hours ago

  • Ending derogatory speech challenges us to replace indifference with intelligence. It's not just about love or acceptance or frilly fluffy feelings, it's about showing th...

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    Jackie

    Pasadena, California
    1591 hours ago

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