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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    Sheryl Rae Baker

    Lubbock, Texas
    596 hours ago

  • My brother has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome which makes it so he can't walk or talk. I have always hated the R-word. It is disrespectful and in no way a cool word to say. I ...

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    Skylar

    American Fork, Utah
    596 hours ago

  • As a sister, friend, professional, and advocate, 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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    Sylvia Collazo

    United States
    597 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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    Amanda Gemlich

    Pooler, United States
    598 hours ago

  • Our 4th grade class pledges and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with i...

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    Ms. Lauren Siegel

    Wilmette, Illinois
    600 hours ago

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