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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  • 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
    551 hours ago

  • I pledge to help those around me understand how hurtful the r-word is and ask them as many times as necessary not to use it anymore.

    Jamona Hehner

    Iberia, Missouri
    600 hours ago

  • As a principal and a mother of a child with intellectual disabilities, I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and p...

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    Kenna Wilson

    Sanford, North Carolina
    626 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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    Sheryl Rae Baker

    Lubbock, Texas
    2060 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
    2060 hours ago

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