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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  • There is no need for this word to be used in a derogatory manner. I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promot...

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    Meredith

    Lexington, Kentucky
    248 hours ago

  • I pledge & support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech & promote acceptance & inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. My ...

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    Syracuse, New York
    304 hours ago

  • I am a Special Education Teacher. I teach 5th and 6th graders who have intellectual disabilities. I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word...

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    Fairfax, Virginia
    389 hours ago

  • For 30 years, my mother has taught "special ed". She has interacted with some of the most amazing kids one could ever hope to meet. The kids people are calling "retarded"...

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    Hendersonville, North Carolina
    475 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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    New York, New York
    1192 hours ago

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