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. 

Join Us to End the Word

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Pledge your support to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-word.


We've Pledged!

  • I pledge to continue educating people on why the use of that word hurts. My Aunt had the best extra chromosome and I was blessed enough to take care of her in her final y...



    Gladstone, Oregon

  • I’ve been bullied and been called it a few times as I have a disability! We need to end this!

    Michelle Martin

    Simcoe, Canada

  • I pledge to support getting rid of the r-word, and hope that many others join me because of the hurt it brings to people with disabilities and their family when they hear...



    Geraldton, Australia

  • I am apart of a group called All Abilities Athletic and my little sister has autism and with all the challenges we faced with her. I would not change anything because she...



    Marthasville , Missouri

  • I have a cousin his name is Kale. He has down syndrome and I would be very upset if I ever heard someone call him the r-word.

    Nathan Usry

    Marthasville, Missouri

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