Skip to Content

House Approves Bill Removing "Mental Retardation" From Law

September 23, 2010
by Michelle Diament

The House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Wednesday evening paving the way for the term "mental retardation" to be replaced with "intellectual disability" in many areas of federal law.

The legislation known as Rosa's Law now goes to President Barack Obama who White House officials say intends to sign the measure.

Under the bill, the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" would be stripped from federal health, education and labor policy. "Intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability" would be inserted in their place.

The changes would occur as laws and documents come up for revision over the next several years. Since the alterations would be implemented gradually, the legislation is not expected to incur any cost.

"For far too long we have used hurtful words like 'mental retardation' or 'MR' in our federal statutes to refer to those living with intellectual disabilities," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in a statement Wednesday. "Rosa's Law will make a greatly-needed change that should have been made well before today - and it will encourage us to treat people the way they would like to be treated."

The language swap would not alter the rights that individuals with disabilities have, but would merely bring the federal government more in line with a trend toward using the term "intellectual disability." Already the term is used by most states and some federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rosa's Law is named for Rosa Marcellino, a Maryland girl with Down syndrome.

.