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Rosa's Law Removes Mental Retardation from Federal Vocabulary

Days after President Barack Obama signed Rosa's Law, he publicly honored 9-year-old Rosa Marcilleno in a ceremony at the White House, calling her "inspiring". The recently-passed bill will replace the names of mental disorders in significant portions of federal policy with kinder terms.

Rosa's Law, which was unanimously approved by Congress, will substitute "intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability" for "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" through federal health, labor and education policy. The changes will happen gradually throughout the coming years as laws and federal documents are revised, in an effort to keep the cost of the new law at a minimum.

President Obama commended Rosa, who has Down syndrome, and her family for their efforts in raising awareness of the necessary change. "This may seem to some people like a minor change," President Obama said, "but I think Rosa's brother Nick put it best. He said, 'What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude towards people with disabilities.'"

During the ceremony, President Obama also signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The law aims to increase access to technology for the disabled, requiring closed captioning for online television programs and improved accessibility features on smart phones.

The new law follows the trend of several states and various federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that use the new terminology. According to The Arc CEO Peter Berns, it is a long-overdue change. "This is a really important step, particularly for the self-advocacy community," he said. "Self-advocates have been working for many years to remove hurtful language and this takes our community one step closer."

Source: Disability Scoop, "President Lauds Girl Behind 'Rosa's Law'", Michelle Diament, 11 October 2010

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