The Arc Wisconsin supports efforts by the State Legislature to remove the offensive R-Word from state administrative rules. Assembly Bill 20 would change the R-word term to “intellectual disability” in rules promulgated by the Department of Health Services, the Department of Children and Families, the
Public Service Commission, the Department of Safety and Professional Services, and
the Department of Workforce Development
This is important legislation for The Arc Wisconsin, the state’s oldest organization supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. The Arc Wisconsin works to develop programs and advocate for public policy giving people with I/DD the opportunity to learn, live, and work inclusively in their communities.
By making this change to administrative rules Wisconsin will be in line with the medical community, federal law and the leading academic institutions that have developed policy for people with intellectual disabilities since the early 1900s. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability – AAIDD, (formerly AAMR) agreed to change their name back in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed its definition and diagnostic criteria for what was previously referred to as MR.
Most importantly by passing this bill, Wisconsin will be in-line with the wishes of self-advocates with disabilities who strongly opposed the term.
In 2010, both houses of Congress unanimously passed, and the President signed Rosa’s Law, a bill that removes the “R” word from all federal health, education and labor policy and replaces it with “intellectual disability.” Nick, Rosa’s eleven-year-old brother said during the hearings, “What you call my sister is how you will treat her…. It invites taunting, stigma and bullying.”
The Arc has been a strong advocate for the removal of the R word from federal and state law and policy across the country.
Words are powerful. While the r-word may not have the same emotion and meaning behind it to everyone, it’s a hurtful, disrespectful, and unacceptable word to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And that’s enough to remove it from our state policy.
Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.