Last Wednesday, both houses in the Michigan legislature unanimously voted to remove the word ‘retarded’ from state laws. The movement to remove the word from all official documents throughout the United States began in 2009 with the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. This is a commendable move by the Michigan legislature and demonstrates the state’s commitment to the value of all citizens.
Eight Michigan House bills and seven Senate bills will remove the terms “retarded” and “mental retardation” from a variety of laws including those that addressing criminal activity, mental health institutions, insurance claims, educational facilities, surrogate parenting, foster care and child care systems. The term was first used by medical professionals in 1895 in order to describe “slow or limited intellectual or emotional development or academic progress.” However, over time the connotation has morphed into a term of degradation and insult. Today, the word has no place in everyday language, let alone official documents or professional use.
The movement to remove the term from law is a national trend that has gained momentum. After Gov. Rick Snyder signs the package of bills, all but five states in the United States will have removed the offensive word from state law. By removing the word from official documents, Michigan is demonstrating its respect to individuals and families affected by intellectual disabilities. Similarly, the state Senate voted to mark Wednesday — the day of the bills’ passage — as “Spread the word to end the word” day across the state. With these actions, Michigan can move forward as a more inclusive community.