WEST CHESTER (December 19) – Governor Tom Corbett signed Senator Dinniman’s “Words Do Matter” bill, which strikes the “R Word” from state statutes and state use, into law today.

Dinniman was joined by legislative colleagues and members of the intellectual disabilities community including the ARC of Chester County, the ARC of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association of Resources, Self Advocates United As 1, Rejoicing Spirits and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, to witness the historic signing in the Governor’s Reception Room in the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

Govenor Corbett signs Senator Dinniman's "Words Do Matter" legislation surrounded by members of the Chester County intellectual disabilities community.

“The point is words do matter. They carry weight and they reflect our values,” Dinniman said. “And in Pennsylvania, this new law sends the message that we value the members and the contributions of the physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities community.  It shows that we have officially moved past this archaic and derisive terminology in favor of language that is inclusive, accepted, and respectful of all.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 458, amends the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 and renames it the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act. The language change applies to and makes language changes to the entire act’s 34 pages, which define the term and control the Department of Public Welfare’s use of the term.

The bill, which was unanimously passed by both the Senate and the House, was signed into law by Corbett as Act 105 of 2011. It takes effect immediately.

Advocates for the disabilities community said that the change is not a move toward political correctness, but rather a step forward for the community that will have a profound effect on their members and how they are viewed by others.

“Many individuals in the general public may not understand the importance of this legislation. When we use stereotypic and dehumanizing language regarding people with disabilities we are prone to then treat those individuals differently. Negative language leads to negative attitudes and subsequent discriminatory behavior,” said Bill Chrisner of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania. “Changing the language of the Commonwealth to recognize people with disabilities, and especially those with intellectual disabilities, as people first and equal human beings is a huge first step in changing the negative attitudes that relegate us to a second class status.”

Senator Dinniman tours the Senate floor with members of Chester County's intellectual disabilities community.

“Language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society,” said Shirley Walker, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. “Whatever we can do to remove stigma is good for all people. Pennsylvania’s legislature recognized this and made a change for the better.”

“This is truly a victory for the self advocates in our community! They were the ones who initiated the ‘Ban the R word campaign’ and successfully raised awareness in the community, including gaining the support of Senator Dinniman to take the initiative to change legislative language with this bill,” said Diane Carey, Executive Director of the Arc of Chester County. “As an advocacy organization representing several thousand people with intellectual disabilities and their families in Chester County, we are truly grateful to our legislators for supporting this legislation.”

Dinniman said that Pennsylvania now joins the growing list of states that have removed the “R” word from official and common usage, including Massachusetts and New Jersey. In addition, last year President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law”, which mandates that federal statutes use the term “intellectual disabilities” instead of “mental retardation.” Already, some county agencies including Chester County’s have updated their department titles with more appropriate terms.

Senator Dinniman introduced Senate Bill 458 just over a year ago after attending an event hosted by Speaking for Ourselves and the Arc of Chester County where participants pledged to refrain from using the words “retard” or “retarded” and encourage others to do the same. Senator Dinniman signed the pledge and introduced Senate Bill 458 in an effort to move past this archaic and hurtful terminology in favor of language that is proper and accepted by the community of those with intellectual disabilities.

For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s District Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail acirucci@pasenate.com.

Tagged with:
 

Photo Gallery

Upcoming Events

November 2014
S M T W T F S
26 27 28 29 30 31 1

Category: GeneralVisit to Hope Veterinary Specialists

Close

November 1, 2014

Presenting a 10th Anniversary Citation to Hope Veterinary Specialists in Malvern.

Visit to Hope Veterinary Specialists

2 3

Category: GeneralChester County Community Foundation Legacy Awards Celebration

Close

November 3, 2014

Attending the awards celebration at West Chester University's Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre.

Chester County Community Foundation Legacy Awards Celebration

4

Category: GeneralElection Day (State Offices Closes)

Close

November 4, 2014N/A

5 6

Category: General90+ Club Visit to Brandywine Hospital Senior Circle

Close

November 6, 2014

Presenting birthday certificates to seniors who are 90 years and older as part of the 90+ Club.

90+ Club Visit to Brandywine Hospital Senior Circle

Category: GeneralHome of the Sparrow Fashion Show Event

Close

November 6, 2014

Attending Home of the Sparrow event at the Desmond in Malvern.

Home of the Sparrow Fashion Show Event

7

Category: GeneralOxford Main Street First Friday (Gone to the Dogs) Event

Close

November 7, 2014

Staff will have table.

Oxford Main Street First Friday (Gone to the Dogs) Event

8

Category: GeneralMount Zion AME Church's 200th Anniversary Banquet

9

Category: GeneralWest Chester Veterans Day Parade

Close

November 9, 2014

West Chester Veterans Day Parade

10 11

Category: GeneralVeterans Day (State Offices Closed)

Close

November 11, 2014N/A

12

Category: GeneralState Board of Education Meeting

Close

November 12, 2014

State Board of Education Meeting

Category: GeneralLegislative Session in Harrisburg

Close

November 12, 2014

Category: GeneralTuition Account Program (TAP) Advisory Board Meeting

Close

November 12, 2014

13

Category: GeneralState Board of Education Meeting

Close

November 13, 2014

State Board of Education Meeting

14

Category: GeneralVisit to Growing Examples in West Chester

Close

November 14, 2014

Attend Growing Examples Restorative Justice Program in West Chester.

Visit to Growing Examples in West Chester

15
16 17

Category: GeneralUniversity of Valley Forge

Close

November 17, 2014

Visit University of Valley Forge.

University of Valley Forge

18

Category: GeneralBasic Education Funding Commission Meeting

19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27

Category: GeneralThanksgiving Day (State Offices Closed)

Close

November 27, 2014N/A

28

Category: GeneralState Offices Closed

Close

November 28, 2014N/A

29
30 1 2 3 4 5

Category: GeneralOxford Main Street Country Christmas

Close

December 5, 2014

Staff will have table.

Oxford Main Street Country Christmas

Category: GeneralWest Chester Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade

Close

December 5, 2014

District Office at One North Church Street will host a Holiday Open House.

West Chester Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade

6

Looking For Something

Still not finding what you're looking for? Please contact me or my staff so we can help you!