"As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected
and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever
~Clarence Darrow

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making A Difference?

Acting unanimously, the House of Representatives last night approved a bill to remove the terms “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” from federal education, health and labor laws. The measure, called “Rosas’ Law” in honor of a Maryland girl who has Down syndrome, has already passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

“This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), one of the measure’s sponsors. “This change will have a positive effect on more than 6 million Americans.” She said the law will make the language of federal law consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control and the United Nations, and will not affect any services, rights, responsibilities or educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Rosa’s law substitutes the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” for the earlier terms, now considered outdated and stigmatizing by many self-advocates and their families. It does not cover entitlement programs, which include SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Sounds nice. Definitely.

And what more could you ask for than the photo op of such a sweet looking little girl with an older brother willing to go forth and do battle for her rights?

Cynical, you say? Maybe. Maybe not.

There's no doubt in the world that words can and do hurt.  And serve to shape our perception of "reality".  And much like the Marcelli household, the word "retard" is not allowed in our house.  Never will be.

And yet, there's something here that bothers me that I can't quite put into words.  At any rate, I do seem to be feeling a tad more cynical on the subject today than I was the last time we discussed Rosa's Law.

Still, it's passed.  And that's a good thing.  A step forward. 

But is it a step that will really matter?

I'm not sure. Kids (and their parents) will still throw around the word 'retard" as a taunt, on the playground and elsewhere.  Parents of challenged children will continue to wince when hear the word.  Some may speak up.  Some may not.  But, most importantly, children who are challenged will continue to be hurt what is said. No matter what the law books may say. 

Still, perhaps one small step forward. 

It may be that I just need to keep reminding myself ...
It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
Eleanor Roosevelt
H/T to On Special Education Blog

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