Many of the words used to describe children and adults with disabilities are unkind and demeaning, insidiously creating an invisible barrier to including people of all abilities into our communities. People First Language puts the person before the disability and describes what a person has, and not what a person is.
On July 1, 2005, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed HB 3047 Respectful Language bill into law, requiring state bills, laws, and regulations to adopt people first language in new documents, specifically forbidding language that does not put the person before the disability. “Individuals with disabilities” would replace commonly used terms such as “disabled person” or “special needs child.” The bill was sponsored by State Representative Billy Dalto (R-Salem), and spearheaded by Self-Advocates As Leaders (SAAL), the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the Oregon DD Coalition.
The Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day held earlier in the year, on April 18, 2005 at the State Capitol, focused on promoting awareness of developmental disabilities issues and the importance of language in the lives of people with disabilities – to get the people, agencies, and organizations of Oregon to use language that respects the dignity and worth of all Oregonians. This importance of language was emphasized with the presentation of the 2005 Developmental Disabilities Awareness poster, “Some words do hurt,” created by the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities and The Arc of Oregon. This poster along with postcards can be requested through the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities.
During the 2007 Legislative session, HB 83 was passed, which provides for implementation of the 2005 Respectful Language bill. One the largest bills of the session, HB 83 contained amended language affecting almost all Oregon Statutes.
For information on the Self-Advocacy and People First Movement, begun in Sweden during the 1960′s, then spreading to England, Canada and then into Oregon, where Oregon self-advocates held their first conference in 1974, visit The Self-Advocacy Movement.
Oral histories of self-advocates with developmental disabilities is housed on the University of Berkley Bancroft Library website. The self-advocacy movement is a civil and human rights movement led by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Despite its widespread existence nationally and internationally, few works have explored the rich history, culture, and significance of the movement. This collection, released May 2010, documents the life stories of thirteen leaders from across the country, many of whom founded the movement at local, state, and national levels. Visit Leaders with Developmental Disabilities in the Self-Advocacy Movement.
from ABC NEWS – November 18, 2009
–SENATOR MIKULSKI INTRODUCES BILL TO STRIKE TERMS “MENTAL RETARDATION” AND “MENTALLY RETARDED” FROM FEDERAL LAWBOOKS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski today introduced “Rosa’s Law,” a bill that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.
Under Rosa’s Law, those terms would be replaced with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal education, health, and labor law. The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights, or educational opportunities.
For more on this, visit ABC NEWS Rosa’s Law.