Dinniman bill strikes the ‘R word’ from state language

WEST CHESTER — State Sen. Andrew Dinniman said he has received unanimous approval from the state Senate for his Words Do Matter bill, which would replace the “R word” — “retarded” — with “intellectual disabilities” in state statues and other official uses.

Dinniman said Senate Bill 458 is now before the state House Human Services Committee and he is confident House members will approve the legislation this fall in a show of respect for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities.

“Words do matter,” said Dinniman, D-19th District. “They can either convey disrespect and ignorance or respect and understanding. And that is the objective and message of this bill, It is a way for the commonwealth to publicly state and show that it values those Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and that it will thus use words that convey that respect.”

Senate Bill 458 would amend the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 and rename it the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act as well as change the language used in the entire law, which defines the term and controls the Department of Public Welfare’s use of the term.

Some county agencies, including Chester County’s, have updated their department titles with more appropriate terms.

Arc of Chester County Executive Director Diane Carey applauded Dinniman.

“We hope this is just the first step in changing attitudes in our commonwealth about people with intellectual disabilities,” Carey said.

Dinniman introduced Senate Bill 458 after attending an event hosted by Speaking for Ourselves and the Arc of Chester County. Participants pledged to refrain from using the words “retard” or “retarded.” Dinniman said he signed the pledge and introduced Senate Bill 458 to move past this terminology and favor language that is accepted by the community of those with intellectual disabilities.

  • Return to Paging Mode