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Bill Removing 'R-Word' From Florida Law Now In The Governor's Hands

Florida Channel

Florida could be close to joining 43 other states in removing the so-called “R-word” from state law. The measure replacing the words “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual disability” is now heading to the Governor’s desk.

“The R-Words that apply to me are ‘responsible’ and ‘remarkable’ and I deserve respect. So, please end the R-Word in Florida,” said Tyler Creamer.

Tyler is referring to legislation that would change the words “mental retardation” in state law and replace them with the term “Intellectual disability.” The same would go for the words “Mentally disabled” and substitute it for “intellectually disabled.”

Tyler, a young man with a disability, says he’s been teased all of his life, and called the so-called R-word.

“I was in tenth grade, and a bunch of people on the school bus called me retarded. One of them said ‘I don’t want to sit with this kid. This kid is retarded.’ That really makes me feel empty inside and it makes me feel worthless,” said Tyler.

Tyler says he’s just as normal as everyone else. He volunteers in his community and across the country, yet he’s still called the R-word. And, he hopes with the efforts of Republicans, Representative Janet Adkins and Senator Thad Altman, that can at least change in state law.

“A title means a lot in our society, and I think this corrects a title that does not adequately reflect the true talent and spirit and nature of those who have developmental or intellectual disabilities,” said Altman.

Senator Altman recently got the bill passed in his chamber, and Tuesday, it was the Florida House’s turn. And, Democratic Representative Mark Pafford, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, praised Representative Adkins for bringing forth the bill.

“Representative Adkins, sometimes the most simplest of bills can be the most monumental, so thank you,” said Pafford.

And, Representative Adkins agreed, giving a bit of history of what’s led up to this point.

“Florida’s first institution for individuals with developmental disabilities was originally named the Florida Farm Colony for the Epileptic and Feeble Minded. Before that, earlier diagnostic terms, such as imbecile, moron, and mongoloid, were used. Diagnostic terminology changes over the years, and the term ‘mental retardation’ is now being replaced with ‘intellectual disability,’” said Adkins.

Adkins’ bill also recognizes the official name change of the Arc of Florida, which was changed in 1992. For about 40 years, the group that advocates on behalf of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities went by the name “the Association for Retarded Citizens.”

The bill passed the House unanimously 119-0, and has already unanimously passed the Senate as well. It now heads for the Governor’s signature.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.