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Fla. Advocates For Developmentally Disabled Celebrate 'R-Word' Removal

Advocates for people with developmental disabilities are applauding the efforts of one Florida agency already taking steps to rid itself of the so-called “R-word.” It’s due to a new law that replaces the term “mental retardation” in state law with “intellectual disability.”

What once was called the “Mentally Retarded Defendant Program,” -- for those charged with a felony and found mentally incompetent to stand trial -- is now called the “Developmental Disabilities Defendant Program.”  Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or APD, unveiled the new name Monday in Chattahoochee.

“There were some self-advocates there, or individuals with intellectual disabilities themselves. They asked us to get this changed into law and the changes have really been making them happy. So, I’m really happy this is getting done,” said Deborah Linton, the executive director of The Arc of Florida.

“I jokingly told them [APD] during the session that I’d buy them a new sign if they changed the name of that program. They didn’t make me buy a new sign, but they did change the name of that program. They’d already begun on all of their other documents and web sites talking about intellectual disabilities. So, they’re a long ways down the road.”

The Arc of Florida is a group dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities. They’ve been pushing for three years to get legislation passed to remove all 50 instances of the “R-word” from state law. This year, the measure had unanimous bipartisan support and received the Governor’s approval. The new law took effect Monday.

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