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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.

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.