For Immediate Release - August 04, 2010


BOSTON - Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to support the Commonwealth's most vulnerable populations, Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law a bill that promotes dignity for individuals with developmental disabilities by replacing the words "mental retardation" with "intellectual disabilities or disability" in the Massachusetts General Laws.

The legislation, "An Act Eliminating the Word 'Retardation' from the General Laws" (H4922), reflects the passionate work of advocates, particularly self-advocates with developmental disabilities, and follows last year's renaming of the Department of Developmental Services, which had previously been called the Department of Mental Retardation. A broad range of stakeholders believed that changing the name of the department was a key step in demonstrating respect for people with developmental disabilities and also better reflected the range of services and supports offered by the state.

"This important change reflects our commitment to promoting dignity and respect for people with disabilities," said Governor Patrick.

"The issue of supporting and caring for those with intellectual disabilities has always been near and dear to my heart," said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. "This bill is another great step towards fostering a more caring, respectful Commonwealth that values each and every member of our society."

The Patrick-Murray Administration has shown a long-standing commitment to facilitating independence for people with disabilities. In 2008, Governor Patrick announced the creation of the Commonwealth's first Olmstead Plan, a roadmap and action plan reflecting the Governor's commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities and elders have access to community-living opportunities and supports that address each individual's diverse needs, abilities and backgrounds. Massachusetts' plan is designed to maximize the extent to which people with disabilities and elders are able to live successfully in their homes and communities.

"This action marks another step towards ending the stigma associated with developmental disabilities. I am confident that Governor Patrick will continue his good work together with the Legislature to further ensure greater opportunities for those with developmental disabilities as well as supports for the families who provide and care for them," said Senator Gale D. Candaras, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

"As Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, I am so pleased that we are finally changing the way in which we identify those with an intellectual disability, particularly within our General Laws in the Commonwealth. I believe this is a step in the right direction, not only for those who have a disability, but for the general public to understand the harm that labels can cause," said Representative Kay Khan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

"This has always been a civil right issues for me. With today's bill signing, we fulfill the promise we made when we changed the name of the Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services; a promise to treat all persons with intellectual disabilities with dignity and respect. Today's signing is a direct result of the tireless work self-advocates and families across the Commonwealth have done to end the use of the R-word," said Representative Tom Sannicandro, Vice Chair of the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities.

"The Arc applauds the Legislature and Governor Patrick for moving away from the outmoded term 'mental retardation,' said Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc of Massachusetts. "Individuals with disabilities, family members and others find the term offensive and have cried out for a replacement for more than a decade. The change to 'intellectual disabilities' is responsive and consistent with national trends."