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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Action: Eliminating the "R-word"

Submitted by: Senator Judith Zaffirini

Senate District 21


"One action relating to children with intellectual and developmental disabilities is particularly overdue: eliminating all variations of the word "retarded" and replacing them with respectful language. The "R-word" is extremely hurtful and demeaning to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and its use presents significant barriers to community inclusion.

State governments are recognizing this belatedly and are progressing toward the universal use of respectful language: Several states voted recently to remove the R-word from statute. Meanwhile, President Obama signed Rosa's Law, a bill to eliminate the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor laws. Texas should not lag behind. In 2009 I authored legislation that would have required all variations of the word "R-word" to be removed from Texas statutes. Although SB 1395 was heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, it was never scheduled for a vote. I re-filed this respectful language legislation, SB 26, for the Texas Legislative Session that convened on Jan. 11.

When it comes to treating persons with respect, Texas should lead by example. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of human decency. Eliminating the R-word from our everyday and legal language would reflect our commitment to the ethic of respectful reciprocity, or what many of us know as the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Equally important, it also would reflect the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would like to be treated. These rules are not only the way we should live our lives, but also are the best approach to public policy. Fortunately, no legislation has to be passed for us to start eliminating the R-word from everyday speech. We can start immediately by talking with our friends and family."


Anonymous said...

There is a saying,
"Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

Thank you, Senator Zaffirini, for recognizing the power of words to shape one's destiny. Thank you for valuing the human dignity of our loved ones with disabilities. Thank you for sponsoring this legislation which is long overdue in Texas.

Anonymous said...

Senator Zaffirini, you are well known for your commitment to children and families. I suspect you are building a strong rationale for keeping the funding for special needs children and adults a high priority in this next budget. We are counting on you to continue the fight for people who cannot fight for themselves without US.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for supporting and advocating on behalf of all Texans who have a disability. You are respected by all, no matter where they choose to receive services, State Supported Living Centers and community supports.

Cathy Weaver said...

You responded to my message before Senate Finance Com't that people with mental illnesses also face stigma in Texas. More can be done with existing funds to provide care for those in psychosis and loss of memory. We are counting on your help in breaking down the barriers to compassion for the millions of Texas families who experience mental illnesses each day,
Cathy Weaver, NAMI Austin

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I love this! We had a best buddies walk at the University of Texas this morning with the underlying mission to end the R-word. This platform is incredible.

Susan Skyler said...

Dear Senator Zaffirini,

Thank you for your long standing support of families and individuals with disabilities. Like your support our job caring for our family members is unending and will not go away no matter what budget decisions are made.


Susan Skyler

Tamara Ishee said...

Thanks so much for all you have done. I can't wait to see it on the floor for a vote. My 7 year old daughter with Down syndrome and I will be celebrating!

Anonymous said...

Your vision, leadership and support for the disabilities community is greatly admired. Thank you for your decades of support and dedication. Your personal story regarding your son was inspirational and even today to common.