Joined at the State House by advocates and lawmakers who fought for the change, Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed a new law replacing in state statutes offensive terms used for individuals with disabilities.
This bill was long overdue in eradicating from statute all antiquated and disrespectful wording that refers to people with disabilities. While the original motivation for the bill was to simply replace "mental retardation", "mentally defective" and "feeble minded" with "intellectual disabilities", the bill created an opportunity to consider alternatives to language that refer to other Vermonters who have been historically marginalized as well. It addresses numerous incidences of disrespectful language and introduces person first language (e.g., replacing "developmentally disabled persons" with "persons with developmental disabilities") to help reverse demeaning stereotypes.
"These changes might appear small on paper, but words have an enormous power to be hurtful and hold people back from their full potential," Gov. Shumlin said. "No Vermonter should ever be defined by their challenges or their disabilities."
The law takes effect on July 1.