Social Security Administration erases ‘mental retardation’ term

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

This week marks a great victory for people with disabilities across the United States.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced it will no longer use the term “mental retardation” and will instead use “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments and other regulations.

The SSA started this process in January and its decision brings us one step closer to a policy world free of the R-word. This victory comes less than three years after Pres. Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which substituted the stigmatizing word with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor policy statutes.

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The thousands of advocates who have spent decades working in the disability policy field know that change like this doesn’t come quickly or easily.  However, once the SSA decided to make a change, the agency was able to move from the initial public notice of proposed rulemaking to the final rule in just eight months.

The SSA’s decision to use modern, respectful terminology will affect millions of children and adults with intellectual disability who over the course of their lives may need Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

It’s important to remember that this change will not alter who qualifies for benefits. SSA’s use of “intellectual disability” will not change whether an applicant will qualify for benefits, nor will it change current benefits for people who originally qualified for Social Security disability or SSI benefits with a diagnosis of “mental retardation.”

SSA’s announcement is all the more remarkable because SSA takes this step voluntarily. Rosa’s Law did not include Social Security or SSI, but SSA is making this change because it’s the right thing to do.

The Arc and many other disability groups commented in support of this proposed change, which SSA first proposed in January 2013.

We know how powerful words are. Words represent you and your viewpoint, and we can all be happy SSA is taking a step to change the words being used in their official documents to better promote the civil rights of individuals with I/DD. The R-word isn’t just a word, it is a stigmatizing term the disability community has been fighting against for years, and this week we are a step closer to banishing it from our government and our society.

Special Olympics bowling registration open

Get ready for some strikes, good friends and fun memories, because it is time once again for Bowling.

Special Olympic Bowlers must have current Special Olympics form on file at The Arc Mower County.

These forms must be updated every three years and do require a physician’s signature. Athletes will not be allowed to participate in the practices or competitions without an updated form.

Bowling will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Sept. 11 through March 19, 2014 at Echo Lanes in Austin.

The season cost is $20 for members or $24 for non members. Scholarships are available.

Tournaments will be held in October (Austin) and November (Lakeville).

Upcoming Events

Monday: Special Olympics softball practice from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Saturday: For Men Only —  fishing at Chester Woods, 1:00-5:30 p.m.

Jamey Helgeson is the Program Director at The Arc Mower County and can be reached at or by calling .  You can also visit our website () and follow us on Facebook (arcmc), Twitter (arcmc1952) and YouTube (arcmowercounty).