The Social Security Administration announces its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation”

This week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation” and start using “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments. The Arc applauds SSA for this action which comes in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking.

This change, which The Arc and many other organizations advocated for, comes a little over two years after President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law. In 2010, The Arc was very involved in efforts to end the use of the “r-word” and worked to enact 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. While the legislation did not cover programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it was an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation and efforts that will transform these outdated terms in all federal laws. The Social Security Administration’s actions are a welcome result of the success of Rosa’s Law. The proposed regulation published today has a 30 day public comment period, and people are encouraged to submit comments in support of the changes online by February 27, 2013.

To submit comments visit the Federal eRulemaking portal at: and use the search function to find docket number SSA-2012-0066.

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