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"Retarded" Likely to Be Struck From Texas Statutes

File this in the "this hasn't happened yet?" category: The Texas Legislature has taken one big step toward banishing the "R" word from state statutes.

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The Texas House took an initial step toward banning disrespectful language this morning, passing a bill to eliminate the word "retarded" from state statute.

State Rep. Vicki Truitt's HB 1481 sailed through the local and consent calendar without controversy — but with ample cheers from the gallery.

"This law puts the person before the disability at no cost to the state," said Truitt, R-Keller.

The bill tweaks the Government Code, which, since 1965, has used the terms "mentally retarded" and "cripple" to describe those with mental and physical disabilities. It replaces the terms with "person first" language supported by disability rights advocates. Under Truitt's bill, "mentally retarded" becomes "person with intellectual disability," and "cripple" becomes "person with disabilities." 

Danette Castle, CEO of the Texas Council of Community Centers, has called the legislation a “a simple yet powerful statement of respect and regard for people with intellectual disabilities who want what every good citizen wants: family, friends, a meaningful job and the opportunity to give back to a caring community.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has a companion bill, SB 26, pending in the Senate. Last session, Zaffirini introduced a similar bill, which did not pass.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress enacted its own respectful-language bill called Rosa’s Law, which eliminates use of the word retarded in federal statutes. 

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