An End to the 'R' Word [SLIDE SHOW]

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By Mike Springer
March 7, 2013

Tallahassee, FL-Advocates for those with intellectual disabilities are pushing to change the way those with intellectual disabilities are diagnosed in Florida.

A group of more than 50 supporters, lawmakers and those with intellectual disabilities rallied at the Capitol Thursday morning. They're calling it the "End the R Word" campaign.

The group is in support of Senate Bill 142. The proposed legislation would change references of the "R" word used in Florida law to "intellectual disability.

"Far too long Floridians with intelliectual disabilities have been subject to teasing and bullying when people call them the 'R' word. This has to change and we are going to change it now," said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida.

Similiar bills have been brought before the legislature in the past, but failed to get approval.

Press Release: Arc Florida

Tallahassee, FL (March 7, 2013) - Individuals with intellectual disabilities from across Florida gathered in The Capitol today to launch a statewide campaign to End the R-word in Florida. The Arc of Florida, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called on lawmakers to pass the Intellectual Disabilities Bill.

"When I was growing up, kids picked on me. Today, I'm an adult, but it still happens. People call me the R-word," said Moira Rossi, a self-advocate from Jacksonville with Down Syndrome. "It makes me feel sad and bullied, but we have an opportunity to change that."

Senate Bill 142, sponsored by Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) and House Bill 1119, sponsored by Representative Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) would remove all references to "mental retardation" in state law and replace them with "intellectual disability."

"Once considered a valid medical term, the R-word has become a hurtful slang that promotes negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities," said Altman. "We must work to change this harmful environment and the Intellectual Disabilities Bill will help us do that."

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and American Psychiatric Association changed their official diagnoses from "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability." Federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress passed and President Obama signed "Rosa's Law." The Social Security Administration recently announced its intent to make the change to its official "Listing of Impairments."

"Thirty-nine other states have already changed their laws," said Adkins. "People with intellectual disabilities deserve respect, and this bill is one way to give them that respect."

"For far too long, Floridians with intellectual disabilities have been subjected to teasing and bullying when people call them the R-word," said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida. "We are grateful to Senator Altman and Representative Adkins for taking a stand and working on solutions to this important issue."

For more information on the End the R-word in Florida campaign, visit


The Arc of Florida, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities. Working with local, state and national partners, The Arc of Florida advocates for local chapters, public policies and high quality supports for people with developmental and other disabilities to be fully included in all aspects of their community. Find out how to get involved by visiting

Press Release: Arc Florida

Tallahassee, Fla. -Floridians with developmental disabilities, their families, friends and caregivers will gather at the Florida Capitol on March 7 for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day 2013, co-sponsored by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC), The Arc of Florida, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). During a news conference, supporters of individuals with developmental disabilities will call on lawmakers to fund essential programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities, especially Governor Rick Scott's budget recommendation to provide additional funds for Florida's waiver waiting list.

The waiver waiting list is composed of more than 20,000 individuals with developmental disabilities who have been waiting for services such as supported employment, supported living, respite care, and transportation services. Some individuals have been waiting for many years to enroll onto the APD Medicaid waiver.

"We appreciate Governor's Scott's recommendation to provide $36 million for the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list for the first time in eight years, said Barbara Palmer, APD Director. "APD currently provides services to about 30,000 individuals with developmental disabilities, and we look forward to serving those on the waiting list who have the most critical needs with this additional funding."

Kathy McAllister, Chair of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, said, "Individuals with developmental disabilities on the waiting list need services to help them find and retain jobs. If the state can provide more money for supported employment services and other types of job training, it will help individuals with developmental disabilities to become, productive tax-paying citizens."

"If the Legislature approves the additional funds recommended by the governor, our state-wide chapters will be able to help more Floridians with developmental disabilities enhance their lives," said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida.

Governor Scott, Cabinet members, legislators, and self-advocates have been invited to speak.
The day's activities also include:
· Exhibits: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on the Second Floor Rotunda
· Advocate visits with legislators throughout the day

The FDDC is a non-profit organization charged with advocating and promoting meaningful participation in all aspects of life for Floridians with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit or call 1-800-580-7801.

The Arc of Florida is a nonprofit charity whose mission is to improve the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit or call 1-800-226-1155.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll-free 1 866 APD CARES (1 866 273 2273).

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