Brittany Norman of The Arc Florida applauds state lawmakers on April 30, 2013 as they vote to remove the phrase "mental retardation" from state laws.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida is in the process of removing all references to a hurtful phrase in old state laws.
The term "mental retardation" is being erased from Florida statutes and replaced with "intellectual disabilities." Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill ordering that action and the new law takes effect July 1.
The group Arc of Florida led a campaign this year called "End the R-Word."
The phrase mental retardation was a medical diagnosis many years ago and that's how it ended up in state laws. But over the last several decades, it became a slang term often used to bully people with intellectual disabilities.
John Finch of The Arc hopes the new law helps change that attitude.
"We believe this is the first step to help prevent bullying toward individuals with intellectual disabilities. Over the past 20 to 30 years or so, this term has been used as a slang that was more derogatory to individuals with intellectual disabilities than an actual medical diagnosis."
The offending phrase appears 50 times in various state laws. It will be completely scrubbed out of Florida statutes by July 1.
More than 40 states have passed similar legislation.