SB 142 strips Florida's legal use of 'retardation,' replaces term with 'intellectually disabled'

Bill has passed in Florida House, Senate

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- - It is a word that can be hurtful and soon, "mental retardation" could be on the way out in Florida as a legally accepted term when referring to people with mental disabilities.

"It's not just a word. It's offensive, it's archaic and it needs to end. It hurts," said George King of Port Saint Lucie.

King is a father who has a 19-year-old son, George King Jr., who has down syndrome.

King said he hear the word "retardation" all the time. It is not being used against his son, but at his job as a St. Lucie County Deputies assigned to the courthouse.

"It's in so many statutes. It really is quite amazing. It's in civil statutes, criminal statutes, death penalty statutes," said King.

In the State of Florida, the proper legal term for someone with mental disabilities is "retardation."

But  when SB 142 becomes law, the phrase "mental retardation" will be erased from state use and replaced with "intellectually disabled."

"I think government is a little behind the curve here and this kind of brings us up to our normal, everyday vernacular," said Florida State Senator Thad Altman, a Republican from Indian River County.

Altman said the move could have an impact on the use of "R-word" among society in general.

King said he is looking forward to the day he see the word "retardation" replaced.

"We've arrived. We're here and now we have ammunition to fight with. We have proof that this isn't the right way to do it anymore," said King.

SB 142 has passed in both the Florida House and Florida Senate. It awaits a signature from Governor Rick Scott to become law.

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